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Fishing pole set up in a hole in a drilled hole in the ice, at sunset

Where to go ice fishing this winter to catch a lot of fish and to catch large fish

Salt Lake City — If you don't ski or snowboard, winter in Utah can feel never-ending. But another great way to get outdoors is embarking on an afternoon or weekend of ice fishing.

Fishing pole set up in a hole in a drilled hole in the ice, at sunset

There are a lot of options in Utah when it comes to ice fishing. Whether you want to target really large fish this winter or you want to catch a lot of fish, here are some areas to visit and which fish species to target:

Areas to catch a lot of fish

Those who want to take the whole family ice fishing or who want to catch a lot of fish should go to waterbodies that have yellow perch or bluegill. Both species are easy to catch, and you have the opportunity to catch a lot of them. To help you have success, try fishing with an ice jig or ice fly tipped with a mealworm or waxworm. The perch and bluegill usually stay near the bottom of the waterbody during the winter, so try to set the jig or fly roughly 3–12 inches from the bottom.

Good waterbodies for targeting perch and bluegill include:

  • Fish Lake (Sevier County)
  • Mantua Reservoir (Box Elder County)
  • Pineview Reservoir (Weber County)
  • Rockport Reservoir (Summit County)
  • Echo Reservoir (Summit County)

Places to catch large fish

Those who want an additional challenge and would like to catch larger fish may want to target trout while ice fishing. To have success, try using ice jigs or ice spoons tipped with mealworms or waxworms. Using a fish finder is also helpful because trout occupy the whole water column and can be found at a variety of depths. If you don't have a fish finder, try starting at the bottom and move your bait up every five to 10 minutes until you locate the depth where the fish are.

If you want to catch a large fish through the ice this winter, here are a few waterbodies and species to target:

  • Mantua Reservoir
  • Rockport Reservoir
  • Echo Reservoir
  • Flaming Gorge (for lake trout)
  • Strawberry Reservoir (for rainbow trout and cutthroat trout)
  • Lost Creek Reservoir (for cutthroat trout, tiger trout and splake)
  • Fish Lake (for lake trout and splake)

"Winter is a good time to go fishing because ice gives everyone the opportunity to walk to the best areas — the places where the fish are hanging out," Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Sportfish Coordinator Randy Oplinger said. "Fish are also hungry and active in the winter, and that can make them easier to catch."

Tips to help you be successful while ice fishing

While many fish species still fight as hard under the ice as they do in open water, some species have a more subtle strike, so you have to carefully watch the tip of your rod to know if you're getting bites. Adding a device called a spring bobber to the end of your fishing rod can help you detect these subtle bites.

You can catch many fish species through the ice, and any time of day can be good for ice fishing.

"The best way to prepare for ice fishing is to make sure you are dressed warmly for the colder weather and to make sure all your equipment is ready," Oplinger said. "If you are new to the sport, you can get additional tips and recommendations from fellow anglers, employees at tackle stores or online. It's always a good idea to check the Fish Utah map on the DWR website as well."

Safety recommendations

A general safety recommendation is to not step on the ice unless it is at least 4 inches thick. Keep in mind, though, that ice thickness can vary across a lake. If you see the ice is 4 inches thick in one spot, don't assume it's 4 inches thick across the entire lake. Be sure to drill test holes into the ice as you venture onto it. You should also avoid putting large groups of people and equipment in a small area — spread the weight out.

"As an extra precaution, you can also purchase ice safety picks, which can help you get out of a lake if you fall through the ice," Oplinger said. "I'd also recommend taking a rope and a friend or family member with you, if possible. It's always a good idea to have someone else with you when ice fishing."

Find more ice safety tips on the Utah State Parks website.

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