Springtime Update (Channel Cats, Tiger Trout, and Big Brookies)

It's long overdue that I share what I've been doing for the past few weeks. Though I haven't posted lately, I've been fishing about 5 days per week to some extent.

Lunch breaks are always fun, whether I head south (warm water species) or north (Provo River). I get skunked a lot on lunch break, but most 20 minute spurts on the Provo provide a couple of dinks to pass the time. Occasionally, I nab a decent specimen.

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My warm water spot is much more hit or miss. I haven't spent as much time there lately, although the other day, I finally landed a good sized channel catfish.

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My previous personal best was only 9 or 10 inches. Not very impressive. This one was really fun to catch, especially on lunch break.

A good lunch break can do wonders for bad day at work...or a good one.

On Easter Sunday, I thought I'd try fishing a big tiger trout spot I've done well at, which happened to be on the same day I fished it the first time. 4-20-07 was my first visit, and that went very well.

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The 2014 redux was much less impressive.

11 hours were spent on that mission. I walked around the entire lake (it's not small) and never got any action until I had made a complete circuit around the lake, from the first spot I fished from. Go figure.

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A 19" Tiger Trout found my minnow after such a grueling wait. My history at the lake would cause me to feel some level of disappointment for a catch of the day under the 20" mark. Likewise, spending 11hrs at a body of water with absolutely NOTHING happening would normally be disappointing.

Regardless, I still enjoyed getting out and visiting that crazy lake again. Plus, I even saw the Easter Bunny!

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This week, my fishing libido required something a bit more productive and rewarding. Given the time of year, it would likely involve a lot of work, but that's alright. I'll work for big brookies.

There was a degree of anxiety about this trip, since I was unable to find my GPS unit, leading up to Saturday. Having my normal access point to the lake snowed in, it was necessary to use a different trail head I had heard about.

Detailed notes were taken about the route from the maps and I was confident that I would find my happy place, once again.

The hike was actually somewhat difficult with a fully inflated tube on my back and a backpack across my chest. My notes instructed me to stay left on a series of clearings that would lead me to the promised land. Those clearings were filled with knee-deep snow, so it was actually easier to bushwhack through the naked aspens along the edges.

Somewhat quickly, I found the lake and was greeted by a pretty good snow storm. It didn't take long and I had my first catch, a 3lb 4oz brookie:

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Big brookie.

Shortly after, a small cutthroat came to hand. There were a few of these that I met today, but all were about this size:

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On occasion, a nice brookie would introduce themself.

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And this one probably outweighed my first one:

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I was really glad to have made the trip. The weather was awful, but that doesn't really matter to me when I'm doing something I love. There were a couple of times when the storm let up, but most of the day was spent getting snowed on. It was actually really peaceful. The only person around for miles.

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The hike back to the car got interesting with a lot of snow flying around, but I eventually found my way back to the clearings. What a day!

Happy Fishing, Humans.

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Southern Utah Springtime

Last week

Curiosity got the best of me and I made my way to Koosharem Reservoir, near Fish Lake. Reports stated that the ice was receding and I needed a place to float, in search of large trout kind.

The reports were true and I spent a few hours throwing all sorts of junk into the water, never getting so much as a bump. The first official skunk of 2014 had been served (other than a few fruitless lunch breaks - they don't count).

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It was nice to get out on the tube again though. Koosharem holds some heavy fish, but coaxing them to eat what they don't already have is harder than one might think.

Not to be dissuaded, news of a small open window of water at the Twin Creeks inlet at Fish Lake led me to Plan B, where I was sure to catch something, I hoped.

Plan B worked out quite well and I spent a fair amount of time unhooking mid-sized rainbows, an awful looking lake trout from the hatchery, and THREE BROWNS!

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Catching browns isn't commonplace at Fish Lake, and most that I've heard about are total beasts of the 10+lb variety. Somehow, my own Fish Lake career has led me to a total of 4 browns, though mine have all been quite small.

Time ticked on and my day ended without much in the way of size. Somewhat of a letdown, it was still a beautiful day and checking on my favorite area was worth every mile.

With springtime officially underway, I've felt the need to scratch a soft water itch I've had lately.

My buddy J and I heard word of open water in an area I really like in Southern Utah, and we made plans to get down there for a long day trip on Sunday.

Along with J's friend Mark, we embarked in the wee hours on a 4+ hour drive through beautiful country. The target area being in the mid 8000's in elevation, the odds of us ultimately finding ice were very real.

Our main destination was a lake that sits in a deep bowl, fed only by springs and limited drainage area surrounding. The outlet is sub surface, filtering through the igneous rock that makes up the area's exposed geology.

Our hopes were to pump up the tubes and put on a catching clinic for healthy splake, cutthroat, and tiger trout. As we approached our parking area, the stiff winds and chill in the air prompted us to hike down to the lake in order to make sure there was open water first.

