If you like to catch trout from the shore, pay attention to Utah’s fishing reports — some of the best shore fishing of the year is about to begin.
Ice off is the best time of the year to fish for trout from the shore. Hungry and ready to bite, the trout are near shore this time of the year.
Ice is pulling away from the shore at mid-elevation waters across the state. As the ice leaves, the sun hits the shallow water near the shore. If the sun stays out and the wind stays calm, the water near the shore can warm quickly.
As the water warms, trout and other coldwater fish move into the shallow water in search of food. 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 best time to fish from the shore,” says Roger Wilson, Aquatic Section chief 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 and simple fishing equipment.”
Usually lasts one to two weeks
If the sky stays clear and the wind stays calm, fishing can be fast and furious for one to two weeks. Then, as water across the lake or reservoir warms, trout start to move away from the shore.
Your ice-off fishing experience can last a lot longer than one to two weeks, though. If you stay updated on which waters are losing ice, 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 open first, followed by waters at higher elevations. “Depending on where it’s located,” he says, “a body of water will typically experience ice off anywhere from mid March to mid May.”
In addition, the following websites are also good sources for ice-off fishing information:
Stores that sell fishing tackle and stores at various marinas in Utah also have excellent, up-to-date information.
“Also,” Wilson says, “when you visit a water, pay attention to what the anglers around you are doing. If they’re catching fish with a certain lure or bait, and you have that same lure or bait in your tackle box, put it on your line and use it.”
During ice-off, Wilson says trout often cruise the shoreline in groups called schools. For that reason, it’s important to be patient.
“You have to be patient in the spring,” Wilson says. “You can sit for awhile with no action, and then — all of the sudden — it’s ‘pop, pop, pop’ as trout hit your bait or lure while moving through the area.”
Tips for success
Wilson provides the following tips for success:
PowerBait 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 hook, and then casting your bait and letting it sink to the bottom of the water you’re fishing.
Another strategy is to float your bait one or two feet off the bottom. PowerBait comes in a floating variety that will float at whatever distance you place the hook from the sinker.
You can also make a nightcrawler float by injecting a small amount of air into it. Many tackle stores sell small ‘air injectors’ that make it easy to inject a nightcrawler with air.
Lures and flies
If you decide to use a lure or a fly, try one that imitates a leech. Dark-colored tube jigs and grubs are excellent lures to try. For fly anglers, dark wooly buggers are the ticket.
Wilson suggests coating your lure with Smelly Jelly or another type of scent. Also, placing a piece of nightcrawler onto your lure’s hook is another great idea. “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 the open water near the edge of the ice is a great spot to cast your bait or to start retrieving your lure. If the ice isn’t too far away, getting your bait or lure to the edge of the ice is easy; simply cast your bait or lure onto the ice, and then retrieve it towards you until it falls into the water at the edge of the ice.
Image courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife Resources