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Fishing heats up at Flaming Gorge

Anglers will find diverse species biting at the Gorge this time of year

Dutch John–Despite fickle weather in northeastern Utah, water temperatures at Flaming Gorge Reservoir are approaching 60 degrees.

While you're fishing at Flaming Gorge, don't forget to watch for wildlife. Ryan Mosley spotted these deer swimming across the reservoir in mid-May

While you're fishing at Flaming Gorge, don't forget to watch for wildlife. Ryan Mosley spotted these deer swimming across the reservoir in mid-May.

Photo by Ryan Mosley

Ryan Mosley, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' lead aquatic biologist at Flaming Gorge, says these are the temperatures that make "magic" happen in the water.

Because of the rising temperatures, Mosley says the reservoir is "greening up" with microscopic algae and zooplankton. These are essential food for kokanee salmon, rainbow trout and small lake trout in the reservoir.

The increased food supply has increased the level of activity among the reservoir's fish. Mosley provides a rundown on which fish will be biting in early June and how to catch them:

Kokanee salmon will be close to the surface, where the water is warm and there's lots of zooplankton. For kokanee, troll spoons, dodger/squid combos and pop-gear in shallow water in the morning and in deeper water as the day goes on. Hone in your efforts by doing 'S' turns in your boat. These turns will cause your trolling speed to vary. Note whether your hits are coming at the faster or slower pace. To make your lure more enticing, tip it with Berkley Gulp! or Gulp! Alive! baits, a mealworm, or another soft bait. In late May, Mosley was finding the most success trolling a Rocky Mountain Tackle dodger in a watermelon color, trailed by a squid in double-glow pink, at about two miles per hour.

Smallmouth bass are moving into the shallows to spawn. Target the smallies using jigs, Senkos, jerk baits and deep-running crankbaits. If you fish a jig, work it slowly across the bottom, or flip it to fish you spot in the shallows. In late May, Mosley was finding the most success using a Rapala X-rap. He'd cast the lure and then retrieve it back using a pattern of short jerks and longer pauses. All of his hits came during the suspended pauses. And some of the hits were explosive! To keep the reservoir's smallmouth bass fishery healthy, Mosley encourages you to release the bigger bass while keeping the smaller ones (bass 8 to 12 inches long).

Mosley says rainbow trout are the fish being caught in the highest numbers right now. They're concentrated in the shallows, attempting to spawn on rocky points and inlets to the reservoir. You can catch rainbow trout from the shore, or by trolling, casting or vertically jigging, and often while fishing for other species. Try casting small, 3-inch tubes or Marabou jigs in either an earth-tone color, or whites and blacks. Fly fishing can be very effective this time of year, as midges and other species will be hatching throughout the day.

Lake trout are hitting most frequently on the northern end of the reservoir. Look for schools along rocky points and ridges, or islands in water that's more than 60 feet deep. Lake trout are most often caught on small tube jigs (white with black flakes) tipped with sucker meat. However, you can also catch them while trolling for rainbows or kokanee. Dropping a lure just above a school of lake trout can produce a lot of success and some fine dining!

While it's a great time of year to fish at Flaming Gorge, the scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities are also hard to beat. Mosley says loons, ospreys, bighorn sheep and deer are commonly viewed this time of year.

Don't forget to look at the 2013 Utah Fishing Guidebook before arriving at the reservoir.

The latest fishing reports for Flaming Gorge and other waters across Utah are available online.

If you have questions about fishing at Flaming Gorge, call the UDWR's Flaming Gorge field office at 435-885-3164.

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