Comins Lake, Cave Lake offer good options for ice fishing

Updated December 27, 2017 - 11:20 am

Unseasonably warm temperatures have slowed ice at Eagle Valley and Echo Canyon reservoirs, customary ice fishing destinations for Southern Nevada anglers. Both are a 3-hour drive from Las Vegas near the community of Pioche, but another hour behind the wheel will take you to a pair of popular fishing waters that are already covered with hard water.

As of Tuesday, Comins Lake and Cave Lake are reportedly covered with four to five inches of ice. Though that is typically safe for ice fishing, you will still want to use caution when walking on the ice. At Comins there is still some open water near the dam. Stay clear of that area.

Both lakes are located minutes away from the city of Ely in White Pine County. That means you can generally find a warm place to bed down for the night and still have a relatively short drive when its time to go fishing. Ely is home to several hotels.

On the other hand, if cold-weather camping is your preference, the campgrounds at Cave Lake State Park are generally open year-round.

Cave Lake is a 32-acre impoundment located entirely within the boundaries of the park at an elevation of 7,300 feet. It is home to stocked rainbow and brown trout, and has the potential to grow very large fish. The current state record for German brown trout was pulled from Cave Lake in 1984 by Dennis Mangum. His record-setting fish weighed 27 pounds, 5 ounces and measured 33 inches long.

Comins Lake is located just east of Ely along State Highway 6 on the Steptoe Valley Wildlife Management Area. This reservoir covers 410 surface acres when full and is home to hard-hitting rainbow and brown trout. Due to a recent increase in elevation, you may find some thin ice along the edges until it has time to thicken up. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to drill some test holes before going too far out on the ice.

In Nevada, holes drilled through the ice for fishing purposes can be no larger than 10 inches in diameter. The easiest way to accomplish that task is with an ice auger. You can pick up a simple, manual-powered auger for about $50 at the low end. A gas-powered auger can cost between $250-$600 or more. It all depends on how serious you want to be.

Though you can buy fishing rods designed specifically for ice fishing — with a short rod blank and handle — any trout rod will do the trick. Of course, if you have a vacant spot in your rod rack that needs filling … that is another matter.

Since ice fishing is a cold-weather activity that takes place on a sheet of ice, dressing in layers is important. The better your feet, head and neck are insulated the more comfortable you will be and the longer you will enjoy fishing. Insulated boots are a must, so too is a good base layer. Each person has their own preferences. I’m partial to thermal undergarments made of Merino wool or a combination of wool and polypropylene. My choice depends on two things; weather conditions and my anticipated level of physical activity.

I top things off with insulated bib overalls, a parka, a quality knit cap and a neck gator. And in the middle, I wear a loose-fitting layer or two, especially over my torso. With multiple layers you can make adjustments as needed.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at

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