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Catch big fish at ice off

Fishing heats up in northeastern Utah

Vernal — A couple weeks of warm weather and howling winds have changed the face of reservoirs in the lower elevations of the Uinta Basin.

Ice off is the perfect time to catch trout in northeastern Utah.

Ice off is the perfect time to catch trout in northeastern Utah.

Photo by Georgia Stewart

The reservoirs have gone from an ice- and snow-covered shade of white to shades of blue to shades of green as the water has opened.

Ron Stewart, regional conservation outreach manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says this is good news for anglers. "Ice off usually brings a few of weeks of great fishing," he says, "especially for larger fish."

As the ice melts, most fish, especially coldwater trout, become more active. They start cruising along the edge of the ice or along the shoreline, looking for prey that thawed out of the ice or washed into the water from the shore.

Whether the fish are just reacting to a burst of sunlight or an increase in prey, the bite usually doesn't last long. At Starvation Reservoir, though, the bite has been good for the past month and a half.

Best waters to try

Where should you go? Stewart provides some advice:

  • "The reservoirs on the west side of the Uinta Basin thawed out first this year," he says. "Starvation and Big Sandwash are both fishing well for rainbows up to about 20 inches with a few larger browns being caught too. At Starvation, walleye have also been a common sight in anglers' nets."
  • Ice on Steinaker, Red Fleet, Brough, Bullock and Pelican reservoirs came off at the end of the week of March 10. "Steinaker and Red Fleet both have good numbers of rainbows and some larger brown trout in them," he says.

Stewart says warm water fishing is still a few weeks out. "The waters need more time to warm up," he says.

Tips

Stewart provides the following advice to catch fish at ice off:

  • The fish are still sluggish, so retrieving your lure slowly, or fishing with baits, will likely result in more hits.
  • The water is cold, so the fish can be anywhere in the water column, from the surface to the bottom. They can also be in shallow water near the shore. To find the fish, try casting along the shorelines and close to the edge of the ice.
  • If that doesn't produce fish, try a deep, slow and sporadic retrieval along the bottom. Try to imitate a fish or a crayfish that's injured or that's just emerging from winter and isn't completely awake yet.
  • Also, look for fish in the shallows. Ice off is the time of year when trout and other lunkers will likely be close to shore. The water at ice off is the clearest it will be all year; sometimes, you can actually see the fish you're trying to catch!

Stay current

Weekly fishing reports for northeastern Utah are available online. You can also receive the free reports via email by subscribing to them.

Two additional websites — bigfishtackle.com and utahwildlife.net — also provide current fishing information.

If you have questions about fishing in northeastern Utah, call the DWR's Northeastern Region office at 435-781-9453.

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