From small ponds to big reservoirs, great fishing awaits
If the weather cooperates, Memorial Day weekend should be a fantastic time to fish in Utah. Paul Birdsey says fishing in the state has never been better than it is right now. And late May is the perfect time to get out and enjoy it.
Birdsey is the cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. The diversity of fish you can catch in the state is one of the reasons he’s optimistic. “No matter which type of fish you like to catch,” he says, “if that species lives in Utah, you’ll find good fishing for it at multiple waters. And the water temperature in late May, coupled with spawning activities that happen at the same time, make Memorial Day weekend a great time to fish.”
While great fishing is available at multiple waters, Birdsey picked the following as the best waters to fish in Utah during the Memorial Day this year. And, take note: by following Birdsey’s tips and advice, you can enjoy good fishing at many of these waters after the holiday weekend is over:
By the time the holiday weekend arrives, Bear River cutthroat trout will be at the height of their spawning activities. That means they’ll be extremely aggressive. To catch them, fish a lure that’s fast and flashy. Birdsey recommends lures that are silver, or silver and blue, in color. If you’re trolling from a boat, try Rapalas. If you’re casting from shore, a Kastmaster spoon is an excellent lure to try. Fly anglers should fish large streamers.
If you’ll be fishing from shore, it’s important to fish early in the morning or later in the afternoon. The two best shore-fishing spots are the lake’s east shore and the dikes at the Bear Lake State Park marina.
In addition to the fun fishing experience you’ll have, catching a cutthroat at Bear Lake is a great way to complete—or start—Utah’s new Cutthroat Trout Slam. You can learn more about the slam—and register to participate—at www.utahcutthroatslam.org.
The reservoir should provide great holiday-weekend fishing for a variety of fish. By the time the weekend arrives, yellow perch and smallmouth bass will be in the shallows, spawning or preparing to spawn. To catch perch, thread a small worm (for example, a meal worm or a waxworm) on a small plain hook, or on a small jig, suspend it two to three feet under a bobber, and cast it out. Smallmouth bass will be on their spawning beds in the shallows. To entice them to bite, thread a plastic worm on a hook and retrieve it slowly, just off the bottom. For rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout, everything from PowerBait to various lures should work.
Willard Bay Reservoir
By the time the weekend arrives, shore fishing will be slower at the reservoir. But fishing from boats—for wipers, walleye and crappie—should be really good.
To catch wipers and walleye, troll a Rapala 1 to 1½ miles per hour. Wipers and walleye won’t be everywhere in the water column, so troll at different depths, until you find the fish.
Crappie in Willard Bay tend to bunch together. To find the fish, look for other boats that are grouped together. Once you find an area that has crappies in it, thread a curly tail grub on a small jighead, cast it out, and then drift your boat through the water where the fish are.
Community fishing ponds
Before the Memorial Day weekend arrives, DWR hatchery personnel will stock thousands of trout in community fishing waters across Utah. Many of these waters are in towns and communities along the Wasatch Front. Many of the ponds have picnic tables, bathrooms and other amenities, and they’re excellent places to take your family fishing. And fishing at the ponds can be really good. You can learn more about the community ponds at www.wildlife.utah.gov/fishing-in-utah/community-fisheries.html.
Deer Creek Reservoir
The reservoir should provide good fishing for rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and yellow perch. The fish you catch won’t be large, but once you find them, fishing can be fast. Try PowerBait or lures for rainbows, plastic worms or jigs with curly tail grubs for smallmouth bass, and, for perch, small worms, such as meal worms or wax worms, suspended two to three feet under a bobber.
If you bring a boat to the reservoir, please remember that juvenile quagga mussels were found there in 2014. Before you leave the reservoir, you must clean and drain your boat and then properly dry it before boating on another body of water in Utah. More information is available at www.stdofthesea.com.
Cutthroat and rainbow trout fishing is great at the reservoir right now, and it should remain that way through the holiday weekend. Shore anglers at Strawberry usually catch rainbows. PowerBait, along with other baits and various lures, are the ticket to catching rainbows at the reservoir. To catch cutthroats, boat anglers should try trolling Rapalas and other lures that are silver, or silver and blue, in color.
Memorial Day weekend should mark the start of good kokanee salmon fishing for boat anglers at Strawberry. A dodger and “squid” is a favorite lure combination among the reservoir’s kokanee anglers. Birdsey says squids that are white or pink in color produce the best.
White bass fishing should be at its peak when the weekend arrives. The best spots to catch white bass include the lake’s boat harbors and the rivers and streams that feed water into the lake. The Provo River, from the Center Street bridge downstream to Utah Lake State Park, is open to fishing and is among the rivers and streams to try. Once you find the bass, it’s possible to catch as many as 100 fish a day. To catch the bass, try suspending a piece of nightcrawler under a bobber, or cast and retrieve small lures. Kastmaster spoons and small jigs with white curly tail grubs threaded on the hook are great lures to try.
Even though lots of rain has fallen this year, the water level at Utah Lake is low. Plan on spending some time to locate the areas the bass are using.
Largemouth bass and bluegill in the lake aren’t large, but there are plenty of them. Fishing areas with bulrush and other types of vegetation is the key to catching both species at the lake. By the time the weekend arrives, bluegill in the lake might be spawning. To catch them, try suspending small worms or pieces of a nightcrawler two to three feet under a bobber. Largemouth bass in the lake will be recovering from their spawning activities. To catch them, Birdsey suggests casting an unweighted plastic worm or jig into the middle of the thickest tules he can find. If you try this technique, it’s important to have a stout fishing rod that can handle a bass in this tough vegetation.
