OGDEN, Utah Within a couple of hours' drive, residents of north Utah have a variety of ice fishing options, from pursuing cisco with a dipnet at Bear Lake or getting off the beaten track to pursue tiger trout at Birch Creek Reservoir.
January coldfooters could also benefit by a late-forming winter.
Many reservoirs received a layer of ice relatively late in December and early-season ice fishing is generally good before oxygen levels in waters are depleted.
If drilling holes through the ice and dropping down baits, jigs and other enticements is your pleasure, there are plenty of other options in the region.
Please check your regs for ice fishing rules, bag limits and Blue Ribbon designation regulations.
Here are seven solid bets in the New Year.
Providing it gets a sturdy a layer of ice, Bear Lake should be an excellent ice-fishing destination during the balance of January and February.
If it doesn't get a layer of ice, it's still a productive open-water fishery.
Call ahead to the Utah DWR or to Pugstone's Ripple and Waves Sporting (435-946-2855; 435-757-9430).
com) to check on ice conditions, then head to this Cadillac nope, make that a Hummer of the north Utah ice fishing scene.
"Normally the cisco netting gets good by about Jan. 15, and there you have about three good, solid weeks of netting them," said Jim Stone, guide and proprietor at Pugstone's, located in Garden City, Utah. "Dipnet on the east side at Cisco Beach or any rocky point."
He suggests that anglers team up, in open water or through the ice.
Have one person with a cisco net, and the other jigging a hookless Pixee or Kastmaster spoon to attract the cisco into the nets.
Cisco can also be caught at the Rock Pile right in front of Sweetwater and out from the marina.
January and February are also excellent times to pursue cutthroat (averaging about 20 inches) and lake trout at Bear Lake.
Target the cutthroat at depths of 20 to 60 feet; go deeper for the Macks in depths from 40 to 90 feet.
Inside the Rock Pile is a good area, as are the points and structure all along the east and west sides.
"I would go with Kastmasters in about the ½-ounce size, in blue, gold, green and bronze," Stone said. "Those are the four best colors, and red is good too.
Swedish Pimples in the same colors and weights are good too, and some guys use an iridescent ice fly with a spoon underneath."
Fish your jigs and spoons baited with cisco or sucker meat, nightcrawlers, mealworms or maggots. O
ftentimes Bear Lake's famous cutthroat and lake trout will be found within a couple of cranks from the bottom in varying depths of water.
Pugstone's offers guided trips throughout the winter, either boating or ice fishing trips.
Rates are $125 per half-day or $175 per full day per person; ice fishing rates are lower and are geared toward family fishing.
Pugstone's also rents augers and other ice fishing gear, and has cisco dipnets available.
Birch Creek Reservoir
Located near the small town of Woodruff off Highway 39, Birch Creek is an out-of-the-way fishery boasting an unusual opportunity.
"We've had some good reports from Birch Creek Reservoir of some really nice-sized tiger trout," said Gordon Edwards, Jr., an aquatics biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resource's Northern Office (801-476-2740).
"Tigers are a hybrid brown trout/brook trout, and there's a potential to catch them here in the 2 to 3-pound range."
Birch Creek also has a decent population of Bonneville cutthroat trout.
Located southwest of the town of the same name, Woodruff is another decent ice fishery.
It boasts a naturally reproducing population of Bonneville cutthroat and is designated at a Blue Ribbon Fishery by the Utah DWR.
Echo, Rockport Reservoirs
These impoundments on the Weber River both have decent perch populations and a good number of rainbow trout.
"Echo and Rockport should have a good number of quality perch and a good number of rainbow trout," Edwards said.
Both reservoirs have a decent number of rainbow holdovers running up to 16-plus-inches.
"Echo has some really nice rainbow up to 20 inches.
It doesn't get much attention as an ice fishery, but when we completed some fish population sampling there we found some really nice-size rainbows," said Edwards.
Another north Utah Reservoir where anglers can find a relatively exotic trout hybrid is Causey Reservoir, which has a decent crop of splake, a lake trout/brook trout hybrid.
"Causey has an abundance of small splake running 8 to 12 inches, and some rainbows," Edwards said.
The water also holds a decent population of kokanee that can be jigged through the ice. Kokes here run 8 to 12 inches.
This is another north Utah fishery featuring kokanee.
Although the kokanee population here isn't as high as at Causey Reservoir, the landlocked salmon in this impoundment run a little bit larger.
Porcupine also features rainbow trout.
North Utah fisheries
A couple of north Utah fisheries will likely not be up to snuff.
For starters, low water levels the last couple of years have plagued Newton Reservoir located near the Idaho-Utah stateline near Trenton.
Although locals are catching a few black crappie here, overall this fishery is way down and not worth a long drive.
Another traditionally productive winter fishery, Pineview Reservoir east of Ogden, will again not be up to par, at least as far as its perch fishery is concerned.
"The perch population in Pineview is still building," said Edwards. "We had several years of low water, so there are a couple year classes of fish missing.
The good news is after last summer there were tons of small perch, and down the road about three years it should be back full swing for the perch fishing."
Pineview can still be worthwhile for its other species, including rainbow trout. Another good bet for ice fishermen is Hyrum Reservoir at Hyrum State Park.
The reservoir features a decent perch and rainbow trout fishery.
As always, please use extreme caution when ice fishing, and call ahead to check on conditions. Utah ice fishermen can use two rods during the winter.
Generally enticements include small ice flies, rubber grubs and jigs tipped with a variety of baits including mealworms, wax worms, nightcrawlers, Power Bait and other a similar concoctions, and salmon eggs.
Jigging with small and medium-sized spoons such as Swedish Pimples or Kastmasters can also be effective.
Some anglers fish a small jig on 12 to 18 inches of leader off of a larger jigging spoon. Still-fishing baits can also be productive.
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