July 4 Fishing Hotspots in Utah
DWR sport fisheries coordinator pinpoints the best waters
If you wake up early, or stay out late, some fantastic fishing is waiting for you over the July 4 holiday weekend.
Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says rising temperatures are pushing fish to deep water during the warmest parts of the day. But fish are still shallow — and active — as the sun comes up in the morning and goes down at night.
And, if you like to fish rivers and streams, the best fishing of the entire year is about to begin.
“Cutthroat trout have finished spawning in the rivers and streams,” Cushing says. “They’re hungry and ready to eat. Plus, runoff is over, so the rivers and streams are lower and much more fishable now. Also, the water is clear, so trout should be able to clearly see your bait, lure or fly.”
You should also visit fishutah.org for help planning your next fishing trip.
When asked which of Utah’s waters should provide the best fishing over the July 4 holiday weekend, Cushing picked the following:
Willard Bay Reservoir – wiper, walleye
Pineview Reservoir – smallmouth bass, crappie
Lost Creek Reservoir – rainbow trout, Bear Lake cutthroat trout
Weber River, and the Blacksmith Fork River – trout
Cushing says Willard Bay Reservoir is filled with wiper and walleye this year. And these fish aren’t small, either. Many of the walleye are 18 to 20 inches long. And the wipers weigh anywhere from three to as many as six pounds.
Cushing says the reservoir was under a sheet of ice longer than normal this past winter. As a result, gizzard shad — the main fish that wiper and walleye prey on in the reservoir — didn’t survive the winter in the numbers they usually do. “That’s created a population of hungry walleye and wipers,” he says. “They’re very willing to bite.”
If you fish early in the morning or during the early evening, you can catch wipers and walleye from the shore. Try using a silver spinner or a lure that imitates a gizzard shad, such as a blue- or black-colored crankbait. If you’re after wipers, mussels are a great bait to use from shore.
If you fish during hotter times of the day, fishing from a boat is the best way to catch fish. Cushing recommends trolling a blue- or black-colored crankbait at a fairly fast speed — three to four miles per hour.
To catch smallmouth bass at Pineview Reservoir, Cushing recommends fishing near rocky areas and points with a rubber jig or a crankbait that resembles a crawdad. “Use something that’s reddish in color,” he says.
If that doesn’t work, try something that looks like a small crappie. Blue and silver jigs, and blue and silver crankbaits, are great lures to try. And if that doesn’t work, a lure that imitates a yellow perch — something in yellow and black — should do the trick.
For crappie, try fishing near vegetation using chartreuse- or white-colored jigs suspended two to three feet under a bobber.
Bear Lake cutthroat trout and rainbow trout in Lost Creek Reservoir have reached 20 to 22 inches in length. To catch them, try using white tube jigs.
If you like fishing rivers and streams, the Weber River and Blacksmith Fork River are the two best to try in northern Utah. Cushing recommends using a sow fly or a scud fly.
Strawberry Reservoir – Bear Lake cutthroat trout
Yuba Reservoir – Northern pike, walleye
Lots of big cutthroat trout are waiting for you at Strawberry Reservoir. Cushing uses bass fishing techniques to catch the fish — he hops tube jigs and curly tail jigs up and down rocky slopes until he finds the fish.
To find the fish, look for points or other areas that have deep water not too far from shore. “The Utah chubs the cutthroats prey on are in fairly shallow water,” he says. “The cutthroats lurk in the deeper water and then come into the shallows, take a chub, and head back to the cooler water.”
Cushing says he’s found a lot of success working rubber grubs that imitate a crawdad (a grub that’s red or white in color) up and down the slopes.
If he’s in a boat, Cushing casts towards shore and then works the grub down the slope and into deeper water. If he’s fishing from shore, he dons chest waders, wades a safe distance from shore, casts into deeper water and works the jig up into the shallow water.
Strawberry isn’t the only water in north-central Utah that has big fish in it: Yuba Reservoir is producing some whoppers right now. Fishing for Northern pike — many of which are up to 36 inches long — should remain good through July. And a fair number of walleye — in the 16- to 18-inch range — are also available.
