What lies beneath: Fishing ‘The Fork’

Contestants from across Colorado will converge on Williams Fork Reservoir for its annual ice fishing tournament.

February 21, 2018 | By: Jason Finehout
The frozen Williams Fork Reservoir starts to fill up with ice fishermen at the beginning of a daylong ice fishing tournament.
The frozen Williams Fork Reservoir starts to fill up with ice fishermen at the beginning of a daylong ice fishing tournament.

Every summer, Denver Water’s Williams Fork Reservoir is known as a secluded, peaceful — and free! — spot for boating, fishing and camping. But once winter settles over this tranquil corner of Grand County, Colorado, only a few ice fishermen brave the intimidating tundra of the place those in the know call “The Fork.”

Those souls know a hidden truth: Swimming beneath the imposing ice is a cornucopia of fish. Northern pike, kokanee salmon and lake, rainbow and brown trout — an ice fisherman’s dream come true.

Against this backdrop, eager fishermen from across Colorado will descended on the idyllic town of Parshall to try their hand at Denver Water’s 3rd Annual catch-and-release tournament at Williams Fork Reservoir.

“The event is a great chance to have personal conversations with locals and answer their questions about Denver Water and our commitment to Grand County,” said Katie Knoll, Denver Water stakeholder relations manager. “We’re happy to bring it back this year, and think it will be bigger and better this time around — and still support a great cause.”

A portion of the proceeds from the tournament will go to Pets for Vets, an organization dedicated to connecting our nation’s military veterans with rescued animals.

“The stakes are higher this year,” said Knoll, noting the grand prize of $1,000 for the longest Northern Pike. “And snowmobiles, which are normally not allowed on the reservoir, will be allowed for the tournament!”

For a taste of what the day will entail, check out my firsthand account of the inaugural tournament:

A lucky fisherman pulls in a beautiful rainbow trout during the Williams Fork Ice Fishing Tournament.
A lucky fisherman pulls in a beautiful rainbow trout during the 2016 Williams Fork Ice Fishing Tournament.

In the days prior, Denver Water caretakers were busy ensuring the reservoir was safe, roads were plowed, bathrooms were ready and dumpsters were positioned. And before the sun was up on the day of the tournament, more staff joined them and scattered across the reservoir to take their places as judges, scouts, and parking and registration reps.

The temperature was a chilly -2 degrees at the 7 a.m. start, but the sun soon came out, bringing the temperature to a relatively balmy 32 degrees by afternoon. Good natured banter among contestants rang across the ice as they picked out their spots and started to drill through the ice.

The first triumph came at 8:06 a.m. when Roman Piguliak caught a 20.5-inch rainbow trout. Others had more luck as the day moved along.

When the final horn sounded promptly at 3 p.m., the tournament came to a close. As prizes were awarded, the participants talked about the day, including, of course, the “big one” they almost caught.

Registration is free for those under the age of 15 and $35 for all other participants. Visit the event page for pre-registration information and 2018 rules and prize information.

Denver Water staff worked every part of the tournament to ensure its success. Pictured here in front of the registration tent is Jason Finehout (left) and Katie Knoll from Public Affairs; and Andrew Stetler and Ryan Rayfield, caretakers at Williams Fork Dam.
Denver Water staff worked every part of the 2016 tournament to ensure its success. Pictured here in front of the registration tent is Jason Finehout (left) and Katie Knoll from Public Affairs; and Andrew Stetler and Ryan Rayfield, caretakers at Williams Fork Dam.

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