Fishing on the edge (of the ice, that is!)

March 23, 2006 - Fishing on the edge (of the ice, that is!)

Ice is melting on Utah's lower elevation reservoirs, and that means one thing for anglers who like to fish for trout from the shore-it's time to break out the fishing poles and head for the water. Some of the best fishing of the year is here!

"Ice-off is a great time to fish, especially for trout," says Ron Stewart, conservation outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "Just as soon as you see a span of open water, it's fishing time. I've caught some fairly large fish in less than two feet of water.

"Another great thing about fishing ice-off is the angler can begin fishing the lower elevation reservoirs and then move up in elevation as the weather warms and melts out the mountain lakes and streams. This provides several months of great fishing."

Stewart says trout and other species of fish often cruise just under the edge of the ice. "My guess is the fish are attracted to the light and are just hoping for insects or other forage to melt out and drop in," he says. "Fish cruising along the edge [of the ice] are probably hungry, which gives the angler an advantage."

The ice edge will show you where to fish; the next step is to figure out what the fish are looking for.

Giving the fish what they want

"I've had good luck using small, brightly-colored lures," Stewart says. "Yellows, reds, oranges and chartreuse seem to work well.

"I've also done fly-fishing using small, black artificial flies or mayfly imitations on lakes and streams. I think the black fly looked like a large black ant, which I've seen crawling around on the ice and rocks on many a mountain lake.

"Baits, like nightcrawlers, will also work well."

Stewart says he's not sure the color you use matters much as long as the water is clear. "Often the trick seems to be in the placement of the lure and the depth and speed of retrieval," he says.

Stewart says anglers should cast their bait, lure or fly right to the edge of the ice. "Baits can be suspended just below the surface by using a bubble or allowed to go to the bottom, where they can be suspended by a marshmallow or floating bait," he says. "Vary your casts, some traveling parallel to the edge and others coming from or going to the edge. Another trick is to cast parallel to the bank.

"Try retrieving the lure slowly, but still fast enough to give it some action. Remember these fish are cold-blooded and have slowed down, due to the cold water."

Stewart says you can vary the depth at which you fish by letting your lure hit the water and then varying the number of seconds that you let the lure sink before you retrieve it. "Sometimes the fish are just under the surface, so you would want to start the retrieval immediately," he says. "Other times, they are a few feet below or all the way down to the bottom. By waiting for a few seconds after your lure strikes the water, you can vary the depth. Try a variety of depths. You can keep track of your depth by counting off the seconds."


Fishing on the edge of the ice does require some precautions.

"Go prepared for the weather," Stewart says. "Weather in the mountains can always change quite suddenly, especially in the spring. I've seen it go from bright and sunny to a blizzard in less than an hour. This isn't a reason to stay home; just be prepared by bringing extra clothes, food and water. Also, know what can be used as a shelter, like a tent or car, and bring along blankets or a sleeping bag.

"Another consideration is the roads," he says. "Being the first one to fish a lake or stream isn't a good reason to rip up a road. Every year land management agencies in Utah spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair ruts in roads. Just think of how much more could have been done if that money was spent managing the resource."

Weekly fishing reports: For information about the best places to fish this spring or anytime, read the weekly fishing report at or call the nearest DWR office.