Last checked for updates: 12/12/2013
Click here to view a webcam placed at Utah Lake State Park in Provo. Use it to check weather and ramp conditions before you go out.
Utah Lake is the largest (natural) freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. It spans 24 miles in length, 13 miles in width and reaches depths of no more than 12 feet. Despite its enormous size, this immense body of water is often overlooked by anglers as they drive past it on their way to their favorite trout pond. Many trout anglers don't fish Utah Lake because they're unfamiliar with how to fish for warmwater species. Other anglers are concerned about the lake's water quality. The lake is shallow and when the wind kicks up, it stirs up sediment in the water that gives the lake a murky appearance.
Anglers have little to be concerned about, however. The Utah Division of Water Quality has found no evidence that fish in Utah Lake have elevated toxic pollutant levels (except for carp which have been found to have an elevated level of PCBs) and the water meets state water-quality standards for recreational use, including swimming and boating.
While walleye, channel catfish and white bass are the main draws at Utah Lake, a growing number of largemouth bass anglers are also learning about the healthy numbers of big "bucketmouths" in the lake. Several panfish, including perch and crappie, also are available to anglers.
The fish in the lake are not only diverse, many of them are also large. During the summer, it's not uncommon to catch several channel catfish that weigh more than five pounds. One angler recently reported catching two catfish that weighed more than 15 pounds each.
Obviously, if you want to catch big fish, you need to use a heavier pound fishing line. One of the most popular techniques for catching catfish or walleye at Utah Lake is to place a large circle-hook through the side of a dead red-sided shiner minnow and fish it along the bottom.
The summer is also one of the best times of year to catch the lake's numerous white bass. Action lures and bait alike can entice the white bass to strike. You can catch as many white bass as you like, as there is no limit on the number of white bass anglers can catch and keep at the lake. (For more information about fishing regulations at Utah Lake, obtain a copy of the 2005 Utah Fishing Proclamation. The proclamation is available from license agents and on this Web site.)
Largemouth bass anglers are often secretive about Utah Lake. What many anglers don't know is that the lake provides ideal bass habitat. Many bass over five pounds can be caught by casting a bass lure towards the edge of vegetation and retrieving the lure back to your boat.
Although anglers at Utah Lake must release all largemouth and smallmouth bass that are more than 12 inches long, bass anglers love catching these big fish. They're also excited that the water level at the lake is up this year. The higher water has submerged more vegetation, providing the bass with more cover and increasing the chances that bass fishing will be even better throughout the year.
"Trout anglers should know that most of the warmwater species in Utah Lake are extremely tasty because of their white, flaky meat and the lack of bones in the filets," says Scott Root, Central Region conservation outreach manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources.
"I'm a recent convert to fishing for warmwater species of fish," Root says. "I enjoy fishing at Utah Lake after catching trout at another fishery because my family enjoys having a selection of different fish fillets at dinner. It's great to have a variety of breaded or grilled catfish, walleye and bass fillets to accompany our trout fillets. We've also incorporated more fish into our diet because fish is low in fat and provides many health benefits."
In addition to its fishing, Utah Lake has many updated and renovated facilities that are drawing crowds and acclaim. Most of the facilities around the lake have been improved in recent years.
Utah Lake State Park, five miles west of I-15's Provo Center Street exit, has been renovated. A new visitor center is the highlight of the new facilities. The visitor center includes informative displays that cover several topics, including the area's history and the endangered June sucker, which is found only in Utah Lake and nowhere else in the world. Improved camping facilities, bathrooms, a newly constructed jetty (to improve the state park harbor and reduce sediment), a fish cleaning station, pavilions, the adjacent Provo River paved running trail and other improvements make the state park a perfect vacation spot.
Lincoln Beach, located on the south end of the lake, also has been improved. The Division of Wildlife Resources, in cooperation with Utah County, excavated the marina and access channel and built a new concrete boat ramp, courtesy docks, public restrooms and a fish cleaning station.
Two additional boat harbors, the Lindon Boat Harbor on the east side of the lake and the City of Saratoga Spring Marina on the west side, also have been improved with similar facilities. The DWR provided more than $600,000 to the Lincoln Beach, Lindon Harbor and Saratoga Springs improvement efforts.
Don't laugh. Carp are actually a very fun species to pursue, and they dominate the ecosystem in Utah Lake.
Carp can be caught in just about any month of the year. They are also often snagged by accident when casting jigs for other species such as Walleye or White bass. If you'd like to target carp, you can have a great time catching 2 to 25 pound fish, with most weighing 5 to 10 lbs.
The two best baits to use for catching carp are bread dough or wadded up bread, and regular nightcrawlers or worms. Usually it's best to fish them on the bottom with no weight. If a carp feels a sinker on the line, they may drop the bait before you can set the hook. Simply take a fresh slice of bread, wad up a part of it very tightly into a ball over a regular large worm hook. Cast it out and let it set on the bottom in shallow areas near shore.
It can be beneficial to use worms, because that way you never know what you're going to have at the other end of the line. You might have a carp one one cast, a white bass on another, and a bluegill on yet another. The next cast you might catch a Walleye or catfish. That's one of the great things about fishing Utah Lake. There is such a diversity of fish species to fish for.
Channel Catfish are one of Utah Lake's most popular fish. They are relatively easy to catch if
you know where to look for them. Some popular baits include fresh carp or white bass meat, shrimp, whole or chunks of minnows such as
shiners, anchovies, juvenile carp, chubs or Utah Suckers, nightcrawlers and commercially prepared stinkbaits as well as an array of home
concoctions. My experience has been that minnows or carp meat seem to be the best bait to use.
Bullhead Catfish are very common in Utah Lake, and can be very fun for kids and pros alike to catch. They are most often caught using nightcrawlers that are fished on the bottom, with or without weight. They are also caught occasionally with the same baits fished for Channel Cats. Sometimes a lucky angler will even catch one using a lure such as a curly tail jig.
Walleye are a very popular Utah Lake fish, sought for the challenge in catching them, as well as for
their tasty meat.
Yellow Perch are not very common in Utah Lake, especially in low water years when there is less cover for them to hide from predators.