Fishing heats up as temperatures cool down

Kolby Ence at Sand Hollow Reservoir, Hurricane, Utah, Summer 2013 | Photo by Brett Barrett, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Don’t let low water levels in Utah this past summer fool you – water levels are rising and the temperature of the water is cooling. Some of the best fishing of the entire year is happening right now or is about to begin.

Despite a dry year, this fall will bring great fishing to Utah as the weather cools down and water levels rise. Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, has consistently seen fall produce some of the biggest catches and fastest fishing of the year.

While it’s true that some water bodies have low water levels, many still have good water levels that will rise even more this fall. As summer ends, water designated for irrigation is rerouted to Utah’s reservoirs. Cooling weather also helps water levels by slowing down evaporation, and loss, of water.

Fall also brings lower water temperatures that help anglers two ways, Cushing said. First, oxygen levels rise as the water cools down, making fish more active.

“Fish are more comfortable, feed aggressively and have more energy when the water has more oxygen in it,” he said.

Cooler water also triggers fish to put on weight for the winter, which is another reason they feed aggressively in the fall.

So, when will this season’s prime fishing hit?

The best fishing will happen between now and Oct. 5, the date of the next new moon, Cushing said. In mid-October, the best fishing will happen just before and after the full moon. Fish respond to moon phases, especially at the close of summer. Anglers who time their trips accordingly tend to do well, he said.

Cushing’s predictions for especially good fishing waters this fall are:

Southwestern Utah

  • Sand Hollow Reservoir and Panguitch Lake are the season’s can’t-miss waters in southwestern Utah. Anglers should try fishing for largemouth bass and bluegill in Sand Hollow Reservoir, and trout in Panguitch.

Southeastern Utah

  • Scofield Reservoir is the best fall fishing water in southeastern Utah. Scofield has no shortage of big fish. The water is home to cutthroat trout in the 21- to 26-inch range. And the state’s tiger trout record has been broken three times in the last two years by anglers fishing at Scofield. Fishing should remain good at Scofield until the reservoir starts to freeze over.

Central Utah

  • In central Utah, fishing is good at Strawberry Reservoir for big rainbow and cutthroat trout.  Fishing should remain good at Strawberry until ice starts to form.

Northern Utah

  • Willard Bay Reservoir and Bear Lake are two promising waters in northern Utah. Wiper boils will continue at Willard Bay through the beginning of October. Walleye fishing should stay good through the fall. At Bear Lake, cutthroat trout and trophy whitefish come unusually far into the shallows in the fall, making them more accessible to anglers.

Northeastern Utah

  • Starvation Reservoir is always affected by a change in seasons. Each year, some of Starvation’s biggest trout and walleye are caught on fall nights using crankbaits and rattletraps.
  • At Flaming Gorge Reservoir, fishing should stay good through the end of November. At Flaming Gorge, try fishing for big trout, since they’ll be getting active this fall.


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