The waters in the Cody area and the Big Horn Basin are climbing out from under their mantles of ice.
The middle of March is generally the time when the rivers and lakes thaw around these parts and just before spring shows officially on the calendar. From now until next winter, anglers should find great fishing for the next eight months.
Of course, the thaw occurs in the lower elevations of northwest Wyoming first, then moves gradually higher and higher as the daylight and intensity of the sun’s heat increase through spring and into summer.
We will see snow again and maybe even some cold days and nights, but we will not see bodies of water freeze shut for days on end. If the increase in angler numbers on the lower Shoshone River and the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone near Clark is any indication, it appears people are ready to get outside and escape the depressing lockdown created by COVID-19 and breathe air that carries the scent of spring again with the promise of better days ahead for all.
Surprisingly, West and East Newton lakes were still mostly frozen when this column was finished Sunday evening, but these lakes have very thin ice now and should be open and relatively ice-free before the weekend arrives. Wind blowing off Rattlesnake Mountain will hasten the demise of the ice, too. Other popular fisheries that are still-water impoundments are already open. Plenty of people from Wyoming, Montana and Colorado were taking advantage of Luce and Hogan reservoirs being completely open and accessible.
The North Fork of the Shoshone has started to break up, too. Where the river meets Buffalo Bill Reservoir, the ice jams there are being lifted by the increase in flow from up-river snowmelt. The trout in the reservoir are ready to move up river for the annual spawning run. This is another indication spring has sprung in Cody Country.
Remember, the North Fork has an annual closure beginning April 1 from west of Buffalo Bill Reservoir up the North Fork to Newton Creek to protect the mature spawning rainbows, Yellowstone cutthroat and a hybrid of these called the Cuttbow (or Cutbow). The closure is over July 1 in this stretch of water. Above the closure, angling is allowed.
The weather forecast for the next two weeks shows some daytime temperatures in the 40s, but there are plenty of days when the temperatures will move into the low to mid-50s. This will probably result in some muddy river water in places.
However, this melt is from the lower elevation snow we can see hanging in the shaded places and deep gullies and arroyos in the foothills of the Absaroka and Beartooth mountains. Once the majority of this snow is gone, rivers should clear and fish better and better until the high elevation snowpack begins to melt in May and June.
If you have delayed renewing of your Wyoming fishing licenses, it is advised that you become legal before wetting a line and hook somewhere. This area has had a major influx of new citizens in the past year. You need to know that you cannot purchase a Wyoming Resident Fishing License until you have lived in the area one full year.
While this might seem unjust, console yourself with the fact that those who came before you to the wonderful State of Wyoming had to endure the same rules. The same rules apply if you are also a big game or varmint hunter.
Read the regulations thoroughly and for the sake of other anglers, please respect the wild trout resources that abound in this part of Wyoming. It would be wonderful to keep our resources wild and not turn into a “follow the trout stocking truck” mentality.
We Wyomingites are a strange bunch when it comes to others crowding our fishing spaces. If you have come from states where it is common to find anglers standing shoulder to shoulder, here is a thought to make you wiser. Learn to share the wide-open spaces on our rivers and lakes. Now, go out and enjoy the spring weather and the fishing opportunities.