Melting Ice Means Hot Fishing


If you like to catch trout from the shore, start paying attention to Utah’s fishing reports — some of the best shore fishing of the year is about to begin.

Ice is starting to pull away from shorelines at various mid-elevation waters around the state.  As the ice pulls away, the sun hits the shallow water near the shore.  If it doesn’t get cloudy or windy, the sun can warm the water fast.

As the water warms, trout and other cold water fish move into the shallow water in search of food.В  And these fish are hungry — it’s been awhile since they’ve had a decent meal.

“At many of the state’s waters, spring is the very best time to fish from the shore,” says Roger Wilson, cold water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.  “It’s a great time to take your kids fishing.  They can catch a bunch of fish using simple techniques.”

If the sun comes out and the wind doesn’t blow much, fishing during “ice off” can stay fast and furious for one to two weeks.  Then, after a couple of weeks, the ice recedes even farther from the shore.

As the ice recedes, water in other parts of the reservoir or lake starts to warm up too.  “When that happens, the trout start to disperse and move away from the shore,” Wilson says.

Your ice-off fishing experience doesn’t need to last only a week or two, though– if you stay updated on which waters are starting to open, and you’re willing to travel a bit, you can extend your ice-off fishing experience into May.

Wilson says lower and mid-elevation waters will open first, followed by waters at higher elevations.  “Depending on which waters you’d like to fish,” he says, “ice off will start anywhere from mid March to mid May.”

You can stay updated on where the ice is coming off a number of ways. Visiting fishing-related websites and chat lines is one of the best. The following provide good fishing information for Utah:

Stores that sell fishing tackle, such as Sportsman’s Warehouse and Fish Tech Outfitters, also provide excellent, up-to-date information.  Stores located at various marinas around the state are also good information sources.

“Also, pay attention to what the anglers around you are using,” Wilson says.  “If they’re catching fish with a certain lure or bait, and you have that same lure or bait, put it on your line and start using it.”
Be patient

Wilson says trout usually group together in schools and cruise the shoreline during ice-off.  For that reason, it’s important to be patient.

“You have to be patient in the spring,” Wilson says.В  “You can sit for awhile with no action, and then — all of the sudden — it’s ‘pop, pop, pop’ as the trout move through the area and hit your bait or lure.”

Wilson provides the following tips for success:

  • Bait

PowerBait, worms and nightcrawlers are excellent baits to use during ice off.  Wilson recommends placing a large sinker on your line, a foot or two above your bait, and then casting your bait and letting it float just off the bottom of the water you’re fishing.

  • Lures and flies

If you decide to use a lure or a fly, try one that imitates a leech.В  Dark-colored tube jigs and grubs are excellent lures to try, while dark wooly buggers are the ticket for fly anglers.

  • Scent

Wilson suggests coating your bait or lure with Smelly Jelly or another type of scent.  “This is especially important if you’re fishing a plastic lure,” he says.  “Even if a fish has already struck your lure, if the lure has some scent on it, there’s a good chance the fish will strike it again.”

  • Cast onto the ice

Wilson says casting your bait onto the ice, and then reeling it so it falls into the water next to the edge of the ice, is a good spot to fish your bait.
The edge of the ice is also an excellent spot to place your lure before you start retrieving it.

You can learn more about fishing at ice off by listening to an interview Wilson did for the DWR’s weekly radio show. The interview is available at

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