Fall is here and winter is coming quickly in the Rockies as we start to see small lakes and ponds freeze in the high country. Being a Western angler, the majority of our waters are smaller and cutting-edge topographic and contour maps are not available. It is up to anglers to map and scout out their fishing areas. Some anglers choose to record data and create their own maps, while others tend to use pre-made maps and GPS and just plot out the areas they plan to fish.

Whether you’re a Western angler or angler anywhere else, preparation for the hard water season is key to a successful winter—especially if good maps are not available. While you still have the ability to, boats can be used to spend some time mapping out your winter and the structure in which you will focus on.

The biggest thing I try to do is find and map out smaller and less popular locations where fish will migrate to after the seasonal crowds start to beat the average spot up: a small rock pile to side of a major reef, lone weed pods, or submerged brush off the beaten path, to name a few.

If you spend enough time looking, you can find enough of these small spots to accommodate the entire winter and typically have better-than-average results on these unpressured fish.

It seems each year I start to put more time and energy into preparations for the upcoming winter, and without a doubt I see the results of this preparation. So if you’re a serious ice angler, start to put more time into the preparation and I promise you will get more out of the season once hard water arrives.

Image courtesy Ice Team/Nate Zelinsky

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