Two feet of ice. Ten-pound test. Twenty-five-pound lake trout. Sound like a challenge to you? Joe Cermele aimed to find out just what it took to wrench one of the trophy lakers Colorado's Lake Granby is known for through a hole in the hardwater, kicking the 2012 "Hook Shots" season off on a chilly note. Find out if veteran guide Bernie Keefe gets Cermele and F&S Fly Talk Blogger Tim Romano connected on this legendary Rocky Mountain body of water.
The Deal: Lake Granby, which is about 2 hours northwest of Denver, isn't the place to go for pike, walleyes, and perch on the ice. They just don't exist here. This 7,000 square-acre lake is, however, loaded with rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon, both of which feed the lake trout that grow so big, they've put the little town of Granby on the map in the world of ice fishing.
When To Go: Guide and local legend Bernie Keefe says the first safe ice usually locks up around Christmas time, and from then on it only gets thicker with a deep snow covering. Keefe has the big fish dialed in straight through April, but just know that ice tournaments and weekend pressure in January and February can make the giants a bit wary in the later part of the season. Of course, the reason you hire Keefe is because he can always find the trophies that don't have lockjaw.
What To Bring: Whether you show up in December or April, temperatures and weather at higher elevations swing wildly. You may be treated to temps in the single digits with sideways snow, or you might be stripping down to just a sweatshirt by 10 a.m. With that in mind, dress in layers, making sure your outer shell is waterproof. Most importantly, make sure you have comfortable boots that you're sure will keep your feet warm. Keefe likes boots rated to 40 degrees below zero. Sunscreen is a must for cloudless days. Standard-length ice rods will work, but Keefe also keeps some custom rods with a bit of extra length and backbone handy for working larger jigs, such as 9-inch Hogy soft-plastics.
How To Fish: Keefe will hunt for the big girls in depths ranging from 60 to 4 feet. In the deeper areas a flasher, such as a Vexilar, is a must. Tube jigs (one of Keefe's favorites) should be dropped to the bottom and slowly bounced to create a mud cloud. When you see a fish come in on the flasher, you have to work your jig based on its behavior. Keefe can actually tell when a trout is angling down to look at the jig, and will walk you through the process until you're hooked up. Sometimes dead-sticking is in order; sometimes aggressive pops get it done. It all depends on the mood of the fish. With larger jigs and plastics, drop to the bottom and slowly reel. When you see a red blip show up on the flasher below the lure, keep cranking and hang on.
Where To Stay: There are several mom-and-pop motels in the town of Granby. We recommend Trail Riders or the Westerner (970-887-2093). If you'd like to stay somewhere a bit more lavish, check out the ski resorts in the town of Winter Park, which is not too far away.