Get Your Fish On!
Give yourself the freedom to fish on Independence Day.
Editor’s note: The following article is courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
In addition to celebrating the birth of our country, many Utahns will be looking to escape the heat and wet a fishing line over the July 4 weekend. If you’re one of them, Randy Oplinger suggests the following:
- Fish a river or stream close to your home or high in the mountains. Water levels should drop by the July 4 weekend. And fishing a river or stream can be a great away to escape other anglers and enjoy solitude and peace.
- Take your family fishing for bluegill.
- Visit the backcountry and fish a cool mountain lake.
Oplinger, sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, provides the following tips to help you have a fun and enjoyable time fishing these areas, not only over the July 4 holiday but throughout the summer:
Rivers and streams
If you’re new to river and stream fishing, knowing where to cast your offering can be a challenge. Especially if you look into the crystal clear water and don’t see any fish. Don’t let that trick you, though. Fish might be right under your nose.
“Trout in rivers and streams blend in with their surroundings,” Oplinger says. “Combine their coloring with the fact that you’re looking into water that’s moving rapidly over rocks and gravel, and it can be difficult to see the fish. But that doesn’t mean they’re not there.”
To help you find the fish, Oplinger encourages you to look for areas where rapidly moving water comes in contact with water that’s not moving as fast. “It takes a lot of energy for a trout to face upstream,” he says, “waiting for the current to carry insects and other food to it. To conserve energy, trout will often move to calmer water that’s close to the current. These areas provide them with the best of both worlds: they can conserve energy but still dart into the current to catch food as it floats past.”
Pools of water in a river and stream are also good places to try. “If you fish a pool,” Oplinger says, “fish the upstream end of the pool where current is flowing in. That’s the spot where most of the fish will be.”
After you’ve found a promising spot, Oplinger encourages you to do the following:
River tip 1 — If you’re using a spinning rod, use an artificial lure called a spinner. “Spinners are great lures for trout,” he says, “especially in rivers and streams.”
Oplinger recommends casting the spinner downstream and then reeling it back. “Even though the spinner will approach the trout from behind,” he says, “this approach still works. As the lure passes by, the trout will see the flash and take the lure.”
In addition to fishing water that’s moving, many rivers and streams have small impoundments that back water up and provide a small area to fish. If you fish one of these areas, worms or PowerBait usually work well.
River tip 2 — Using a fly rod to present tiny lures called flies is the most productive way to catch trout in rivers and streams. Flies imitate the small insects trout are used to eating.
Oplinger is an avid fly angler. Through most of July, he typically fishes with a dropper rig. The rig consists of a dry fly (one that floats on the surface of the water) and a wet fly attached below the dry fly on a short piece of line called a dropper. (Wet flies sink in the water.)
“Trout spend about 90 percent of their time feeding below the surface of the water,” he says. “Only about 10 percent is spent feeding on the surface. A dropper rig allows you to catch fish no matter where they’re feeding.”
By late July, Oplinger usually switches from dry and wet flies to flies that imitate terrestrials, such as grasshoppers, ants or beetles.
If there’s one fish that’s willing to bite in Utah, it’s bluegill. Their willingness to bite make bluegill a great family fishing opportunity.
Oplinger says three waters should offer good bluegill fishing over the July 4 holiday and through most of the summer:
- Mantua Reservoir (Northern Utah)
- Little Montes Reservoir (Northeastern Utah)
- Sand Hollow Reservoir (Southwestern Utah)
To find bluegills in shallow water, look for areas with shallow brush and aquatic vegetation. Once you’ve found a promising spot, thread a worm on a size 8 or a size 10 long shank hook, crimp one or two split shot sinkers about 12 inches above the hook, and then attach a bobber about 12 to 18 inches above the spilt shot. Cast the worm out, let it settle, and then watch the bobber closely. If it starts to bob, move sideways or go under the water, set the hook by pulling up on your fishing rod. Then, reel your bluegill in.
Bluegill can also be easily caught using a fly or a small jig.
They can get crowded at times, but lakes at higher elevations can provide fantastic fishing, gorgeous scenery and a great opportunity to spend time with your family. Oplinger says the following waters should provide great fishing from the July 4 weekend through the summer this year:
- Lakes in the Uinta Mountains (Northern and Northeastern Utah)
- Currant Creek Reservoir, East Park Reservoir and Long Park Reservoir (Northeastern Utah)
- Electric Lake (East-central Utah)
- Barkers Reservoirs, Duck Creek Pond, Spirit Lake, lakes on the Beaver Mountains, lakes on Monroe Mountain and lakes on the Boulder Mountains (Southwestern Utah)
If you’re interested in fishing lakes on the Boulder Mountains, a brochure published by the DWR is a great way to learn more about the lakes. The free brochure is available online.
Oplinger provides the following tips to help you catch fish at high-elevation lakes in Utah:
Lake tip 1 — Fish early in the morning or later in the day. That’s when trout are the most active.
Lake tip 2 — If you fish with a fly, use a pattern that imitates a leech. Leech patterns in brown, black or olive drab usually work best.
Lake tip 3 — If insects are hatching, pay attention to the type of insects that are hatching, and then “match the hatch” by using a fly that looks like the insects you’re seeing.
Lake tip 4 — If you’re fishing with a spinning rod, spinners are great lures to try. Mepps, Panther Martin or Blue Fox spinners, in sizes #0 or #1, are great bets. Try using spinners that are gold, black or silver in color.
Lake tip 5 — If you enjoy fishing with bait, nightcrawlers are usually the best bait to use. After casting the worm out, give it some movement by slowly reeling it in. You can retrieve the worm across the bottom of the water you’re fishing or suspend it two or three feet under a bobber.
Lake tip 6 — 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.
Maps of areas with high-elevation lakes in Utah are great tools to locate the lakes and see how to reach them. You can buy maps 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 the lakes, and stay current on fishing conditions and success, by reading the DWR’s weekly fishing reports. The reports are available online.
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. And don’t forget the DWR’s five regional offices.