Ice fishing destinations near Park City and tips and tricks from DWR

PARK CITY, Utah — Winter can be a long and tedious time for those who don’t ski or snowboard. For every happy day of snowfall, there is the “oh no, I have to shovel my driveway feeling.” Luckily, there are other ways to enjoy the winter months, such as ice fishing, with many available alpine lakes and reservoirs only a short drive away.

A recent release from the Division of Wildlife Resources outlined ten locations ideal for ice fishing, two of which are in Summit County. Echo Reservoir and Rockport Reservoir offer abundant perch and trout to be caught. In Wasatch County, Strawberry Reservoir offers trout and kokanee salmon. In total, there are seven options for ice fishing within roughly two hours of Park City.

“Winter is a good time to go fishing because ice gives everyone the opportunity to walk to the best areas — the places where the fish are hanging out,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Sportfish Coordinator Randy Oplinger said. “It evens the playing field because you can access places that during the summer are only available if you have a boat. Fish are also hungry and active in the winter, and that can make them easier to catch.”

Rainbow Trout and Yellow Perch caught while ice fishing.
Rainbow Trout and Yellow Perch caught while ice fishing. Photo: Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“I recommend looking for structures in or near the water,” Oplinger said. “For example, fishing off points usually works well. You also have to figure out the depth where the fish are hanging out in the water. My suggestion is to start fishing about a foot off the bottom of the lake. If you don’t get any strikes after 10 minutes, then move up about 5 feet. Continue that until you locate where the fish are hanging out. Make sure you know how far you are off the bottom so you can return to the depth once you discover where they are hanging out. Often perch and bluegill hang out near the bottom. Trout are less consistent and can be at a variety of depths.”

DWR suggests that ice fishing is a great experience for kids as hungry perch and bluegill can lead to catching a lot of fish rather quickly. Ice fishing also removes being quiet or stealthy when hunting and allows for enjoying the time spent outdoors as a group.

“Ice fishing also provides a fun time socializing more than other times of the year,” Oplinger said. “During the summer, if you are fly fishing on a river, you typically want more space. But with ice fishing, you can all gather around holes and drink hot chocolate together and chat while you are fishing.”

Ice fishing.
Ice fishing. Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

If you have never tried fly fishing, numerous resources answer a lot of questions one might have. Organizations like Take Me Fishing offer guides for what gear will be needed, ice fishing 101, and techniques for being more successful.

DWR also offers seminars on ice fishing where attendees can be introduced to the sport and gain knowledge about what techniques might work best at specific locations. The next workshop is on January 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the DWR Springville Office. To register in advance, click on this Eventbrite link. Staff from Strawberry Bay Marina will also be providing tips and information about fishing at Strawberry Reservoir in January.

Beyond following the rules, such as everyone age 12 or older having a fishing license, safety is something to consider before heading out onto the ice. Ice must be at least four inches thick for it to be safe. DWR suggests drilling test holes as you venture out onto the ice, as thickness can vary across an entire body of water.

“As an extra precaution, you can also purchase ice safety picks, which can help you get out of a lake if you fall through the ice,” Oplinger said. “I’d recommend taking a rope and a friend or family member with you, if possible. It’s always a good idea to have someone else with you when ice fishing.”

A complete list of ice safety tips can be found on the Utah State Parks website. The Fish Utah map on the DWR website offers advice and updated fishing information on the various waterbodies around the state.

Ice fishing safety guide for ice thickness.
Ice fishing safety guide for ice thickness. Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

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