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 Hungry fish, vibrant scenery and cool weather

A DWR wildlife biologist shares his favorite things about fall fishing.

Justin Hart
Justin Hart is the DWR's Aquatic Program Manager in southeastern Utah. He helps coordinate the region's sport fish, native fish, and Aquatic Invasive Species Programs.

WHEN FALL ROLLS around, I always have the urge to get some fishing in before all my favorite spots ice up. Don’t get me wrong—I love to ice fish, but I always make sure to take advantage of cooling water temperatures and the great fishing that comes with it. We’ve got a lot of good spots to fish in southeastern Utah, but I tend to fish the same ones each year. I’ll share two of my favorites.

I usually hit Huntington North Reservoir in the fall. I typically do well for brown trout and largemouth bass with a few rainbow trout in the mix, too. I’ll walk the dam casting crankbaits in tight along the rocks. If I’m lucky, a bit of a breeze and some wave action will roll through. Occasionally I’ll use a spoon and fish it similarly.

This wiper was caught during a gillnet survey at Huntington North this summer.

As water temperatures drop, brown trout tend to congregate along the rocks, and bass hang out there year round. When I have the chance to take my float tube, I fish it around the dam as well, but I’m able to use some jigs or deep-diving crankbaits and fish a bit deeper. That method has been good to me as well. But this year I’ll have something new to target: wipers.

Wipers are a feisty hybrid cross between a striped bass and a white bass. We’re using wipers in a few more waters statewide and they are producing some exciting angling opportunities. Wipers have been in Huntington North for three years. They’re stocked as small fingerlings around one to two inches long. The oldest fish are now around 15 inches long, and the two-year-old fish are in the neighborhood of 10 inches.

These are hard-fighting fish and I look forward to catching them on a light action rod.  They’re also great to eat. I grew up fishing for wipers in the Midwest and I’m excited to have the opportunity here in Utah. This fall I’ll try some jigs, rattletraps and small crankbaits. I can’t wait to figure out how to catch these new additions to Huntington North.

My other fall fishing spot is Mammoth (Huntington) Reservoir. This lake is located near Highway 31 on the Manti-La Sal National Forest. It has been a long-standing and quality tiger trout fishery.

Fall is a good time to catch tiger trout—like this one—in Mammoth (Huntington) Reservoir.

In the spring and summer, I take my float tube up there and fly fish, but in the fall I pitch jigs along the dam. I like to use a 1/4 oz jighead with a curly tail grub in darker colors. I try to run the jig up the rocks, and after a few I get a pretty good feel for depth and retrieval speed.

Fishing that way means snags and lost jigs, but it usually pays off. I’ve never caught a monster at this lake, but I have landed a few four-pound fish. The action is usually good enough to keep me coming back, but there are other reasons I like this spot.

The scenery around Mammoth is great in the fall. The leaves take on vibrant colors and frost dusts the ground in the mornings. It’s a welcome change from the hot, dry weather we have in town. Many people are out hunting, so sometimes I get the lake to myself—particularly if I can sneak up there during the week.

Fall is the time to get out to the fisheries here in Utah. Fish become more active after water temperatures drop and lakes turn over; they’re preparing to spawn or looking to fatten up for wintertime. As summer comes to an end and hunting season approaches, a few people stow their summer fishing gear. Not me. I’ve always liked fall-time fishing and we’ve still got a good month or two left before it’s time to prep for ice fishing.

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