The ice is on, at least some of it, and fishermen are starting to take advantage of the clean coating on Utah waters.
Those who have cut holes and lowered fishing lines in recent weeks have been amply rewarded in most cases. But not all the better fishing holes are frozen over yet. The feeling is they will be before long.Some of the better success stories have come from fishermen returning from the more popular waters such as Flaming Gorge, Deer Creek, Rockport, Strawberry, Causey, Piute, Otter Creek, Bear Lake and Fish Lake.
At this time every year a great deal of attention is directed at Bear Lake. This is a time when trophy rainbow and Mackinaw regularly are pulled up from the depths of the northern lake. It is also a time when fishermen by the hundreds begin making plans to net or snag one of the state's smallest fish, the Bear Lake cisco.
Right now, Bear Lake is one of those without a topping. Several times it has crusted, only to have high winds churn up the warmer waters to open it up again. If a high-pressure system settles over the area, chances are it will freeze by the time the cisco show up. But, if unsettled weather continues, then chances are it will stay open, which could put some additional hardships on fishermen.
According to Bryce Nielson, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources fisheries biologist at the lake, the water level is four feet lower than normal and about nine feet below high-water mark.
"This will mean there will be less beach area. With the water out that far, the beach drops off more quickly. Those with dip nets will have to stay closer to shore," he said.
Nielson expected the cisco to come in on the weekend of the 21st and move out around the 29th.
Flaming Gorge is partially iced over. Reports are that ice has moved over the Wyoming section, down to an area called the Pipeline. Those fishing open waters from boats are doing well for lake trout using 1/2- or 3/8-ounce feather or plastic jigs, baited with a minnow, chunk of chub or sucker meat.
Those fishing Deer Creek are finding that the old fishing holes aren't what they used to be. Because of the low water level, old fishing holes now don't give access to water deep enough for perch. As a result, many fishermen are having more luck hooking up with trout. Perch are usually in water between 50 and 60 feet, while trout are being hooked in water 15 to 40 feet deep. Best lures have been the little ice flies tipped with a chunk of perch meat or a perch eye.
Fishermen can use a spoon with a dropper to get deep enough for perch but will want to use a lighter weight for trout. The lighter the tackle, the more sensitive it will be to a bite, and in the wintertime bites are usually very light. Best fishing for perch has been in the mornings, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., but they have been catching trout almost anytime of the day.
Those going for perch will want to stay away from the Island. Usually a good spot, waters there are not deep enough to hold perch now.
Rockport continues to offer some good fish, but without regularity. Some days it's great, some days it's slow. Best fishing has been in 15 to 35 feet of water, with most of the fish being suspended between 12 and 15 feet. Those fishing off the bottom have not been doing well. Many of the fish carry anchor worm, and while they do not look very appealing, once filleted they are fine.
The road is open to Strawberry, but it's not being plowed by the state. Instead, the marina manager is plowing the road and charging fishermen a fee of $3 to park and fish. Fishermen have been pulling some nice fish from the lake using gold "Kastmasters" or "Fjord" spoons. The fish seem to be between 12 and 20 feet below the ice. The catches have been between 14 and 18 inches.
To lure fishermen to the opportunities at Porcupine, the limits there on kokanee salmon and rainbow have been bumped up to 24 daily, and according to reports a lot of fishermen are leaving with limits. The fish are not big, however. Because of high numbers they are stunted. Best fishing has been between 20 and 60 feet, with the best results coming in the deeper water.
Causey Reservoir above Pineview has been excellent, although latest reports show the overall size of the fish is dropping some. Best success has been with mini jigs, wax worms and ice flies.
Utah Lake has been spotty for white bass. On good days fishermen have been leaving with five-gallon buckets full of fish, but on slow days, fishing from the same spots, fishermen have been coming up with empty hooks. Best fishing has been around American Fork harbor in the early morning hours.
Good fishing has also been reported at Piute and Otter Creek. The fishing at Piute has been faster, but the fish from Otter Creek have been bigger, averaging up to two pounds. Best fishing has been in water 15 to 20 feet deep, using ice flies and wax worms.
Fish Lake has been another good spot. Lodge owners there are cleaning the road all the way to the lake, and have new log-style condominium cabins for those interested in staying overnight. Fishermen have been doing well for rainbow and splakes using 1/4-ounce marabou jigs for splakes and rainbow, and 1/2-ounce jigs in 80 feet of water for lake trout.
One of the secrets to fishing through the ice in wintertime is to be mobile. That is, fish at different depths and in different spots. If nothing hits within about 15 minutes, then do something - move or try a different depth. Also, use the littlest lure possible. Strikes in the winter are usually very light and not always easy to detect.