Ice House: the perfect place to beat the summer heat

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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When the weather’s hot, you have to get out of the valley and the foothills and head for the Sierra, if you want to find any decent cold-water fishing. Luckily, our local mountains are liberally sprinkled with nice lakes that serve up some excellent trout fishing.
One of my favorites is Ice House Reservoir in the Crystal Lakes Basin off Highway 50 near Kyburz. It is easy to get to, and at just over 5,000 feet in elevation, Ice House has the best of both worlds — water that’s cool enough that you can catch rainbows and browns without having to fish very deep, yet it is also warm enough that you can enjoy an afternoon swim.
Additionally, the lake is pretty small so the trout are generally pretty easily located. There’s ample camping around lake, including lots of lakefront and water view sites and the launching facility is also well maintained.
Perhaps the most attractive attribute of Ice House is its proximity to other fisheries. If things aren’t going well there, you can always head up the road to nearby Union Valley Reservoir and chase macks, kokanee, browns and bows... or keep going up to Loon Lake, which usually kicks out rainbows and browns aplenty.
Fishing Ice House
The best way to fish this lake is to hit it at the crack of dawn. With surface temps up in the low 70’s now, the trout have been holding well below the surface — except very early in the morning. From first light until about 7:30, you can catch fish dragging silver/black back Rapalas on top. Run ‘em 100-150 behind the boat and give your rod tip a twitch every few seconds.
As the sun gets higher, you will have to bust out the downriggers. On my most recent trip a few days back, I found the fish from 24 to 40 feet down after about 10 a.m.. You can do well running the same Rapalas off the release clip though I generally seem to do better with the riggers while dragging an orange 1-inch grub behind a copper dodger. Of course, a silver dodger and a threaded crawler is always a good bet as well.
I always start out my day at the lake by trolling across the face of the dam. There are ususally some willing biters in there... but if I don’t get bit, I will make the right hand turn around the point (don’t get too close — it’s shallow).
After making the right around the corner, I will follow the shoreline up the lake. There is lots of good rocky cover along that bank that can really hold fish. Depending on how things are going, I will usually run up toward the inlet stream.
If I have yet to get bit, the game plan is to continue tracing the shoreline until we make a complete circumnavigation of the lake. A few biters between the point and the inlet, however, usually warrant another pass through that same stretch.
Unless it is overcast, expect the bite to die about 10:30 or 11 a.m.... which is usually about the time a swim starts sounding nice!
J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. Find him online at