It was 50 years ago, but Richard Laub still vividly remembers his first ice-fishing trip, when he developed a love for the sport. He augered at Utah Lake with his father and brother. In a short time, he hooked and reeled in his first fish—a 16-inch white bass. Laub, a Kamas resident, became hooked on ice fishing at that moment.
“They were catching them around us, and I brought that one up,” Laub recalls. “I couldn’t believe how big the white bass was.”
For many Utah residents, ice fishing is more than a sport—it’s a way of life. Enthusiasts circle the winter months on the calendar and embrace sitting atop a frozen lake—often for several hours at a time—to find inspiration for their next good fish story.
George Sommer started fishing with his grandparents when he was 3 years old. Now the president of the Utah Bass Federation, Sommer loves every aspect of ice fishing. The best part, he says, is you are not limited in where you go. There are great fishing spots throughout Utah. Local anglers can find a place for virtually any species of fish they want to catch.
An ice-fishing trip starts with assembling the right gear. Basics include a gas-powered auger to bore a hole through the ice, seats, fishing rods and bait. Most anglers use gear designed for ice fishing, such as an ice-fishing rod, ice flies and wax worms. And just because you’re ice fishing doesn’t mean you have to freeze all day—ice-fishing shelters keep you out of the wind and can actually get quite cozy inside as they heat up from the winter sun.
Going ice fishing requires a current fishing license. Options range from an $8 single-day license to a $26 seasonal license. Other costs hinge on what equipment an angler wants to use on the ice. Buying a rod and reel, fishing line and ice flies costs less than $50 total, but an ice auger can range from $150 to $550. Shelters cost upward of $200.
Anglers can also get technical to increase their chances of catching a fish. Sonar fish-finders, which cost around $100, are a popular option for finding where the fish are.
“A lot of times, when you put your transducer in the water in the hole you are fishing, you can actually see your jig or sinker or whatever you are using ... on the screen,” Laub says. “So if you see the fish go by at 20 feet, you can drop your jig down and you can also see it at 20 feet.”
Safety plays an important role in any ice-fishing outing. It starts with dressing in warm layers to protect your face and body from the wind and cold temperatures. It continues with adequate gear to stay safe on the ice.
Anglers should wear ice cleats to keep from slipping on the ice. They should also carry ice tongs and a rope to pull themselves out of the water in case they fall through the ice.
Sommer recommends that anglers do not go onto ice unless it is at least 4 to 6 inches thick. It is also a good idea not to go alone. Going ice fishing in a group of two or more will make it easier to be rescued if one falls through the ice.
Beyond safety reasons, going in a group makes for good times as you sit, surprisingly snug in your ice shelter. Those unfamiliar with the sport can also learn the ropes from seasoned anglers.
Choosing where to fish depends on what fish an angler wants to catch. Strawberry Reservoir is a popular destination for rainbow and cutthroat trout. Fish Lake is also a popular choice for those types of trout, as well as lake trout and perch.
Flaming Gorge is known for lake trout and kokanee salmon. Utah Lake is a good spot to catch walleye and white bass. Fish Pineview Reservoir for perch, bluegill and crappies.
Whatever lake an angler chooses, ice fishing can become an addictive sport. Once becoming hooked on ice fishing, most find that one fishing trip becomes the first of many outings. %u25C6