Big trout are back at Minersville Reservoir

June 1, 2006 - Big trout are back at Minersville Reservoir

BEAVER - Believe it or not, 20-inch rainbow trout are back at Minersville Reservoir.

This might not seem possible considering the reservoir was drained completely in September 2004. After several years of drought, all of the water in the reservoir had been used for irrigation.

But the gates were shut on the dam in October 2004, and slowly the reservoir started to refill. By November, there was enough water to restock some fish.

A total of 10,000 10-inch rainbow trout were stocked, and just over a year later, by late fall 2005, these fish had grown to about 20 inches.

What helped the fish grow so quick was near-record precipitation that refilled the reservoir in a single winter and made conditions in the reservoir ideal for trout.

Getting there

Located in southwestern Utah, Minersville Reservoir is about 15 miles west of I-15 and can be reached by exiting the freeway at Beaver and traveling west on SR-21. The reservoir is a little more than a three-hour drive from Salt Lake City or Las Vegas. A county-operated campground and paved boat ramp are available. Much of the shoreline at the reservoir is open to the public, but there is some private land that is closed.

Shore fishing, boat angling and float tube fishing are popular ways to fish the reservoir. Experienced anglers will likely have the most luck, but if you have a child who has some fishing skills and would like to catch a nice-sized fish, don't pass up this opportunity to give him or her some real excitement.

The reservoir is more than 900 surface acres in size when full. The Division of Wildlife Resources owns a 2,000 acre-foot conservation pool that keeps the reservoir from being drained, except under the most severe conditions.

Special regulations help the fishery

Special fishing rules apply at Minersville. You may use only artificial flies or lures, and you may keep only one trout that must be more than 22 inches long. The smallmouth bass limit is the standard statewide six-fish limit, and there are no size restrictions on bass.

These rules were established in the early 1990s to correct biological problems and maintain a quality fishery.

Before the 1990s, high numbers of Utah chubs competed with trout for food and space. In addition, fish-eating birds preyed on the trout. Expensive chemical treatments with rotenone were repeatedly conducted to temporarily solve the problems with chubs and reestablish a trout fishery. These treatments were ineffective because good fishing only lasted about three years, and the treatments were needed at least every five years.

The regulation changes kept more trout in the reservoir and provided good fishing throughout the 1990s, without the need for rotenone treatments. The regulations should keep good numbers of trout in the reservoir despite the chubs and birds (as long as water is available) and should provide good fishing into the future.

Besides the initial restocking of 10,000 10-inch rainbow trout in 2004, several other allotments of rainbows have been planted. These include more than 8,300 10-inch rainbows in May 2005 and 15,000 10-inch rainbows in October 2005. About 20,000 4-inch rainbow fingerlings also were stocked in early July 2005. In 2006, expect to catch various sizes of trout, from 10 inches long to fish more than 20 inches long.

Cutthroat trout and smallmouth bass

In addition to rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and smallmouth bass have also been stocked.

More than 10,000 8-inch Bear Lake cutthroat trout were stocked in May 2005.

Smallmouth bass were stocked in the spring of 2005. These bass included 132 adults and 6,000 fingerlings.

By October 2005, the cutthroat trout had grown to 13 to 14 inches. Although cutthroat trout initially grow slower than rainbow trout, the cutthroats stocked in 2005 will begin to bulk up and gain weight when they reach about 20 inches in length. At 20 inches, these cutthroats eat lots of chubs and crayfish, which means there should be some real "hogs" in the reservoir by fall 2006!

Smallmouth bass are important to the fishery

DWR biologists aren't sure if the transplanted adult smallmouth bass reproduced in 2005, but conditions should have allowed them to do that. In the past, good smallmouth bass reproduction occurred during high water years. It might take several years for a good bass fishery to develop, but biologists hope they got off to a good start by quickly reintroducing these fish after the reservoir filled.

Not only were water conditions favorable, but the crayfish population quickly

reestablished itself and provided the bass with a plentiful food supply. Biologists saw huge numbers of young crayfish, about an inch in length, around the reservoir's shoreline in June 2005.

Expectations for smallmouth bass at Minersville are high because they did well during the 1990s. In 2000, the bass fishery was on the verge of being discovered by the public when the drought hit and repairs to the dam were required. As a result, the reservoir was drained and did not fully recover until it was refilled in 2005.

Smallmouth bass are an important part of the overall management plan at Minersville Reservoir. They help keep chub numbers in check and provide balance to the system that should help the trout continue to do well.

When biologists electro-fished (a common method to collect fish, monitor fish populations and compare trends) the reservoir in the 1990s, it was evident that the bass were preying on chubs. Before introducing bass, chubs were extremely numerous along the dam. By the late 1990s, the chubs were completely gone from this same area and were low in numbers throughout most of the reservoir.

Part of the attraction of having both bass and trout at Minersville is the chance to catch either using the same fishing techniques. Fishing steep rocky shorelines with large woolly buggers is a popular way to catch trout and can also result in lots of smallmouth bass hookups. And fishing four-inch plastic tube jigs for bass might just as easily produce a sizeable trout.

If you're looking for a relaxing place to fish and like the idea of landing some exceptional trout, keep Minersville in mind. Anyone who spends a little time at this reservoir will likely catch a 20-inch trout, and maybe a few smallmouth bass as an added bonus.