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Catch Big Fish from Shore or a Boat


Tiger Muskie caught at Joes Valley Reservoir
Tiger Muskie caught at Joes Valley Reservoir

Springtime is the best time to fish Joes Valley

Orangeville – If you want to catch big fish in Utah this spring, Joes Valley Reservoir is the first place you should consider visiting. Nestled in a picturesque valley in east-central Utah, the reservoir features turquoise blue water and three fish species that are guaranteed to put a bend in your fishing rod.

The size of the fish in Joes Valley—and the ability to catch them easily from shore or a boat—is the major reason Division of Wildlife Resources biologists have picked it as the best water to visit if you want to catch big fish in Utah this spring.

Two additional waters—Lost Creek Reservoir in northern Utah, and Otter Creek Reservoir in south-central Utah—also topped the biologists’ list.

Joes Valley is about 15 miles west of Orangeville.

Big fish

Calvin Black is a regional fisheries biologist for the DWR. He also fishes Joes Valley every chance he gets. He says splake (a sterile cross between a lake trout and a brook trout), cutthroat trout and tiger muskie are the three fish to target at Joes Valley in the spring.

Most of the splake in the reservoir are between 16 and 18 inches long. Over half of the splake biologists collected during a gill net survey last fall were over 18 inches long. And the 18 inchers weighed a whooping two to two-and-a-half pounds each. “They’re definitely footballs,” Black says.

Cutthroat trout aren’t far behind. Most of them are between 15 and 17 inches long and weigh one-and-a-half to two pounds each. And then, there’s the ‘king of them all’—tiger muskie—which average between 36 and 40 inches in length.

“And the cool thing is,” Black says, “in the spring, you can catch all of them from the shore.”

While tiger muskie will make occasional trips into shore in the spring, splake and cutthroat trout are there right now, hanging out in water that’s between five to 10 feet deep.

Lots of space

In addition to providing plenty of big fish to catch, Joes Valley also provides plenty of shoreline from which to catch them. And the shoreline is easy to access. Simply park in a pulloff off state Route 29, and walk down to the water. If you’re up for a longer walk, you can park in the angler access parking lot near Seely Creek, and then walk along the western side of the reservoir.

“There’s so much shoreline to fish,” Black says, “you’re guaranteed a spot all to yourself.”

You’re also guaranteed plenty of room on the water. An excellent concrete boat launching ramp is among the U.S. Forest Service facilities at Joes Valley. Other facilities include a rest room, picnic tables and a campground. Camping is also available in the Manti-La Sal National Forest that surrounds the reservoir.

“In the spring,” Black says, “there’s plenty of room on the water. Just launch your boat and take your pick of which shoreline area you’d like to fish. There are dozens to choose from.”

To help you catch fish at Joes Valley in the spring, Black provides the following tips. Since splake and cutthroat trout are close to shore in the spring, the tips Black provides will also work if you’re fishing from a boat.

Bait

While you can catch a few cutthroats at Joes Valley using night crawlers, chub meat is the best bait to use to catch both cutthroats and splake. Chub meat is especially effective in May, when chubs in the reservoir move into the shallows to spawn and hungry and aggressive splake and cutthroats go after them.

You can buy chubs—including frozen red shiners and other dead fish—at sporting goods stores. Fishing chub meat is simple: thread a piece of chub meat on a size 2 hook, crimp a sinker or two about 12 to 18 inches above the bait, cast the baited hook out, and then let it sink to the bottom of the reservoir.

If you’d like to take fish closer to the surface, put the same rig together, and then clip a bobber about two feet above your hook. Cast it out, and then watch the bobber closely. When it starts to bob or move, pull back on your fishing rod, and set the hook.

Lures and flies

Black’s favorite lure to use at Joes Valley is a ¼-ounce jig head with a plastic three-inch white tube threaded on the hook. He simply casts the lure out and then reels it back. He uses a steady retrieve or a retrieve that’s slightly faster than normal. “If I’m not catching fish using a steady retrieve,” he says, “I’ll sometimes speed the retrieve up. The faster speed often triggers fish into biting.”

While white is his top tube color choice, he’s also found success using green and black tubes. No matter which color tube you use, Black recommends placing a small piece of chub meat on the lure’s hook. The chub meat will make your lure even more attractive to fish.

In addition to tubes, other good jig choices include white or black Marabou jigs or a ¼-ounce jig head with a curly tail grub threaded on the hook.

Black says spoons are also a good lure choice. Kastmasters and Krocodiles—in flashy colors, such as gold or silver—are great lures to try.

If you’re fishing with flies, Black recommends a wooly bug pattern in either white, brown, black or purple. “You don’t need to use sinking line,” he says. “Most of the fish you catch will be taken within one to two feet of the surface.”

Tiger muskie tips

While tiger muskie fishing at Joes Valley is usually best from mid-June through July, some tigers are caught in the spring. To catch one of these toothy predators, try casting and retrieving a large silver spoon or a crankbait that’s silver, black or green in color. Good crankbait choices include the Rapala Original Floating, in size J7 or J9, or the Rapala BX Swimmer.

Additional tips