Colder days and nights here this week have brought fish and fishermen closer together. Now, as the prized Bonneville cisco make their annual run inland, someone will be there to see it.
The first of the small fish were seen on Sunday. Now, with the latest freeze fishermen will be able to hook and net fish through the weekend, but will find few fish around by mid-week.Lake biologist expect fishermen to do well this weekend.
In the beginning it appeared fishermen were going to get into some good netting early, but instead were sent scurrying for higher ground when the fish first appeared.
At one point, in fact, some wondered if there would be any cisco netting at all this year.
A unusual crust of ice - thick enough to walk on near shore, but only about one inch thick out about 30 to 50 feet - covered the eastern shoreline.
About 30 to 40 anxious fishermen stepped out onto the ice and began plying their fishing tackle . . . chipping holes in the ice, jigging lure and dipping nets. A shift in the winds, however, broke up the party. The ice broke away from land and started the entire span floating off to open water.
As the ice and land began to part, fishermen started making long jumps to firm ground. While some got wet, all made it off the floating ice bed safely.
According to Bryce Nielson, fisheries biologist at Bear Lake for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, after the break the entire group packed up dip nets and buckets and left the area.
Ice fishing conditions on Sunday and Monday at Bear Lake, he reported, "were very scary."
Cold temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday re-covered the lake and the ice is now firmly attacked to land and is thick enough to hold fishermen.
On Wednesday, fishermen started returning and netting fish.
According to Stewart Peterson of Idaho, fishing on Tuesday was "cold but pretty good. A lot better than last year. This year you can see the fish." (Last year the lake did not freeze for the cisco run.)
Had the lake not re-frozen, fishing would have been extremely difficult this year. The shore was cluttered with chunks of broken ice. Where water was open, it was almost too deep for fishermen in waders to fish. A low water level had left much of the shallower, easier fishing areas exposed.
With the ice covering fishing will be easier and much more productive.
In areas closer to shore, fishermen have found that jigging a small silver spoon - "Kastmaster," or "Swedish Pimple" - will attract the fish to the lure where they can be easily netted.
Others are simply waiting over an ice hole with a net, then making a swipe through the water at passing fish.
Others are putting treble hooks below the lure and snagging fish as they come to investigate the lure.
One advantage to the lure and hook is that frequently other fish, namely white fish and cutthroats, in feeding on cisco and the freshly deposited eggs, will go for the lure.
According to Nielson the run is late by historical records but in more modern times is right on schedule.
"It used to be, and I have no explanation for it, that the run would start five days one way or the other of the (Jan.) 15th.
"Now, in recent years, it's starting five days one way or the other of the (Jan.) 20th. Like I said, I can find no reason for it," he said.
"But, I don't see the number of fish going down. Oh, there are ups and downs, as with any animal like deer or rabbits or any other naturally produced animals, but I think the numbers are pretty stable.
"I don't see the cisco being in a decline mode."
The limit on cisco is 30 fish. There is no limit on the size of the ice hole, but the net can only be 18 inches in diameter and must be hand held. The limit on whitefish is 20 and on trout six.
Best fishing has been during early mornings and usually ends around 10 a.m.
The road along the eastern shore of the lake is snowpacked, but is in good shape.
There is no firewood in the area, so fishermen wishing to have a fire on the beach must bring along their own wood.
Also, there is a $3 fee for day use and a $5 fee for overnight camping that is being collected this year by the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation.