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Fishing Lakes in the Cottonwood Canyons

Most residents don't realize great fishing is so close to home

Salt Lake City If you live along the Wasatch Front, especially in Salt Lake County, you may already know about the hiking trails in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. The wildflower-lined trails provide a perfect way to beat the heat and escape the busy life of the city.

But did you know that the lakes you pass while hiking are full of fish?

They are, and they provide anglers who are willing to hike a close-to-home fishing opportunity in one of the most picturesque settings in the state.

Before you head into the canyons to fish or hike, please remember that both Big and Little Cottonwood canyons supply Salt Lake Valley residents with drinking water. You can't take domestic animals (dogs, cats and horses) into the canyons. Swimming is also prohibited, but fishing is allowed. Rafts or float tubes can be packed in and used for fishing. You must wear waders if you plan to enter the water.

As far as catching fish, you don't need to worry about taking live bait into these high-mountain lakes (although worms can be effective).

The most effective technique is to simply bring a small assortment of dark-colored artificial flies (sizes 18 or smaller) and a clear plastic bubble. Simply tie the small fly pattern onto your line about three to four feet behind the clear bubble, and cast it out. A very slow retrieve will keep the fly close to the surface. This is a very effective way to catch trout at these lakes.

The plastic bubble can be filled with water, but don't do that -- the bubble needs to be light so it and the fly can float on the surface of the water. "If you need some extra weight on your line so you can cast it farther, says Scott Root, "you can add a sinker or two several inches above the bubble. Don't place the sinkers between the bubble and the fly, though. If you add them between the fly and the bubble, the fly will sink."

Root, a conservation outreach manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the daily trout limit at the lakes is four trout. "Also," he says, "please stay up-to-date on any fire restrictions in the area before you cook these tasty trout in the canyons."

Remember to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and bug spray. A global positioning system (GPS) or map is helpful, but the trails are well marked, and other hikers can give you directions. Finally, don't litter. Make sure you pack out what you packed in!

Information about each of the lakes in the canyons, including where the lakes are and how to reach them, is available on the DWR's website at http://go.usa.gov/r8ez.