3 Great Rivers to Fish This Winter
DWR press release
With changing weather patterns and unstable icy conditions across the state, some anglers may think there are no fishing opportunities this winter. However, streams and rivers can provide a great fishing experience during the winter as well. Here are some great fishing options for this time of year.
Haddad Fork River
Located in northern Utah, between Hyrum and Hardware Ranch, the Blacksmith Fork River is a beautiful little stream that is easy to wade. It is not heavily fished and is managed so anglers can catch lots of fish. It is also a good place to fish for trout (Bear River subspecies) for the Utah Cutthroat Slam or hard fighting brown trout. There is currently an abundance of brown trout in the Blacksmith Fork River, and current fishing regulations allow anglers to keep an additional four brown trout caught there.
The Blacksmith Fork River offers fishing opportunities for brown trout, Bear River trout, mountain whitefish, and rainbow trout, depending on which stretch of the river you are fishing.
Water levels and clarity are great in the river right now, and there’s not a lot of ice currently. There are no bait restrictions in the river, so anglers can have success using nightcrawlers in pools and along the bank.
Lower Provo River
The lower part of the river passes through Provo Valley and reaches Utah Lake. It offers good fly fishing opportunities through the valley and bait fishing opportunities below the Olmsted Diversion and downstream through town. Anglers can catch a variety of species, including brown trout, rainbow trout, mountain whitefish, and the occasional trout, in the valley and through town.
The Lower Provo River is a popular fishing area and can be crowded during certain times of the year, but not so during the winter months, making it a great time to fish there.
There are a number of currently accessible angler access points along the Duchesne River – primarily the blue-ribbon rated portion up the Hanna River – that have provided good fishing this winter. The Duchesne River offers fishing for primarily brown trout and some rainbow trout.
Tips for river fishing during the winter
Hunters should wear multi-layered clothing when hunting during the winter, and prepare for extremely cold conditions, especially if you start early in the morning. Always be extremely careful when fishing along streams with deep snow or icy conditions. Access can also be more difficult during the winter, especially if there is a lot of snow in the area. It’s a good idea to check with the relevant land management agencies to see if parking areas have been plowed, especially if snow has fallen recently.
Anglers should also be aware that fishing pole guides can start to freeze after a while (especially on very cold days), so be sure to have gloves on hand to remove the ice.
When finding fish in the river during the winter, there are a few things anglers should keep in mind.
“Fish metabolisms slow down during the winter, so they often spend time in areas of standing water to help them conserve energy,” said Clint Brunson, assistant aquatic division manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ Northern Region. “Targeting pools and areas along river banks is often a good place to find fish during the winter months.”
For bass anglers, there are a few different baits that often work well during the winter months including Panther Martins, Bluefox or Mepps and small crankbaits in trout patterns. In areas where bait is allowed, jigs using a piece of nightcrawler are often successful. For anyone fly fishing, you can often find success with small nymphs such as rabbit’s ear, pheasant tail, prince, hog bugs, and zebra fringes. One key is to get those nymphs near the bottom. Fish in winter are not as willing to swim or rush as far in search of food as they are when it is warmer.
“The fish eat less during the winter, but there are still insects, so making sure you use small flies and bait and place them directly in front of the fish will help you have more success,” Trina, DWR Sportfish Coordinator, Hedrick said.
If you want to release fish you caught while fishing, there are some things you can do to help reduce stress on the fish and increase their chances of survival. It’s best to remove your gloves, which usually have absorbent fabric that can remove the protective layer of the fish’s skin. You should also wet your hands when handling the fish and use a rubber net to get the fish down more easily so you can keep it in the water while you remove the hook.
“Every second a fish is out of the water is a second it can’t breathe, so it’s a good idea to think about getting it back in the water and swimming freely as soon as possible,” Hedrick said. “With colder temperatures, there is usually less stress on the fish than the experience, but expediency is still key.”