This moderate-size reservoir has literally turned into a rainbow trout fish factory. Most irrigation-storage reservoirs have to be stocked with hatchery trout in order to maintain a sport fishery. In order to reproduce, rainbow trout require clear, cold running water most often found in mountain streams and rivers. Irrigation diversions and other demands for water limit such habitat and separate such areas from most reservoirs. But Paragonah Reservoir (sometimes called Red Creek Reservoir) is an exception and keeps kicking out wild rainbows year after year.
Red Creek is the primary water source for Paragonah Reservoir. It flows high and cold during the spring of the year offering perfect spawning conditions for rainbow trout. Trout from the reservoir migrate into the stream in April and May to spawn. After the spawning season, stream flows diminish and the water starts to warm, but not before the trout eggs hatch and the young fry prosper. As summer progresses, stream flows continue to decrease, and by late fall the stream is so small that it supports few resident trout. The decreasing flows, however, nudge the recently hatched trout downstream, with flows being sufficient to allow many of the small fish time to work back into the reservoir.
The reservoir is located about eight miles east of the town of Paragonah, up Red Creek Canyon by gravel road. The town is just off of I-15, about 2.5 hours north of Las Vegas or 3.5 hours south of Salt Lake City. The reservoir's elevation is 7,791 feet and it's entirely located on the Dixie National Forest. The reservoir covers 70 surface acres and has a 350 acre-foot conservation pool owned by the Division of Wildlife Resources. Camping is primitive with no established facilities. There is no boat ramp, but small boats can be launched from shore. Anglers are allowed to keep a limit of 8 trout (double the statewide trout limit). Tributaries are closed to fishing from Jan. 1 through the second Saturday in July to protect spawning trout.
Paragonah Reservoir is a great destination for either a family fishing outing or for the avid fly fisherman. Trout typically range in size up to 17 inches, with many good-sized fish and even a rare fish going over 20 inches. Bank bait fishing, fly fishing from float tubes, and trolling from small boats all work well. During the spawning season in late April and early May, wooly buggers and egg-sucking leech patterns work well. Later in the year, there are often tremendous hatches of midges in the evenings, small dry-fly patterns or emergers will work. This is one spot where taking a few fish home to eat won't hurt. With improved conservation ethics and many fisherman turning to catch-and-release practices, there is some concern there may be too many trout in Paragonah during some years. Too many fish will slow growth rates. Harvesting trout keeps this population thinned and improves growth and condition for the remaining trout.
In May, if your arms get tired from reeling in trout or the kids get bored, take a hike up Red Creek to observe the spawning fish. It is easy to see spawning trout by the tens or even hundreds; but leave your fishing rod at camp or in your vehicle. For some people, the temptation to catch spawning fish, even in a closed area is too much. Illegally taking or harassing fish in the stream can earn you a citation, but there is nothing wrong with just watching the trout.
Yankee Meadow Reservoir is another popular fishing spot nearby. If you like mountain-biking, bring the bikes. There are numerous trails nearby in the Brian Head/Panguitch Lake area. A tour through Cedar Breaks National Monument is another alternative for an half-day trip. You'll have a good chance of observing mule deer or elk during an evening drive along many the back roads in the Dixie National Forest. If you enjoy more civilized recreation, take in the Summer Games or Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City.
Latest fishing report
We recently conducted a netting survey to assess potential loss of fish after last year's flooding, following the Brian Head Fire. We found that rainbow trout density has been substantially reduced, although a handful have survived and have experienced favorable growth and condition. In addition, 13,000 tiger trout stocked last fall have survived very well and are now 10–11 inches long. Anglers can look forward to some good fishing this year for tiger trout, with an occasional rainbow in the mix. (Last update 05-17-18)
- Location: Iron County, east of Paragonah
- Directions: Take Paragonah Exit off I-15. Turn east on Center Street and follow road up canyon
- Type: Fishing
- Size: 70 acres
- Elevation: 7,971 feet
- Hours: Unrestricted
- Likely catch: Rainbow Trout
- Possible catch: Tiger Trout
- Regulations: To see what statewide or special regulations apply to this waterbody, please read the current Fishing Guidebook.
- Site amenities: Restroom, primitive camping, launch area for small boats.
- Handicap access: