Some say it is easier to catch fish in the winter. Moving about on the ice is an advantage over maneuvering a boat or casting from shore. And, since food is scarcer in the winter, fish are more apt to bite. Ice fishing is, by itself, pretty simple - drill an ice hole, drop in a lure or bait and wait . . . and be patient.
A much smaller, thinner fishing rod is recommended because strikes are less aggressive, sometimes little more than a flitter on the fishing line. An ice scoop is also recommended in order to remove ice that can form in the ice hole. Hooks can be tipped with common baits such as night crawlers, mealworms, wax worms or salmon eggs. A spoon with a chunk of sucker or perch meat also seems to work well.
Those fishing streams and rivers in the winter simply need to slow things down. On lakes and reservoirs fish finders will, of course, help. If there are no fish in the area a fisherman can end up waiting a long time for nothing. The generally accepted recommendation is if nothing moves the rod tip for 15 to 20 minutes, move to another spot on the ice and drill another ice hole. And, after waiting idly by for a time, move again and again. The reason is simple enough: fish aren’t as active in the winter. It’s sometimes up to the angler to find where the fish are holding and at what depth.
Another accepted rule is to first start shallow and then move out to deeper waters. Without a fish finder it’s also difficult to know at what depth fish are holding. Another way to start is to look for areas where fishermen have gathered in the past. That’s a good sign that there have been fish in that area in the past. All of which makes an ice auger a necessity. A power auger is best, but a hand auger is certainly better than an ax or steel bar or pick, especially if the ice is thick. Also, winter regulations require the ice hole to be no more than 12 inches in diameter.
As a general rule, 4 inches of ice will support a couple of people; 6 to 8 inches will support a small party; and 12 inches or more will support fishermen and their vehicles. Early in the season it’s best to check the depth of the ice before venturing too far from shore. As the winter progresses ice 20 to 30 inches thick is not unheard of. These days there are portable shelters that can be pulled out onto the ice, which can make the days more comfortable, especially if there a cold wind blowing or snow falling. Other luxuries include heaters, TVs or stereos and camp stoves to heat up meals.
The latest report shows Utah Lake, Scofield, Huntington, Causey, Mantua and Willard Bay have ice. There are thin crusts of ice on East Canyon, Hyrum and the Provo arm of Jordanelle. Most of the bays at Strawberry have signs of ice. There are reports of good success catching white bass, perch and some bluegill at Utah Lake. Starvation is yielding perch and some big rainbows upwards of 16 to 18 inches. There are reports of upwards of five inches of ice on Scofield and fishermen there are catching rainbow, cutthroats and tiger trout using ice flies and jigs tipped with wax worms or night crawlers.
There is some ice on the northern arm of Flaming Gorge. Anglers are catching some lake trout, but more rainbow. Unfortunately, a fish called the burbot has made it into the Gorge illegally and are eating far too many trout and kokanee. Burbots will hit during the day, but best fishing is during twilight hours. Anglers are asked to keep and remove all burbots caught. Some of the best fishing is towards the northern tip of the reservoir where a $10 reciprocal stamp with Wyoming is needed.
For the latest fishing reports in Utah waters check in with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
What you need
-- Fishing license. Utah resident license is $26 and 65-and-older license is $21. Youth 12 to 13 pay $5. A 7-day license is $16. -- Matches and/or lighter. -- Ice fishing rod/reel. Ice rods are about 24 inches long with large guides. Rods run around $20 and up and reels $15 and up. Combos are $30 and up. -- Ice fishing bobber. Hits are light and bobbers help tell the difference between a gust of wind and a fish. -- Fishing line. Recommended is 4- to 8-pound ice line. -- 5 gallon bucket. They are nice for hauling gear and sitting on. -- Hand and toe warmers. It’s important to be comfortable. -- Rod holder. Pay $20 and up. -- Ice auger. Hand augers are $55 and up and power augers $300 and up. -- Ice scoop. About $4 and up. -- Fish finders. They starting at around $250 and go up depending on features. Underwater cameras are $120 and up. -- Warm clothing. Definitely have good footwear. -- Sled. they are ideal for hauling fishing gear onto the ice. -- Bait. Try wax forms, ice flies, night crawlers for starters. -- Lures. Try jigs and spoon. For a little extra flavor tip them with sucker or perch meat. -- Luxury items include propane heater, two-way radio, shelter, food, drinks, sunglasses and suntan lotion.