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Big brown trout in Northeastern Utah

VERNAL — Beautiful fall colors aren't the only reason anglers are fishing Red Fleet, Starvation and Steinaker reservoirs right now.

Plenty of waters in Utah offer great fall fishing for big brown trout.

Plenty of waters in Utah offer great fall fishing for big brown trout.

Photo by Phil Douglass

Many of them know fall is one of the best times of the year to catch brown trout — especially big brown trout.

"Fishing for big browns at the reservoirs isn't always fast," says Ron Stewart, conservation outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, "but having a chance to catch a five- to 10-pound fish is worth the effort."

Stewart says anglers have caught brown trout weighing up to 26 pounds at these three northeastern Utah reservoirs in recent years.

And Steinaker, Red Fleet and Starvation aren't the only places in Utah where you can catch a big trout or a big walleye this fall. "Almost every big water in Utah has the potential to produce a big fish, so just look for a big lake or reservoir near you," he says.

You can stay updated on where fishing is best this fall — and where big fish are being caught — at wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots.

Two additional websites — www.utahwildlife.net and www.bigfishtackle.com — also provide good updates and information.

Cooler water, and the spawn

As fall progresses, cooler water temperatures make the water at all levels of a lake or reservoir more attractive to trout. The cool temperatures bring big fish to areas where anglers can catch them by casting from shore or trolling from a boat.

"These large predators are actively feeding, getting ready for winter," Stewart says. "In the case of brown trout, fall is also when they spawn. That makes them even more active and willing to strike your bait or lure."

Fishing from shore

Stewart says shore anglers catch big brown trout every year. Fishing in the right areas is the key to catching fish from the shore.

Stewart says shore anglers should look for two places: An area where a river or stream enters the lake or reservoir, or an area that has underwater structure, such as ledges or rocks.

"Streams that flow into a body of water really attract browns because they're the areas browns spawn in," he says. "Rocky points are ideal because the fish will often follow the shoreline, and a point brings them in close to shore anglers. Graveled slopes are also attractive because browns will search these areas looking for young-of-the-year (fish that were born in the spring) to eat."

Trolling

While you can catch big brown trout from the shore, many anglers prefer to troll for browns from a boat. Stewart says there are several effective ways to troll for brown trout:

  • Try a medium- to large-sized flatfish, Rapala, spoon or crankbait. "Some anglers prefer trolling with just a lure while others swear by flashers and other attractors," he says.
  • Trolling a flatfish or a crankbait on monofilament line, about 100 to 200 feet behind your boat. "This technique is called long-lining," Stewart says, "and it works in most waters."
  • If you try long-lining for brown trout, the time of year you try is critical. "At most waters," Stewart says, "there are two windows: Just after ice-off and just before it freezes again.

    "The ideal time frame is usually April to early May and late October to November."

    The time of day you fish also plays a role. Browns are most active around sunrise and sunset, when the light level is low. Some serious brown trout anglers even continue fishing after it gets dark.

    When light conditions are low, brown trout move into shallow water to feed on smaller fish.

    Stewart recommends trolling close to shore, really working the points, over channels in the lake or reservoir and around areas where streams enter in.

    The speed at which you troll can also be a factor.

    "Troll a bit faster than you normally would," Stewart says. "Trolling faster gives your lure more action, which can help fish see it in low-light conditions. Also, remember that browns are predators. Trolling your lure faster might convince the browns that their prey is escaping, and they'll likely hit your lure harder."

  • When he fishes for brown trout, UDWR Flaming Gorge Project Leader Ryan Mosley uses a planer board so he can work his lure closer to shore.

    "I add a planer board to the line about 100 feet above the lure," Mosley says. "The planer board pulls the lure out to the side of the boat and away from it."

    Mosley says the distance the lures travels from the boat depends on how much line he lets out.

    "Using a planer board gives you two advantages," he says. "One, it gets your lure away from the boat and the noise the boat makes, which makes your lure even more enticing to shy fish. Second, you can troll a distance from the shoreline but still keep your lure in the shallow water where the big browns might be feeding."

Trolling from a canoe or kayak

To most anglers, trolling means fishing from a motorized boat. But you can troll from a non-motorized boat too.

"A few years ago, I traded my boat for a couple of kayaks," says Ed Johnson, UDWR fisheries biologist. "The kayaks are outfitted for fishing. My son and I have caught some big fish trolling lures behind the kayak as we paddle along. We can also stop and jig, or cast toward the shoreline. I don't think the kayak scares the fish as much as a larger boat with a trolling motor does.

"Not only do we catch some really nice fish," Johnson says, "we get some good exercise too."

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