Fish are hungry, active and concentrated
DWR sport fisheries program coordinator shares the best parts of ice off fishing.
Randy is the Sport Fisheries Coordinator at the Division. During his time with the UDWR, Randy has conducted studies that have helped improve the management of Utah's fisheries. He specializes in aquaculture, invasive species control and fisheries management.
ICE OFF IS one of the best times to get out and catch not only a bunch of fish, but some large fish. I personally enjoy ice off because it’s my first chance to test out all the new equipment that I received over the holidays.
It’s also my first chance to get out, enjoy the spring weather and dust off my favorite rods and lures. There is surely a waterbody near you that can provide a great ice off fishing opportunity for you and your family.
Why is ice off so great?
There are a few reasons! During ice off, fish tend to congregate in the emerging band of open water that separates the shore from the main ice sheet. The water in this open area is warmer than the water below the ice and this warm water both attracts fish and insects and plankton that fish feed on. Fish in this open-water area tend to be concentrated, increasing your odds of catching them. Also, many fish lose weight during the winter months and when ice off occurs, they’re hungry and eager to put the lost weight back on. What this means for anglers is that during ice off, fish are hungry, active, concentrated and willing to take almost any bait, lure or fly you throw at them.
Ice off fishing is usually great from the shore and from float tubes.
Fishing from shore
Shore anglers do well using a variety of baits, including nightcrawlers and PowerBait or lures. At ice off, fish are spending a lot of time in warmer surface water, so I’d recommend suspending your bait a couple feet below the surface using a bobber.
Some of my favorite ice off lures include spinners or spoons for trout. I have done well catching bluegill, crappie and bass using jigs. Dark colors work particularly well at ice off for most species. Regardless of the lure you use, the fish can still move a little slow after ice off. So, I’d recommend retrieving your lure slower than you would in the summer. Fish often hang out near the ice and I have found that if you cast from shore onto the ice, and then retrieve your lure, you’ll often get a fish right after the lure drops off the ice into the water.
I anticipate that many waters across the state will provide good shore fishing opportunities during ice off this year. You’ll find good shore access and healthy fish populations at:
- East Canyon Reservoir
- Rockport Reservoir
- Echo Reservoir
- Huntington Reservoir (Mammoth Reservoir)
- Blanding #4 Reservoir
- Steinaker Reservoir
- Red Creek Reservoir
- Big Sandwash Reservoir
- Lakes in the Boulder Mountains
Ice off may be occurring or has already occurred at some of these waters. Conversely, some of these waters may still have ice. Be sure to check the latest fishing reports for these and any other waters you might visit.
Fishing from float tubes
I’ve also done quite well at ice off by fishing from my float tube. Float tubes allow anglers to continue to fish near the edge of the ice shelf as the ice recedes further from shore. Many float tube anglers catch fish at ice off using flies, but baits and lures also work well. Woolly buggers are one of my favorite flies at ice off. Float tube fishing should be good at all of the same waters listed as being good for shore fishing. In addition to those waters, check out:
- Browns Draw Reservoir
- Cleveland Reservoir
- Strawberry Reservoir
- Starvation Reservoir
- Panguitch Lake
- Navajo Reservoir
These can all be good places to visit with float tubes at ice off. Again, be sure to look at the fishing report for ice status at any of these waters.
Lost Creek Reservoir should be another great place to catch fish both from shore and float tube at ice off. Any cutthroat trout caught at Lost Creek will count towards Utah’s Cutthroat Trout Slam.
I love to fish, but ice off fishing is especially enjoyable because of the warm, spring weather. I’ve learned through experience that some preparation before going out makes ice off fishing more enjoyable. I like to replace all of my line at the start of each new fishing season. I also think that it’s good to go through your lures and organize them, throw out the worn out lures and purchase new ones to replenish your collection.
If you have never fished during ice off, I’d encourage you to get out and give it a try. Regardless of whether you go by yourself or with others, ice off fishing in Utah is an incredible experience that you don’t want to miss!