Red Fleet Reservoir
Since all of its fish were removed from the reservoir last fall, a variety of fish have been stocked. The fish include cutthroat and rainbow trout. Some of the trout were 8 inches long when they were stocked last fall. They’ve grown an inch or two since then and should provide fun fishing over the weekend. Yellow perch and crappie were also stocked in the reservoir this spring. To give the perch and crappie time to establish themselves, you must immediately release any yellow perch or crappie you catch.
Birdsey says Starvation might be the premier fishing water in Utah right now. Anglers are catching rainbow trout up to 18 to 20 inches long. Quality walleye, yellow perch and smallmouth bass are also plentiful.
For rainbow trout, PowerBait, along with a variety of other baits and lures, are good items to try. For walleye, try trolling or drifting a bottom bouncer.
Yellow perch are also doing well in the reservoir, and there are lots of them to catch. To catch perch, focus your efforts near points that jut into the water. Small jigs, suspended under a bobber or retrieved through the water, are a great way to catch them.
To find smallmouth bass in the reservoir, look for rocky flats. Once you’ve found a flat, fish over it with jigs.
This body of water, which has suffered from low water over the past four or five years, has benefited greatly from a higher water level this year. Rainbow trout and largemouth bass fishing is the best it’s been in years. PowerBait is a great bait to use to catch rainbows. For largemouth bass, try a plastic worm in green, pumpkin or June bug colors.
East-central, southeastern Utah
Huntington North Reservoir
This small reservoir produces big fish. Largemouth bass and wipers up to 5 pounds, and rainbow trout up to 2½ pounds, are available to catch. To catch largemouth bass and wipers, it’s important to fish early, before the sun hits the water. Also, fish along the dike at the reservoir. This area tends to produce the best fishing this time of the year. Largemouth bass might still be spawning and could be difficult to catch. Wipers, however, should be hungry and aggressive. Lures that imitate crayfish or bluegill are excellent lures to try. If you’re pursuing rainbow trout, and you want to catch them from shore, it’s important to fish early in the morning or later in the afternoon. As the day warms up, rainbows in the reservoir head to deeper water and are usually accessible only to anglers in boats.
Joes Valley Reservoir
Tiger muskie, some approaching 50 inches in length, are among the fish waiting for you at Joes Valley. By the time the holiday weekend arrives, chubs will be spawning in the shallows. And that will bring tiger muskie, tiger trout, cutthroat trout and splake close to shore to eat.
For tiger muskie, a ½-ounce spinnerbait—white, or white and yellow in color—is a lure Birdsey has found lots of success with.
Splake (a hybrid cross between a lake trout and a brook trout) grow big in the reservoir. Birdsey says one of the best areas to catch them is near the pavilion on the reservoir’s west side. The east side of the reservoir, just north and south of the boat ramp, is also a great spot to try.
Splake feed heavily on chubs, so chub meat is the perfect bait to catch them with. You can buy dead chubs at sporting goods stores, or you can catch and kill them at the reservoir. To catch a chub, thread a piece of nightcrawler on a small hook and suspend it under a bobber. Once you’ve caught a chub, kill it and then place some of its meat on a larger hook. Place a sinker about 18 inches above the hook, and then cast the rig out, and fish it on the bottom of the reservoir.
For cutthroat and tiger trout, try fishing around rocky points with a ¼-ounce Kastmaster spoon. A silver Kastmaster, with a green stripe on it, is the lure that Birdsey has found the most success with.
South-central, southwestern Utah
Of all the regions in the state, Birdsey says south-central and southwestern Utah provide the highest number of outstanding fishing waters. “Point at any spot on the map,” he says, “and there’s likely an outstanding fishing water not far from where you’re pointing.”
Birdsey says the following are among the very best:
Community fishing ponds
Several of Utah’s community fishing ponds are found in Utah’s Dixie. Many of the ponds have picnic tables, bathrooms and other amenities. They’re excellent places to take your family fishing. And fishing at the ponds can be really good. You can learn more about the community ponds at www.wildlife.utah.gov/fishing-in-utah/community-fisheries.html.
Wiper and smallmouth bass fishing should be really good over the weekend. And, if you hook a wiper, get ready—you might be in for a big fight. The last three record wipers in Utah were caught at the reservoir.
To catch wipers at Newcastle, it’s important to fish before the sun hits the water. If you can’t fish that early, try fishing later in the afternoon, just before the sun goes down. The reservoir is packed with crayfish, so fishing with dead crayfish, or a lure that imitates a crayfish, is an excellent way to catch both wipers and smallmouth bass.
A boat is required to fish most of the lake. If you have a boat, get ready for excellent striped bass, walleye, crappie and smallmouth bass fishing. As you plan your trip to the lake, review Wayne Gustaveson’s fishing reports and fishing tips. Gustaveson is an avid angler who also serves as the lead DWR aquatic biologist at the lake. You can read his weekly tips and fishing reports at www.wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots/reports_lp.php or www.wayneswords.com.
Also, please remember that quagga mussels have spread across much of Lake Powell. Before you leave the reservoir, you must clean and drain your boat and then properly dry it at home before boating on another body of water in Utah. More information is available at www.stdofthesea.com.
Otter Creek Reservoir
This reservoir is well known for its excellent rainbow trout fishing. But the reservoir also has a good population of smallmouth bass and wipers. To catch rainbows, try PowerBait and various other baits and lures. For smallmouth bass, a plastic worm threaded on a hook, or a jig with a curly tail grub on the hook, are great lures to try. Wipers in the reservoir are fairly small, averaging about 12 inches long. To catch them, mussels (available in the seafood department of various grocery stores) are a great bait to try. If you use a lure, use one that imitates a crayfish.