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Good ice fishing, close to home

Ice fishing
Ice fishing

Great ice fishing waters dot Utah

If you're like most folks, work and family commitments take up lots of your time. But that doesn't mean you can't break away for some quick ice fishing trips this winter. Utah is dotted with great ice fishing opportunities that aren't too far from your home. And many of these waters are great places to take your family fishing too.

Randy Oplinger, sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says warm clothes and basic equipment are all you need to start making memories with your kids.

"On your first trip," Oplinger says, "your kids might enjoy sliding across the ice and tossing snowballs as much as they enjoy fishing. That's great and is one of the reasons ice fishing is so fun. But wait until they reel their first fish in and you see their eyes light up. That's when the fun really starts."

To identify some of the best waters to fish in Utah this winter, visit www.wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots. You can also receive the free Division of Wildlife Resources fishing reports found at the site by subscribing to them at www.wildlife.utah.gov/about-us/subscribe-to-updates.html. After subscribing, the latest fishing reports will arrive in your email inbox.

Two additional websites-www.bigfishtackle.com and www.utahwildlife.net-also provide updated ice fishing information for waters across the state.

Top 5 waters

Oplinger says great ice fishing waters are found across Utah. But five reservoirs in northern and north-central Utah stand out as the best close-to-home waters to fish in the state this winter. They're also great places to take your family fishing.

Hyrum and Mantua (rainbow trout, yellow perch, bluegill, largemouth bass)

In October, thousands of rainbow trout-12 to 14 inches long-were stocked in each water.

Chris Penne, regional aquatics manager for the DWR, says rainbow trout fishing has been excellent at Hyrum this fall. He expects great rainbow trout fishing to continue through the winter. "Fishing for yellow perch has also been really good," Penne says, "and so has fishing for largemouth bass. I think ice fishing will be really good at the reservoir this winter."

Fishing for the recently stocked rainbows should be good at Mantua too. While you're fishing for rainbows, you might also catch yellow perch, bluegill, largemouth bass and maybe even a channel catfish. Erica Savage, regional wildlife technician for the DWR, says those fishing from boats enjoyed good yellow perch fishing at Mantua this fall.

Echo and Rockport (yellow perch)

Both of these waters should provide good yellow perch and rainbow trout fishing this winter. "I think rainbow trout fishing will be equally good at both waters," Penne says. "If you're after yellow perch, fishing might be a little better at Rockport than Echo, but Echo should be good too."

The Rockport Tagged Fish Challenge is another reason to ice fish at Rockport this winter. The challenge runs from Dec. 31 to March 1. Details will be available soon.

Jordanelle (rainbow trout, brown trout, yellow perch)

Mike Slater, regional sportfish project leader for the DWR, says fishing for rainbow trout, brown trout and yellow perch should be good at this reservoir less than an hour's drive from Salt Lake City.

Like Hyrum and Mantua, Jordanelle received a bunch of 12-inch rainbow trout this year. The brown trout and yellow perch populations are also doing really well. "If you like to catch yellow perch," Slater says, "the Rock Cliffs arm on the east side of the reservoir is a great place to try. The perch fishing can be really good, and you might catch an occasional kokanee salmon this winter too. A couple of bays that break off and head south in that area are also good places to try."

Ice fishing basics

You can learn the basics of ice fishing by watching two DWR seminars on YouTube. The seminars are available at https://bit.ly/2zR5Ah9 and http://bit.ly/2nAvhi2.