For those who don’t ski or snowboard, winter in Utah can feel never-ending. But another great way to get outdoors is embarking on an afternoon or a weekend of fishing. Here are three spots that offer great fishing this month, as well as incredible views to help folks forget the cold temperatures:
Flaming Gorge Reservoir
Flaming Gorge Reservoir is well known for its amazing fishing and wintertime is no different. Located in the northeastern corner of the state, half of this large reservoir is in Utah and the other half crosses into Wyoming.
The northern side typically freezes over in the winter, while the Utah side of the reservoir often has open water, giving you the option to do both types of fishing in the winter. However, the reservoir does freeze completely over some winters, so be sure to check fishing reports on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website for conditions.
“Flaming Gorge has a lot of awesome fishing opportunities in the winter,” DWR Sportfish Coordinator Randy Oplinger said. “The open water areas are great for those who like to fish from shore and boat, and ice anglers can fish the frozen areas. Flaming Gorge has a lot of fish species, and many of them like the cool winter months.”
This waterbody offers lake trout, kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, smallmouth bass and burbot. While people are more unlikely to catch smallmouth bass in the winter due to the cold temperatures, they can catch the other species on both sides of the reservoir, although they typically have better odds of catching kokanee salmon in the open water.
Burbot, a tasty, coldwater cod-like species, were illegally introduced into Flaming Gorge, and so any burbot caught must be kept. Winter is a great time to catch them, and fishers are encouraged to target them to help remove them from the reservoir. Folks can also make a difference by keeping lake trout under 25 inches to help thin the population.
“We have too many of them in the reservoir and thinning that size will help increase the number of trophy-sized fish,” Oplinger said.
Fish Lake is another great place to go fishing in February. It offers lake trout, yellow perch, kokanee salmon and rainbow trout. Fish Lake has a lot of perch, and winter is a great time to catch them. The DWR hosts an annual perch ice fishing tournament at Fish Lake, and this year it will be held from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 22.
Small jigs or ice flies tipped with mealworms, wax worms or nightcrawlers are great to use when targeting perch or smaller trout, and fishers should be closer to the shoreline for these species. To catch larger lake trout and splake, try fishing at depths of 20-40 feet and use larger jigs and bait.
“Fish Lake is unique because it has good fishing access during the winter and is full of fish species that are easy to catch under the ice,” Oplinger said.
While it might seem unusual to fish a stream during the winter, the Green River offers great fishing during the winter months and is much less crowded than during the summer. It is one of the most popular trout fishing rivers in Utah, offering brown and rainbow trout, both of which can be caught during the winter.
Fly fishing (primarily by drift boat or wading) is popular, even in the winter months, but people should be sure to dress appropriately. They can also fish successfully from the shoreline using lures. Bait is not permitted in this section of the river.
“The Green River is unique because it is the largest trout stream in Utah by depth and width,” Oplinger said. “It is one of the few opportunities for you to use a drift boat while fishing in Utah.”