Ice fishing: Utah’s lesser known winter sport

Jan 6, 2022, 11:41 AM
Ice fishing photo: Division of Wildlife Resources...
Ice fishing photo: Division of Wildlife Resources

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is famous for its winter sports. Often people think about skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Another sport that doesn’t involve as much activity, balance, and leg strength is ice fishing!

The Division of Wildlife Resources published a release in early January that lists the best places to catch lots of fish and large fish, depending on the angler’s goals. 

Ice fishing set up. Photo: DWR

Ice fishing 101: Where to catch lots of fish

For winter fishermen and women who want to make the experience a family affair, the best bodies of water to visit are ones where fish are abundant and easy to catch. Bluegill are also considered easy to catch, and a great beginner’s fish. They are relatively small, abundant, and oftentimes the first fish people in U.S. catch in their lifetimes. Perch are also considered a kid-friendly fish. They tend to travel in groups meaning when an angler catches one, there’s likely several others hanging around.

The DWR recommended fishing with an ice jig or ice fly tipped with a mealworm or waxworm to catch bluegill and yellow perch. The abundant freshwater fish linger near the bottom of water bodies in the winter. The release instructed ice fishing hopefuls to set the jig or fly roughly 3-12 inches from the bottom to get the bait in view.

Good water bodies for targeting perch and bluegill include:

  • Fish Lake (Sevier County)
  • Mantua Reservoir (Box Elder County)
  • Pineview Reservoir (Weber County) 
  • Rockport Reservoir (Summit County)
  • Echo Reservoir (Summit County)

Places to reel in large fish

Many anglers have one goal in mind: bringing in the biggest fish they can. The DWR has tips for these ice fishermen and women too. The release said trout are a great fish to aim for if large catches are the goal.

Massive winter catch. Photo: DWR

 The DWR suggested, to have success, try using ice jigs or ice spoons tipped with mealworms or waxworms. Fishfinders can also be helpful in tracking down trout. The fish is harder to find than bluegill and perch because it can be found at a variety of depths. Without a fish finder, DWR recommended starting at the bottom and moving your bait up every five to 10 minutes until you locate the depth where the fish are. 

If you want to catch a large fish through the ice this winter, here are a few water bodies and species to target:

  • Mantua Reservoir 
  • Rockport Reservoir 
  • Echo Reservoir 
  • Flaming Gorge (for lake trout)
  • Strawberry Reservoir (for rainbow trout and cutthroat trout)
  • Lost Creek Reservoir (for cutthroat trout, tiger trout and splake)
  • Fish Lake (for lake trout and splake)

Catch on ice. Photo: DWR

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Ice fishing: Utah’s lesser known winter sport