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Best Scenic Places to Catch Warmwater Fish


Float tubers fishing Mantua Reservoir
Float tubers fishing Mantua Reservoir

Mantua Reservoir tops the list

Spring is a great time to get outside and catch bass, crappie, bluegill and other warmwater fish in Utah.

This spring, Division of Wildlife Resources biologists have selected three scenic waters—Mantua Reservoir and Pineview Reservoir in northern Utah, and Huntington North Reservoir in east-central Utah—as the top places to get in on the action.

Of the three waters, biologists say Mantua tops the list.

Mantua Reservoir

May is the perfect month to visit the 550-acre reservoir nestled in a small town in northern Utah. Few people visit Mantua in May. And it’s the month that the reservoir’s abundant bluegill and largemouth bass population—aggressive and ready to bite—move into the shallows. Plus, Mantua provides great access for both boat and shoreline anglers.

Mantua Reservoir is in the town of Mantua, about 4 miles east of Brigham City and only one hour from Salt Lake City.

Fast fishing

DWR Regional Fisheries Biologist Chris Penne manages the fishery at Mantua. He says May is his favorite month to fish there. “Mantua is a great springtime fishery,” he says. “The fishing can be really fast.”

From mid- to late-May, bluegill, which currently average close to 8 inches in length, move into the shallows to spawn. “During the spawn,” Penne says, “the bluegill are very aggressive and fairly easy to catch. And, for their size, they put up an amazing fight.”

Largemouth bass also move into the shallows in May, making them accessible to anglers on the shore and in boats.

Most of the largemouth bass you catch at Mantua will be between 10 and 15 inches long. But bass up to 20 inches long, and weighing 4 to 5 pounds, are available too.

Access

Except for a $5 fee to launch your boat, at a large concrete ramp on the southwest corner of the reservoir, there’s no fee to fish at Mantua or to launch canoes and other boats that can be launched by hand. Two areas where you can launch a small boat by hand are on the southeast and north sides of the reservoir.

If you’d rather fish from the shore, you’re in luck: a maintained gravel trail rings the entire reservoir. The best shoreline access is on the reservoir’s west and east sides.

Advice and tips

Even though bass and bluegill move toward the shallows in May, spring weather determines how shallow they get. Warm fronts bring fish into the shallows while cold fronts push them back out to deeper water.

Penne provides tips to catch both bluegill and bass at the reservoir:

Bluegill

In early May, bluegill will be in deeper water, but as the water warms in late May and early June, they’ll come into the shallows to spawn.

When they come into the shallows, it’s easy to catch bluegills from shore. To find bluegills in shallow water, look for areas with shallow brush and areas that have new aquatic vegetation that’s just beginning to appear along the shoreline.

Penne says the great thing about bluegill fishing is they’re among the easiest fish to catch. Simply thread a worm on a size 8 or a size 10 long shank hook, crimp one or two split shot sinkers 12 to 18 inches above the hook, and then attach a bobber about 12 inches above the spilt shot. Cast the worm out, let it settle, and then watch the bobber closely. If it starts to bob, move sideways or go under the water, set the hook by pulling up on your fishing rod. Then, reel your bluegill in.

When fishing for bluegills and other panfish, Penne recommends using a hook with a long shank. These hooks are commonly called Aberdeen hooks. “These hooks are usually made with thinner wire,” he says, “so they don't tear the mouth of the bluegill. And the long shank makes it much easier to remove the hooks from the small mouths of these fish.” 

If you decide to fish for bluegill before they come into the shallows, Penne says you can catch them in deeper water by taking a boat on the reservoir and looking for submerged channels and areas of aquatic vegetation.

“Once you’ve found a promising spot,” he says, “put a piece of worm on a 1/16-ounce jig. Then, drop the jig over the side of your boat, and jig it up and down. Start jigging at the bottom, but try different depths, until you find the fish.”

After fish arrive in the shallows, you can catch them on worms under a bobber or on dry flies (flies that float on the surface of the water).

If you don’t have a fly rod, you can still fish dry flies with spinning gear. Simply fill a plastic casting bubble about half full of water, slide about 3 to 4 feet of fishing line through the bubble, and then twist the center portion of the bubble so it crimps on your line.

Tie a dry fly to the end of your line, and cast it out. Once it hits the water, bring it back slowly. As you bring it back, pause for several seconds at a time, letting the fly rest motionless on the surface of the water.

Largemouth bass

As the water warms in May and June, bass come into the shallows to spawn. To find them, look for areas with heavy cover. Brushy areas along the perimeter of the reservoir, and areas of aquatic vegetation, which can be found in clumps along the shoreline, are great places to target.

Good lures to use include skirted spinnerbaits, plastic worms threaded on a size 3/0 or 4/0 hook, and ¼- to ½-ounce bucktail jigs.

“Spinnerbaits are my preferred bait this time of year,” Penne says. “They’re relatively resistant to getting snagged in the heavy brush and vegetation the bass are taking cover in.”

To fish these lures, make short casts into and along the edges of cover. Then, retrieve the lure back to you. As you retrieve the lure, use different speeds until you find the speed that attracts the bass.

If you’d like to catch largemouth bass with bait, try hooking a worm on a size 4 or size 6 hook. Crimp one or two spilt shot sinkers about 12 to 18 inches above the hook, and then attach a bobber 12 inches above the split shot.

“Largemouth bass are sight feeders,” Penne says, “so let some of the worm dangle off the hook instead of threading it onto the hook in one big ball.”

More information

If you have questions about fishing at Mantua Reservoir, call the DWR’s Northern Region office at 801-476-2740.