“Catching these fish is pretty simple,” Cushing says. “Try using a bottom bouncer with a worm harness, or fishing a nightcrawler on a spinner rig.”
Starvation Reservoir – rainbow trout, walleye
Lakes in the Uinta Mountains – trout
Flaming Gorge Reservoir – kokanee salmon
Strawberry River – brown trout
Cushing says fishing at Starvation Reservoir will be red hot in July.
He says Starvation has lots of big rainbow trout. And big numbers of walleye — in the 15- to 16-inch range — are available too. In fact, Starvation has so many walleye that Cushing encourages you to take a limit home on every trip.
To catch walleye, Cushing recommends fishing off points where the water depth is about 10 to 15 feet deep. Tip a jig with a nightcrawler. Then, cast the jig, and let the wind drift the jig on the bottom.
Cushing says the big rainbows in the reservoir have headed for deeper water. To catch them, troll a nightcrawler or PowerBait over the old river channel in Rabbit Gulch or over the Strawberry River channel.
If you’re looking for a great place to take your family fishing, lakes in the Uinta Mountains might be the perfect spot. Many of these lakes are stocked regularly with trout. Lakes just off state Route 150 (the Mirror Lake Highway) are great places to fish.
If you like to catch two- to three-pound kokanee salmon, the bite at Flaming Gorge Reservoir is great right now. And Cushing says it will only get better. To catch kokanee at the reservoir, he recommends trolling a Kastmaster over deep water. “Once you catch a kokanee,” he says, “keep trolling over that same spot.”
The Strawberry River, especially the area near Strawberry Reservoir called the “pinnacles,” is an excellent place to fish for big brown trout in July.
Scofield Reservoir – tiger trout, Bear Lake cutthroat trout
Joes Valley Reservoir – tiger muskie
Huntington North Reservoir – largemouth bass, wiper
The largest tiger trout in the West — and possibly the nation — are found in Scofield Reservoir. “Some of the tiger trout weigh up to 20 pounds,” Cushing says. “It’s amazing.”
To catch a tiger, Cushing recommendations using something that resembles the Utah chubs the tigers are feeding on. A white and pearl crankbait, or a silver spinner, are great choices. Or, catch a chub, cut it up, and put a piece of chub meat on your hook.
In addition to the tiger trout, Bear Lake cutthroat measuring 22 to 28 inches long are also available.
Joes Valley Reservoir is another great place to catch a big fish. Cushing says tiger muskie in the reservoir are doing really well. Some of the muskie are more than 40 inches long.
Huntington North Reservoir is another water with big fish. Cushing says largemouth bass in the reservoir are doing really well. And plenty of wipers — in the one- to three-pound range — are also available. Some of the wipers are reaching five pounds in weight.
Looking for “boils” is one of the best ways to locate wipers. (Boils occur when a school of wipers chases bait fish to the surface before eating them.)
To catch a wiper, Cushing encourages you to cast white and pearl crankbaits that imitate Utah chubs. Silver spinners are also a good choice.
Panguitch Lake – rainbow trout, Bear Lake cutthroat trout
Lakes on the Boulder Mountains – brook trout, Colorado River cutthroat trout
If you like to fish for trout, southern Utah has lots of opportunities. Among the best isPanguitch Lake. The lake has an abundant population of rainbow and Bear Lake cutthroat trout. And you can catch these fish right from the shore.
Lakes on the Boulder Mountains are another great place to try. Cushing says the Boulders have something for everyone. “Six of the lakes provide an opportunity to catch big brook trout,” he says. “In the remaining lakes, the fish are smaller, but they’re also more abundant. You can take your kids to these lakes and catch lots of 10- to 12-inch fish.”
Before fishing on the Boulders, it’s important to decide the type of experience you’re after. Do you want slower fishing, but a chance to catch a large fish? Or, do you want faster fishing for smaller fish?
“Once you’ve decided,” Cushing says, “give our office in Cedar City a call. The folks at the office should be able to direct you to the water that best meets what you’re looking for.”
The office number is 435-865-6100.