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Culinary Sport: Ice Fishing

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Perhaps you've seen them: Lone, bundled-up figures, miniature fishing rods in hand, they stand out on the stark white fields of lakes frozen over and glazed with snow. Those hearty people know that beneath a cold layer of ice swim hungry fish, lots of them, ripe for the picking.

If you're a passionate locavore, there's no better place to find consistently available high-quality protein in winter than Utah's frozen lakes. With minimal effort, equipment or skill, you can dine on free-range, locally sourced fish. Just walk out onto the ice—carefully, of course—drill your hole, drop your bait into the water and wait.

Do you have warm clothes? Do you know the basics of operating a fishing reel—that is to say, do you know how to turn the handle? If you answered yes to both questions, there's a strong chance you've got what it takes to be an ice angler.

Unlike fishing during other times of the year, you don't need to know how to cast, and you don't need fancy lures or flies or a boat to reach prime fishing spots. That's why Drew Cushing of Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources calls ice fishing the "great equalizer."

Equipment

• Fishing pole—ideally a short one, but use what you have at first.

• Auger ($50) or a digging bar ($5-$10) to make a hole in the ice; an auger will get the job done in a minute or so, but a digging bar won't take much longer.

• Waterproof boots. As the day warms, slush develops on the ex­posed ice, and frigid water can wash out of your fishing hole and soak your feet unless you have these.

• Fishing license. Available at almost all supermarkets. Cost: $8-$26 (one-day or full-year pass).

• Bait. Cushing recommends wax worms or meal worms. "All of the fish you can catch through the ice in Utah will take these worms," he says.

How-to's

• Dig a test hole near the shore, where the ice is thinnest. Don't walk out onto the lake unless the ice is at least four inches thick.

• The secret to ice fishing is dropping your bait into the water to the right depth, where the fish are lounging around, waiting out winter. If other people are fishing nearby, ask what depth they are finding fish at. Trout can be found just beneath the ice or as far down as 15 feet.

• If you don't catch fish within 30 minutes of fishing a hole, at whatever water depth, move to a new spot. And if you find a spot where the fish are biting, remember that spot: More often than not, an ice fishing hotspot will stay hot throughout the winter, says Cushing.

Ice fishing may not involve the adrenaline or social scene that may accompany a day on the slopes. It can, however, deliver the quietude that comes with time in nature; perhaps the comraderie of a companion; and, we hope, a kettle full of fish.

Resources
http://www.wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots
http://www.utahwildlife.net
http://www.bigfishtackle.com
http://www.baitnet.com: lists seven bait shops in Salt Lake City.
http://www.youtube.com/UDWR: Learn more ice fishing basics from these two videos

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