High Elevation Waters Offer Great Summer Fishing


The Boulder Mountains are a great place to take your family fishing. Young anglers show the big brook trout they caught.

DWR Press Release

You can beat the heat, have fun and enjoy breathtaking scenery by grabbing your fishing pole and heading to Utah’s mountains.

Drew Cushing, Aquatic Section chief for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says high-elevation waters in Utah provide some of the state’s best summer fishing. Those waters include lakes in the Uinta Mountains in northern Utah and the Boulder Mountains down south.

Cushing says trout feed actively when the water temperature is below 65 degrees. “That’s the ideal water temperature for trout,” he says. “And, fortunately, most high-elevation lakes in Utah stay below that temperature throughout the summer. That’s the main reason they’re such great places to fish.”

While high-elevation waters throughout Utah provide quality fishing in the summer, the Uinta Mountains and the Boulder Mountains top the list.

Uinta Mountains, Boulder Mountains

A wide variety of opportunities are waiting for you in the Uinta Mountains in northern and northeastern Utah. The opportunities range from lakes next to state Route 150 (the Mirror Lake Highway) that are stocked with fish weekly to backcountry lakes that you have to hike or ride a horse to reach.

“If you’re looking for a great place to take your family fishing this summer,” Cushing says, “the lakes along Route 150 are a great choice.”

The lakes on the Boulder Mountains in southern Utah are usually harder to reach than those on the Uintas. But the trout in lakes on the Boulders are usually bigger than those in the Uintas. “The Boulder Mountains provide fast fishing for bigger trout,” Cushing says.


No matter where you decide to fish, you can add some fun to your adventure by joining Utah’s new Cutthroat Slam. If you register for the slam—and catch the four cutthroat trout subspecies that are native to Utah—you’ll receive a special medallion and certificate. And you’ll be recognized on the slam’s website.

To register for the slam, or to learn more about it, visit www.utahcutthroatslam.org.

Catching fish

Cushing provides the following tips to help you catch fish and have a great time fishing high-elevation waters in the summer:

Fish early in the morning or later in the day

Trout rely mostly on their eyes to find their prey. While direct sunlight creates ideal conditions for trout to see their prey, as the water temperature climbs during the day, the fish start to become sluggish. For that reason, Cushing says early morning and before the sun goes down at night are the perfect times to fish.

Flies, lures and baits

Cushing says fly fishing with a pattern that imitates a leech is one of the best ways to catch trout on the Uintas and the Boulders. Leech patterns in brown, black or olive drab usually work best.

Paying attention to the type of insects that are hatching, and then “matching the hatch” by using a fly that looks like the insects you see, is another effective fly fishing technique.

If you like to fish with spinning gear, spinners are great lures to try. Cushing recommends a Mepps, Panther Martin or Blue Fox spinner in sizes #0 or #1. He also recommends using spinners that are gold, black or silver in color.

Cushing says brook, cutthroat and tiger trout are the trout you’ll usually find on the Uintas and the Boulders. “All of these species are more aggressive than the rainbow trout most anglers are used to catching,” he says. “A lure that flashes quickly through the water—like a spinner—is something brooks, cutthroats and tigers will go after.”

If you enjoy fishing with bait, Cushing says nightcrawlers are usually the best bait to use. You can cast the nightcrawler, and then let it sink to the bottom of the water you’re fishing. Or, you can cast it and a bobber, and let the nightcrawler dangle two or three feet under the bobber. “Whichever method you choose,” he says, “don’t let the nightcrawler just sit there. Cast it out, and then slowly reel it in.”

No matter which tactic you use, if you haven’t gotten a bite within 20 minutes, change what you’re doing. Try a different fly, lure or bait, change how fast or slow you’re reeling your bait or lure in, or move to a different location.

Be prepared

Cushing says you should bring the following with you:

–  An emergency kit that includes water, extra food and a survival blanket.

–  Bug spray.

–  Sunscreen and a good hat.

–  Also, remember that bears live in these areas. Free bear safety information is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/learn-more/bear-safety.html and www.wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information/bears.

“In July and August,” he says, “it almost always rains in the Uintas for an hour or two. The rain usually starts between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The rainstorms don’t usually last long, but the rain can come down fast. Make sure to take raingear with you.”

Pack it in, pack it out

Some of the high-elevation waters, especially those close to Route 150, attract a lot of anglers. Unfortunately, they also attract a lot of trash. Cushing encourages you to leave the area better than you found it.

“In addition to picking up your own trash,” he says, “bring along an extra garbage bag, and pick up the trash others have left behind. That includes discarded fishing line and fishing tackle.”

More information

Maps of both the Uintas and the Boulders are a good information source. You can buy them at U.S. Forest Service offices and at the DNR Map & Bookstore, 1594 W. North Temple in Salt Lake City. The best topographical maps are 7.5 minute quad maps.

You can also learn more about fishing the Uintas and the Boulders, and stay current on fishing conditions and success, by reading the DWR’s weekly fishing reports. The reports are available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots.

Online fishing forums, such as bigfishtackle.com and utahwildlife.net, are also good places to get information. Sporting goods stores are also good places to contact.

If you have questions about fishing lakes in the Uintas, call the DWR office in Ogden at 801-476-2740 or the DWR office in Vernal at 435-781-9453.

If you have questions about fishing lakes on the Boulders, call the DWR office in Cedar City at 435-865-6100.

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