Ray Grass: The great outdoors: For hot fishing, pick the cooler hours

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6 2013 9:34 a.m. MDT

Fishing on the Provo River below the Jordanelle Reservoir Monday, Sept. 21, 2009, near Heber, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Age isn’t a factor. Time and temperature are … and fish know it.

Trout, Utah’s most popular game fish, like cooler waters. And, because of it, choose to feed during the coolest times of the day — mornings and evenings.

Fishermen know it, too … or should.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources knows and focuses its fish-planting program on high-country waters midsummer, such as the Uinta and Boulder mountains, and popular stops like Smith Morehouse (7,960 feet), Mill Hollow (8,843 feet) and Panguitch Lake (8,400 feet).

Best fishing in the higher-elevation lakes is early in the day and later in the afternoon, as water temperatures cool. Between times it’s possible to catch fish, but it’s not as easy.

And, while water levels in lower lakes and reservoirs are unseasonably low, lakes in the Uintas, as an example, “are in good shape,’’ reports Byron Gunderson of Fish Tech Outfitters. “Thunderstorms have kept the water levels up.’’

It’s during those cooler times when angler should take rod and reel in hand and cast. There are no guarantees, fishing never affords those, but chances are good a fish or two or three will find the bait, fly or lure appealing.

Recently, a group of anglers reported catching 20 fish in roughly four hours at Mirror Lake during the cooler times.

Trout are most active in water temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees. That’s when fish tend to rise to feed on or near the surface, which makes them more likely to take a fly, lure or big chunk of nightcrawler.

Just how to present a hook is a matter of choice. One of the more popular methods is to cast a bubble, three-quarters full of water, with a fly tied three to four feet behind. A good fly would be a Caddis with green or peacock body, Griffith’s Gnat or Renegade.

“On the retrieve what you want to see is that ‘V’ in the water as the bubble and fly are moving towards you. And you’ll want to make sure the fly is on the surface, and seeing the ‘V’ will help,’’ says Gunderson.

Casting and retrieving a lure, like a Jake’s Spin-A-lure, Crocodile or Daredevil, is another option.

Always dependable is a chunk of nightcrawler either hanging three to four feet below a bobber or off the bottom in 10 or so feet of water. Also try commercial baits such as PowerBait and Gulp in rainbow or salmon egg colors.

Sitting and watching for movement in the bobber can be a little boring, especially for the younger anglers, which is why casting and retrieving is a good idea.

Also, it’s sometimes hard to set the hook using bait, where with a moving fly or lure a fish will often hook itself. And, chances are a fish will survive if released from a fly or lure, where it’s not so certain with bait.

Some youngsters are even into fly fishing. Casting a fly, however, can be challenging with trees and bushes nearby.

Midday, when it’s warmer, to get the bait down to where the fish are hanging, fill the bobber full of water and let it sink. How long? Start by counting to 10, then try different depths. Start counting with a lure, too.

Visiting the high country is especially enjoyable for younger anglers. The cast and retrieve of a fly or worm keeps them active. And, chances are good a fish will bite.

Thus far this year, the DWR’s Midway Hatchery has planted more than 150,000 eight- to 10-inch trout in the roadside lakes in the Uintas, says Randy Harrison, hatchery manager. The division will restock those lake again the week of Aug. 4.

Along with the mystery of when a fish will bite is the question of which fish will it be. These days it could be a rainbow or the newly introduced tiger trout.

The tiger trout is the offspring of a male brown trout and female brook trout. The combination produces a trout with a maze-like pattern of colors similar to a tiger’s. It is rapidly becoming one of the more popular fish in Utah. There are more than 40 waters in Utah stocked with tiger trout, which includes several waters in the Uintas.

The most abundant fish remains the rainbow trout.

Ted Hallows, manager of the DWR’s Kamas Hatchery, says that the tiger trout has turned the Uinta lakes “into a two-tier fishery. Fishermen can fish all day with PowerBait (for rainbow), but the tiger is more of a predator so will go after flies and lures in the mornings and evenings.’’

Another advantage to fishing the high country is that during those slow times it’s not hard to stay busy with such activities as picnics, hikes, scenic drives, identifying flora and fauna, searching for wildlife or lounging around and drinking in the incredible landscape.

Tips:

• The Uintas are good start because there are a number of roadside lakes frequently planted, like Mirror, Teapot, Lost, Pass and Butterfly, which are easy to reach. (Lakes were stocked the week of Aug. 4.)

• Manufacturers are more aware of the younger generation than ever before. One maker offers a “no tangle’’ outfit — rod, reel and line — for a mere $15. Make sure it’s tangle free. Nothing ruins a good fishing trip like a tangle.

• Along with fish, bugs also can come out when it’s cooler. Take along repellant.

• Take along a cooler. Fresh fish make a great meal.

• Know the laws, especially where it comes to limits. Generally, the limit is four trout except on special waters. Because of the drought, the limit on some waters is eight. Check the Utah Fishing Proclamation for specific details.

• Licenses are $5 for those 12 and 13, $21 for seniors and $26 for those 14 to 65.

• The website for the DWR is www.wildlife.utah.gov. Find a current fishing and planting update, as well as the proclamation.

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