Last week, Cal Kener, Mike Kevitch, Dave Crandall and Dan Smith fished at Rockport. Within a hour of drilling the first ice hole, Kener had three large rainbows. Smith had one fish, which he released, and a solid strike.
Kener said the foursome has fished Rockport several times this winter, "and done quite well." Their bait was wax worms but PowerBait is also working well, he reported.
A few perches have been showing up at Rockport, but far fewer than the 2005 record rate.
Strawberry and Lake Powell are Utah's most heavily fished waters. During peak years, more than 2 million angler hours will be recorded at Lake Powell and 1.5 million at Strawberry.
Among cold water fisheries, Strawberry gets more pressure than the next four most-popular waters combined.
In the last year Strawberry has also been offering up more fish anglers can keep. The limit is four trouts and/or kokanee salmons. But under special regulations, anglers can keep sterile rainbows but only two Bear Lake cutthroats under 15 inches and only one over 22 inches.
For years rainbow trout survival has been an issue. Millions of rainbows were planted but few showed up in creel surveys. Several years ago the DWR found that the smaller 6-inch rainbows planted were being eaten by predators and the planting of larger, eight-inch fish began in order to improve survival.
"It's far more expensive to plant the larger fish," Wilson said, "but we're seeing results. We've had people complain to us that they can't get lures and baits past the smaller rainbow in order to get down deeper to the larger cutthroat. For us, that's a nice problem to have."
Creel studies this year showed a substantial increase in the number of rainbows being caught. Gillnet surveys last spring also showed an increase in the number of larger, five-pound-range rainbows in the reservoir.
Reports on Strawberry are mixed lately. One of the biggest problems facing fishermen is finding parking places. Snowplows clear highways but not side roads and parking areas near access points. ATV and snowmobile drivers also have been experiencing difficulty traveling on ice with snow and slush on the surface.
Among those fishing waters in the top-10 most-popular spots, along with Strawberry and Powell, are Flaming Gorge, Scofield, Jordanelle, Deer Creek, Pineview and the High Uintas, and the Provo and Weber rivers.
Since being treated several years ago, Panguitch has ample fish and Wilson explained there have been no reports of chubs being caught.
That is not the case with Scofield. He noted that chubs are starting to show up and that more attention is being paid to biological control, which would follow methods used in Strawberry. Predator fish, such as Bear Lake cutthroats and tiger trouts, will be introduced in an attempt to control the nuisance fish.
Rivers have also offered good fishing. Again, because of the prospects of a good water year, flows from dams have been steady.
Last week, Dave Tall and Ron Moore spent a morning fishing the middle Provo. Among the flies used were San Juan worms, Griffith's gnats and scuds.
Gunderson also noted that fly fishermen have complained that there are too many small brown trouts in the middle section of the Provo, "because fishermen are simply not keeping some of the fish they catch." With the competition for food, fish remain small.
Nymph fishing has been good on rivers. Some fly fishermen are trying tiny dry flies, size No. 20 and smaller, and doing well. Some are already using stoneflies and catching fish. The larger fish are taking nymphs, while the smaller fish are now taking dry flies.
Rainbows are being caught at Deer Creek where the Provo flows in, but few perches are showing up. Larger perches are coming out of Starvation.
Those looking for a water to keep young anglers interested should consider Pineview. Almost anywhere on the reservoir many small perches are being caught.
It's not sure how long anglers will be able to walk on ice this year. Reports at most of the popular waters are that the ice is more than a foot thick, which means it will take several weeks of warm temperatures to melt. Meanwhile, streams and rivers will continue to flow at relatively high levels and offer good fishing.
Which simply means winter fishing will be around for a while.
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