Lo and behold, the ice had held strong in that hidden basin and our long journey had come to a crossroad. A decision had to be made:

1. Move to another lake with different species, nearby.
2. Test the ice and find a way to make some holes.
3. Give up and find water on the way home.

Naturally, we couldn't possibly settle for option #3. The 1st option also seemed like an acceptance of defeat, so we started smashing shoreline rocks to make some sharp edges.

That's right, we chipped away at the ice with rocks by hand and made it work. The ice was about 6" thick where we first started pounding. It was 8" in the middle.

We came to fish that lake and that was exactly what we intended to do. Men on a mission. *Pounds chest while grunting*

This wasn't the first time I'd opened up some ice with a rock. A little tip for rock-holing:

Break a rock to expose a sharp or jagged edge/point. Using an angled stroke, chip away a circular basin in the ice, keeping the bottom as level as possible, while remembering to work away the sides as you go.

As the hole gets deeper, the angled stroke really helps, as you move your body around the hole to keep a good circle.

Take the time to remove the ice shavings periodically or you'll make less progress per stroke.

Water will start to seep into the hole from underneath during the last two inches. Instead of getting soaked by the splashes, take the point of the rock and face it downward, jamming it into place by hand or foot.

Try stomping it down enough to break through, then dislodge it and jam it into place, cross-wise.

More stompy. The rock should pop through, leaving a decent hole.

If the boots aren't doing the trick, grab another rock and heave it down onto the chipper until it goes through. These steps will save you a lot of time and sogginess throughout those last couple of inches.

Last tip: Wear Gloves! (Ouch.) I wished I had brought some. Bruises go away though.

With my first hole out of the way in good time, the moment of truth had arrived.

The moment the jig went below the ice sheet, I had action.

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We spent the next few hours putting on that catching clinic we'd hoped for. Seriously, EVERYTHING we dropped down the hole got attacked.

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It seemed as though one of us was either getting played with or catching a fish at all times. I don't believe a solid 10 minutes passed without some sort of action. Great fishing.

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Our toils led to spoils as countless little cutthroat came to hand. Occasionally, a good splake would find the jigs and the odd tiger trout would also make an appearance.

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We came, we conquered.

The best two fish of the day went to Mark, who nailed a 22" splake and another that was pretty close to that. Those were some nice fish.

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My best was a really pretty tiger trout, barely under the 20" mark by a few hairs.

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J didn't have quite as much action as Mark and I, but he made out alright as well. I'm pretty sure all three of us caught the lake's grand slam of species and more little cutthroat than we could dangle a jig at.

Those cutts were biting anything. I joked that it was a game to them, seeing which one could bite the offering first from the shiny hole of light.

Bare jig heads were nipped at even. It was almost ridiculous.

I got an opportunity to try out some plastics that were sent to me by Smokin' Jigz. They worked well. My intention was to try several different colors of the minnows they sent me, but the first one I rigged was so durable that I never had to replace it. Very impressive!

The plastics were softer than what I usually use, but had enough elasticity to stay together, even through aggressive bites and battles. If it slid down the hook, sliding it right back up worked just fine.

I'll be sure to use more of those in the coming weeks!

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Though the fishing was excellent, a severe storm moved in and dropped a lot of snow on us, blowing it in sideways with a vengeance. It was rough going and it chased us off.

The storm made me grateful that we decided to take J's truck, rather than my Sentra. We may have been stranded, otherwise.

The nearby lake with different species was a spot we'd also hoped to fish that day, so I took another little hike to check on its ice status while the others took a sandwich break.

The snow was coming in so hard that I couldn't see more than 100 feet in any direction. What I saw of the lake was open, but we didn't stay to check the fishing. It was a blizzard.

On our way down the mountain, we stopped at a pond with open water for a few minutes. It was too tempting not to, although the wind was terrible and casting was very difficult.
That being said, I still caught a couple of healthy rainbows and a cutthroat before throwing in the towel.

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Once we got off the mountain, we were treated to a wonderful display of "sandscapes" as we rolled along.

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The exposed layers of Earth laid out before us was quite impressive. We're so lucky to live in this incredible state.

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Opting for a longer route home, with more water along the way, we stopped at Millsite Reservoir to try for more splake, tigers, cutts, and rainbows.

Sadly for us, the storm clouds followed us and tormented us with frigid wind and snow/sleet. We were all skunked at Millsite, though both Mark and J had at least a bite.

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It was a brutal finish to a hard day of fishing, but we still wore smiles and stayed in good spirits, recalling the fantastic fishing at our first lake.

As for that, I never got my tube on it and I consider that unfinished business...

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Happy Fishing, Humans.

Some Background...


Why not go jogging, hit the gym, start a garden or whatever it is that normal humans do? What's so fascinating about these slimy little creatures that live in the water?

Fishing is a bit more to me than a hobby or a sport. It's an essential part of life that helps me connect with the Earth in ways similar to the long-practiced traditions of mankind. Wherever man has had a water source, there has been fishing.

It's only natural.

Happy Fishing, Humans.