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Biologists offer top fishing spots in Utah

Published May 18, 2014 9:13 pm

Outdoors • Biologists from Utah fisheries share their picks for the best spots to cast your reel in 2014.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There is a thought among anglers that state fisheries biologists always know where the best fishing is happening across Utah. That is certainly the case with some biologists, but definitely not all.

There is also an assumption, which is never the case, that biologists keep that information tucked in their back pocket only to share with family and friends.

The Utah Division of Wildlife uses its webpage and social media to provide fresh reports and several state fisheries biologists provide reports to the Salt Lake Tribune's Fishing Utah blog.

With Memorial Day approaching — still the traditional start of the fishing season for many anglers — here's a list of waters Utah biologists feel will provide the best fishing in 2014.

Roger Wilson, Chief of Aquatics for the Utah DWR

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STARVATION RESERVOIR • It seems natural that Wilson would have picked the state's gem of a trout fishery to highlight, but the biologist — who spent 15 years as the project leader at Strawberry Reservoir — picked a different water.

"Starvation looks like it could be the best in the state," Wilson said. "The rainbows [trout] are looking good, we always have some good-sized browns there, and walleye seem to be coming on pretty good."

Don't forget about the smallmouth bass and yellow perch at Starvation. The fact you can catch any of these species on any cast make Starvation — the worst name ever for a fishing reservoir — a fun place to wet a line.

For the record, Wilson said he probably would have picked Strawberry, but everybody already knows how good fishing can be at the venerable reservoir.

Trina Hedrick, Northeastern Region Aquatics Manager

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PELICAN LAKE • Recent surveys at this Uintah Basin water show an overabundance of largemouth bass and bluegill. That is good news for anglers looking for fast fishing, but not so great for the fish.

"We need some serious harvest on largemouth bass, according to our age and growth study done last year. We analyzed scales from 400 largemouth bass and bluegill of all sizes and it is clear that we have a stunted population of both species," Hedrick said. "The idea is that if we can decrease the largemouth population, we can increase the overall size, making more of the bluegill available to more of the bass. This will decrease the overall bluegill population as well, but it will increase their overall size as well. The fewer mouths to feed with the same amount of food, the more each fish will be able to eat."

Hedrick said repairs to the pier allow anglers to reach more water and even deeper water where the largemouth will move later in the year. She also encourages anglers to target, with bait or while bowfishing, a healthy population of carp to reduce the biomass at Pelican.

Calvin Black, Southeastern Assistant Aquatics Program Manager

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HUNTINGTON NORTH RESERVOIR • Black calls this Emery County fishery "a well-kept secret." The secret is the size of the wipers — a white bass and striped bass hybrid introduced by biologists in 2009. The fish have been feeding heavily on Utah chub and green sunfish and reports of 6-pound wipers are common.

"Expect rumors of trophy-size wipers being caught this year," Black said.

Lunker largemouth bass can also be found at Huntington North as well as an occasional brown trout. Ample stocking of rainbow trout in the spring and fall provides excellent shoulder season fishing.

Michael Hadley, Southern Region Aquatic Biologist

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BOULDER MOUNTAIN • Drought will impact most fisheries in the Southern Region in 2014, so heading for the high country might be the best bet. Hadley says Utah's newest official Blue Ribbon fishery is a solid choice. There are approximately 80 lakes, reservoirs, and ponds on Boulder Mountain that provide a variety of fishing opportunities. While the mountain is most famous for brook trout fishing, angler can target tiger, cutthroat, splake, and rainbow trout, as well as arctic grayling. Many lakes grow trophy-sized fish. Camping opportunities are often primitive, so plan on really "roughing it." Many areas are only accessible by 4-wheel-drive or ATV. Don't forget to try the streams.

Mike Slater, Central Region Aquatics Manager

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UTAH LAKE • Many people overlook Utah Lake despite its close proximity. Slater said three species will provide good action in the coming months.

"The catfish fishing at Utah Lake is my pick of fish to target in Utah Lake. They can be very catchable and fun for all anglers, including the kids," he said.

Fishing for catfish is typically best in June and July. Nothing more than worn or cutbait is required. Access at Utah Lake is much easier with a boat, but there plenty of options for shore anglers.

Walleye fishing is best in the spring and the fish appear to be in great shape this year. Fishing is best in March and April when walleye concentrate near river mouths and rock jetties to spawn. Fishing for walleye then becomes a mostly nocturnal activity during the dog days of summer.

White bass spawn through May and can be caught in tributaries (which open the first Saturday in May) and near the mouths of rivers. They seem particularly fond of small white or chartreuse jigs and spinners this time of year.

Chris Penne, Northern Region Aquatic Biologist

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WILLARD BAY • Most people zoom by Willard Bay while on Interstate 15 and hardly notice the reservoir. But anglers are taking an increasing interest in the Box Elder County water.

"This fishery is firing on all cylinders right now. We've got the best populations of wiper, walleye, and channel catfish that we've had in years, and the fish are hungry to boot," Penne said.

Wipers are a main draw and Penne says the population is as high as it has been in a decade. Many of the white bass/striped bass hybrids are running in the 13- to 16-inch range, but nearly a third of the fish are longer than 20 inches.

Walleye and catfish numbers are also high and the smallmouth bass population at Willard Bay is growing. Penne says May often provides the best angling opportunities.


Twitter: @BrettPrettyman —

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