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Great fishing at high-elevation waters

You can beat the heat, have fun and enjoy breathtaking scenery by grabbing your fishing pole and heading to Utah's mountains.

The Uinta Mountains are a great place to fish for colorful brook trout.

The Uinta Mountains are a great place to fish for colorful brook trout.

Photo courtesy of Chris Penne

Paul Birdsey, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says high-elevation waters in Utah provide some of the state's best summer fishing. Those waters include lakes in the Uinta Mountains in northern Utah and the Boulder Mountains down south.

Birdsey says trout feed actively when the water temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees. "Fifty five to 65 degrees is the ideal water temperature for trout," he says. "And, fortunately, that's the temperature high-elevation lakes in Utah stay at throughout the summer. That's the main reason they're such great places to fish."

While high-elevation waters throughout Utah provide quality fishing in the summer, the Uinta Mountains and the Boulder Mountains should top your list of places to visit.

Uinta Mountains, Boulder Mountains

A wide variety of opportunities are waiting for you in the Uinta Mountains in northern and northeastern Utah. The opportunities range from lakes next to state Route 150 (the Mirror Lake Highway) that are stocked with fish weekly to backcountry lakes that you have to hike or ride a horse to reach.

"The lakes next to Route 150 are great places to take your family fishing," Birdsey says.

If you're willing to "travel off the beaten path," a unique experience is waiting for you. In 2012, the DWR started stocking golden trout in the Uintas.

"These fish, native to California, are some of the most colorful of all trout," Birdsey says. "Starting in 2012, they were reintroduced to several lakes in the Uintas."

While you won't catch a fish that's trophy-sized, you will have a chance to catch one of the most unique fish in the state. You can see where golden trout have been stocked by visiting the DWR's online stocking report .

Look at the 2012, 2013 and 2014 stocking reports to see which lakes received the fish.

The lakes on the Boulder Mountains in southern Utah are usually harder to reach than those on the Uintas. But the lakes on the Boulders also produce bigger fish. "Some of the lakes on the Boulder Mountains provide really, really nice fish," Birdsey says.

Catching fish

Birdsey provides the following tips to help you catch fish and have a great experience:

Fish early in the morning or later in the day

Birdsey says trout rely mostly on their eyes to find their prey. That fact directly affects when you should fish for them.

"Trout feed most actively when they can see their prey clearly," Birdsey says, "but too much sunlight exposes them to predators."

For that reason, Birdsey says early morning and before the sun goes down at night are the perfect times to fish. "There's enough light for the trout to see their prey but not enough light to make the trout highly visible to predators," he says.

Flies, lures and baits

Birdsey says fly fishing with a pattern that imitates a leech is one of the best ways to catch trout on the Uintas and the Boulders. Leech patterns in brown, black or olive drab usually work best.

Paying attention to the type of insects that are hatching, and then "matching the hatch" by using a fly that imitates the insects, is another effective fly fishing technique.

If you'd rather fish with spinning gear, spinners are great lures to try. Birdsey recommends a Mepps, Panther Martin or Blue Fox spinner in sizes #0 or #1.

Use spinners that are gold, black or silver in color.

Birdsey says brook, cutthroat and tiger trout are the trout you'll usually find on the Uintas and the Boulders. "All of these species are more aggressive than the rainbow trout most anglers are used to catching," he says. "A lure that flashes quickly through the water — like a spinner — is something brooks, cutthroats and tigers will go after."

If you enjoy fishing with bait, Birdsey says nightcrawlers are usually the best bait to use. You can cast the nightcrawler, and then let it sink to the bottom of the water you're fishing. Or, you can cast it and a bobber, and let the nightcrawler dangle two or three feet under the bobber. "Whichever way you fish it," he says, "don't let the nightcrawler just sit there. Cast it out, and then slowly reel it in."

No matter which tactic you use, if you haven't gotten a bite within 20 minutes, change what you're doing. Try a different fly, lure or bait, switch how quick or slow you're reeling your bait or lure in, or move to a different location.

Be prepared

Birdsey says you should bring the following with you:

  • An emergency kit that includes water, extra food and a survival blanket.
  • Bug spray.
  • Sunscreen and a good hat.
  • Also, remember that bears live in these areas. Free bear safety information is available on our website and from Wild Aware Utah.

"In July and August," he says, "it almost always rains in the Uintas for an hour or two. The rain usually starts between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The rainstorms don't usually last long, but the rain can come down quick."

Pack it in, pack it out

Some of the high-elevation waters, especially those close to Route 150, attract a lot of anglers. Unfortunately, they also attract a lot of trash. Birdsey encourages you to leave the area better than you found it.

"In addition to picking up your own trash, including fishing line and fishing tackle," he says, "bring along an extra garbage bag, and pick up the trash others have left behind."

More information

Maps of both the Uintas and the Boulders are another good information source. You can buy them at the DNR Map & Bookstore and U.S. Forest Service offices. The best topographical maps to buy are 7.5 minute quad maps.

You can also learn more about fishing the Uintas and the Boulders, and stay current on fishing conditions and success, by reading the DWR's weekly fishing reports.

Online fishing forums, such as bigfishtackle.com and utahwildlife.net, are also good places to get information. Sporting goods stores are also good places to contact.

If you have questions about fishing lakes in the Uintas, call the DWR office in Ogden at 801-476-2740 or the DWR office in Vernal at 435-781-9453.

If you have questions about fishing lakes on the Boulders, call the DWR office in Cedar City at 435-865-6100.

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