Chillin’ on the Gap |

Chillin’ on the Gap

John Gardner
Rifle Citizen Telegram
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
John Gardner Rifle Citizen TelegramTom Brueggeman, right, of Silt checks his fishing line Tuesday at Rifle Gap Reservoir. Brueggeman and Paul Plattner, also of Silt, were out on the ice getting in some January ice fishing. The reservoir has good, thick ice coverage over the majority of the surface and organizers of the 14th Annual Rifle Gap Ice Fishing Tournament are hopeful that the ice will hold up this year. Last year, the contest was canceled due to unsafe ice conditions.

Sun drenched in January, standing on the ice of Rifle Gap Reservoir, Tom Brueggeman said he wished that it was cloudy and colder Tuesday afternoon.

Regardless, a day on the ice without wind is a day that Brueggeman will take.

“I had one on the line a little while ago that would have been a winner,” Brueggeman said.

While the conditions Tuesday were better suited for golfing than ice fishing, recent temperatures have remained cold enough to provide acceptable ice thickness spanning most of the reservoir. Which is good news for organizers and anglers taking part in the 14th annual Rifle Gap Ice Fishing Tournament, scheduled for Jan. 21-22.

The ice has Brueggeman hopeful that the wildly popular winter event will return after organizers were forced to cancel the tournament in 2011 due to unsafe ice conditions.

“The ice is good this year,” Brueggeman said.

The good ice coverage has Frank Ladd, Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, confident that the tournament will return after its hiatus last year.

“At this point, we’re optimistic,” Ladd said Tuesday.

The fishing tournament is a two-day tournament. Space is limited to 400 adults and 200 kids, ages 17-years and younger, according to Ladd.

The entry fee for the tournament is $35 if registered prior to 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6. After that date, the fee increases to $50. Kids 17-years and younger fish free.

The tournament has three age categories including two youth divisions: 10 and younger, 11-17, and the adult division. Anglers will compete in three separate divisions of rainbow trout, brown trout, and yellow perch.

Anglers in the junior divisions will receive prizes for the top place finishers while adults will compete for a cash prize of up to $500 and a chance to win $20,000.

The tournament is organized by the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Rifle, Colorado State Parks and is sponsored by Rifle Comfort Inn and Suites, Rocky Mountain Liquors, and Well Master Corp. The event is also a fundraiser for the Colorado Sportsmen Wildlife Fund.

Ladd hopes that the temperatures remain cool enough over the next few weeks to thicken the ice.

“What we need is a really good cold snap,” he said.

According to Rifle Gap Park Ranger Zach Taylor, the ice is in good condition for fishing, however, he stressed that safety precautions always need to be taken when going out on the ice.

“In general, with ice, there is always a concern with safety,” Taylor said. “It’s always an unknown.”

The State Parks never declare ice ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’, Taylor said. The decision to be on the ice falls on the angler. It’s like swimming in a lake, do it at your own risk.

Taylor said that as of Tuesday, conditions were good enough to support the event, however, depending on the weather, things could change between now and the tournament date.

“If we felt that the conditions weren’t favorable, we would have called it about a week ago,” Taylor said. “It’s still a possibility, but I think, at this time, we’ve got enough of a shelf to go.”

Taylor stressed the importance for anglers to have proper equipment while ice fishing such as an ice jacket and ice awls, and for fishermen to drill holes every 10-15 feet to ensure that the ice thickness is adequate.

“We just want everyone to be safe and considerate out there,” Taylor said.

Registration can be done online at, or by going to the Rifle Information Center and filing out an entry application.

But those who are interested need to do so fast, as this popular tournament is filling up quickly after taking last year off.

“It’s filling up fast,” Ladd said.

Brueggeman has already signed up to see if he can once again catch the top fish. He was the first place winner in the adult division for brown trout in 2010 catching a 22-3/4-inch fish. He expects that it’ll take a fish every bit as large as that to win this year, too.

“Oh, yeah. I think it’ll take a 22-inch fish to win this year,” he said.

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