For many families in Utah, fishing on Memorial Day weekend is a family tradition.
As this year’s weekend nears, Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, has good news: In each region in Utah, you’ll find waters that are easy to access and have large numbers of healthy fish.
Here are Cushing’s recommendations for the best places to take your family over the holiday weekend:
This time of year is a great time to fish from shore for bluegill and largemouth bass at Mantua Reservoir. Cushing says these fish are in shallow water right now and they’re very aggressive, so they’ll keep biting for a couple of weeks after Memorial Day. The reservoir, just east of Highway 89 in the town of Mantua, is ringed by a gravel dike. This dike provides easy access to fishing spots around the reservoir.
For trout, Cushing suggests visiting East Canyon Reservoir. DWR biologists have stocked a large number of trout in the reservoir. You can catch these fish from the shore or from a boat. If you’re fishing from a boat, you might catch some smallmouth bass too.
In central Utah, look for good white bass fishing at Utah Lake from Memorial Day weekend through mid-June. Cushing also suggests fishing from shore for bullhead and channel catfish. As the water warms, white bass and the two catfish species will move toward areas where rivers and streams enter the lake. Anglers targeting the streams and inlets should try using white jigs and silver spinners.
Deer Creek Reservoir also looks promising for the holiday weekend. Biologists stocked the reservoir with trout last fall and this spring. To catch one of these rainbows, Cushing suggests fishing PowerBait near the water’s bottom. At Deer Creek, you can fish from shore, boat or a float tube.
Cushing says Memorial Day weekend is the best time of the year to fish at Pelican Lake. The lake has some of Utah’s largest bluegill, with fish up to 10 inches long. A fly and bubble, or a chartreuse jig, should result in a bluegill or a largemouth bass on the end of your line.
Anglers at Starvation Reservoir have been catching rainbow trout up to 23 inches long this year. Cushing says the rainbows stocked last fall should be around 16 inches now. The reservoir also has a healthy population of brown trout. You can usually catch these browns with a Rapala that looks like a fingerling rainbow trout.
Cushing says Scofield Reservoir is the must-fish water in southeastern Utah. Tiger trout, and Bear Lake and Bonneville cutthroat trout, are found in good numbers and healthy sizes in Scofield. The cutthroat and tigers probably won’t hit on PowerBait, so try a dead bait or spinners and jigs instead.
Biologists have been stocking Huntington North Reservoir with wipers for four years. Now, the biggest of these fish weigh up to five pounds. Cushing suggests a white jig or a spinner for anglers hoping to catch a wiper from shore. The reservoir also has largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish.
Paragonah Reservoir is an excellent wild rainbow trout fishery. This water’s large population of wild rainbows includes fish up to 14 inches long. Anglers have been reporting excellent fly-fishing from the shore and near the inlet. For a good trip, Cushing says to bring a jacket and a fly rod.
Anglers at Sand Hollow Reservoir can find largemouth bass up to four pounds. Big bluegill are also available to catch. Cushing says a fly and bubble, or jigs and crankbaits, should get you a bite in this water.
For Utah anglers who don’t have a lot of experience, a bit of research can go a long way towards helping you catch fish. “You’ll be successful if you know what you want to catch, and bring the right gear,” Cushing says.
Anglers can stop by a local sporting goods store and ask about locations. Then, doing a bit of research about the species in the waters you learn about can help make your trip to those waters a success. Different species require different gear, and the sporting goods store employees can help you decide what you’ll need to bring.
Several websites also provide up-to-date fishing information for waters across the state. Three of the best sites include www.wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots, www.bigfishtackle.com and www.utahwildlife.net.
You should also look at the 2013 Utah Fishing Guidebook before getting to the water you want to fish. Some waters have specific regulations, so check to see which regulations apply to the area you plan to visit. The free guidebook is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks.
Image courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife