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Great high-elevation summer fishing

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

Treating the Middle Fork of Sheep Creek is the first step in bringing native Colorado River cutthroat trout back to the creek

Hundreds of lakes are waiting for you in the Uinta and Boulder mountains.

Photo by Phil Douglass

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

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

Uinta Mountains, Boulder Mountain

While high-elevation waters throughout Utah provide quality fishing in the summer, the Uinta Mountains and Boulder Mountain are among the best places to try.

If you visit the Uinta Mountains in northern and northeastern Utah, you'll find a wide variety of opportunities. Those 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.

The lakes on Boulder Mountain in southern Utah are usually harder to reach. But the lakes there are more productive and usually produce bigger fish. "Some of the lakes on Boulder Mountain 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 Boulder Mountain. He says leech patterns in brown, black or olive drab usually work best.

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

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.

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

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

If you'd like to fish with bait, Birdsey says night crawlers are usually the best bait to try. You can cast the night crawler, 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 night crawler dangle two or three feet under the bobber. "Whichever way you fish it," he says, "don't let the night crawler 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. Read more free bear safety information.

"In 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. It usually doesn't rain for 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 people. 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 you've discarded," he says, "bring along an extra garbage bag, and pick up the trash others have left behind."

Free "Lakes of the High Uintas" booklets

A series of DWR booklets titled "Lakes of the High Uintas" is an excellent source of information about fishing the Uintas. You can get the booklets for free by:

  • Visiting the Department of Natural Resources online library at www.dnrlibrary.utah.gov.
  • Once you arrive, click on the "Search catalog" icon.
  • Enter "Lakes of the High Uintas" in the Quick Search option.
  • Each booklet choice has a links icon. Click on the icon to read the booklet you want to read.

Six of the booklets are also available at the DNR Map & Bookstore. The booklets cost $2 each.

You can order the booklets online or get them at the bookstore. The store is at 1594 W. North Temple in Salt Lake City.

More information

Other good sources of information include maps of both the Uintas and the Boulders. Maps are available 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 Boulder Mountain lakes, and stay current on fishing conditions and success, by reading the DWR's weekly fishing reports.

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

You can also contact the DWR office in Ogden at 801-476-2740, the DWR office in Vernal at 435-781-9453 or the DWR office in Cedar City at 435-865-6100 for more information.

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