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Fishing is Starting to Heat Up Near the Shore

Ice off is the best time of the year to fish for trout from the shore. Hungry and ready to bite, the trout are near shore this time of the year.
photo by Ron Stewart, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Melting ice means hot fishing

If you like to catch trout from the shore, start paying attention to Utah's fishing reports -- some of the best shore fishing of the year is about to begin.

Ice is starting to pull away from the shore at mid-elevation waters around the state. As the ice pulls away, the sun hits the shallow water near the shore. If it doesn't get cloudy or windy, the sun can warm the water fast.

As the water warms, trout and other cold water fish move into the shallow water in search of food. And these fish are hungry -- it's been awhile since they've had a decent meal.

"At many of the state's waters, spring is the best time to fish from the shore," says Roger Wilson, Aquatic Section chief for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "It's a great time to take your kids fishing. They can catch a bunch of fish using simple techniques."

Usually lasts one to two weeks

If the sun comes out and the wind doesn't blow much, fishing during "ice off" can stay fast and furious for one to two weeks. Then, after a couple of weeks, the ice recedes even farther from the shore. As the ice recedes, water in other parts of the reservoir or lake starts to warm up too. And the wind starts to mix water on the bottom of lake or reservoir with water on the top.

"When those things happen," Wilson says, "the trout start to disperse and move away from the shore."

Your ice-off fishing experience doesn't need to last only a week or two, though -- if you stay updated on which waters are starting to open, and you're willing to travel a bit, you can extend your ice-off fishing experience into May.

Wilson says lower and mid-elevation waters will open first, followed by waters at higher elevations. "Depending on which waters you like to fish," he says, "ice off will start anywhere from mid March to mid May."

Staying updated

You can stay updated on which waters in Utah are experiencing ice off by visiting http://go.usa.gov/Pkb.

(The http://go.usa.gov/Pkb link will take you to the Twitter updates page on the DWR's fishing hotspots Web page.)

In addition to http://go.usa.gov/Pkb, the following also provide good ice-off fishing information:


Stores that sell fishing tackle, such as Sportsman's Warehouse and Fish Tech Outfitters, also provide excellent, up-to-date information. Stores located at various marinas around the state are also good information sources.

"Also," Wilson says, "pay attention to what the anglers around you are doing. If they're catching fish with a certain lure or bait, and you have that same lure or bait, put it on your line and start using it."

Be patient

During ice-off, Wilson says trout often group together in schools and cruise the shoreline. For that reason, it's important to be patient.

"You have to be patient in the spring," Wilson says. "You can sit for awhile with no action, and then -- all of the sudden -- it's ‘pop, pop, pop' as trout that are moving through the area hit your bait or lure."

Tips for success

Wilson provides the following tips for success:


PowerBait, worms and nightcrawlers are excellent baits to use during ice off. Wilson recommends placing a large sinker on your line, a foot or two above your bait, and then casting your bait and letting it float just off the bottom of the water you're fishing.

Lures and flies

If you decide to use a lure or a fly, try one that imitates a leech. Dark-colored tube jigs and grubs are excellent lures to try. For fly anglers, dark wooly buggers are the ticket.


Wilson suggests coating your lure with Smelly Jelly or another type of scent. Placing a nightcrawler or a piece of cut bait on your lure's hook is another great idea. "This is especially important if you're fishing a plastic lure," he says. "Even if a fish has already struck your lure, if the lure has some scent on it, there's a good chance the fish will strike it again."

Cast onto the ice

Wilson says casting your bait onto the ice, and then reeling it so it falls into the water next to the edge of the ice, is a good spot to place your bait.

The edge of the ice is also an excellent spot to place your lure before you start retrieving it.