Ice fishing for yellow perch

Utah waterbodies with great ice fishing for yellow perch

SALT LAKE CITY — If you don’t ski or snowboard, winter in Utah can feel never-ending. But another great way to get outdoors is embarking on an afternoon or weekend of ice fishing.

There are a lot of options in Utah when it comes to ice fishing. Targeting yellow perch is a great way to narrow down the list. Yellow perch are often an easy species to catch through the ice, which can make fishing for them a fun family outing in the winter.

“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. “Fish are also hungry and active in the winter, and that can make them easier to catch.”

Here are some waterbodies in Utah that offer great ice fishing for yellow perch. The waterbodies are also large, so it’s easy to spread out and social distance:

  • Fish Lake: The perch are typically small, but you can catch a lot of them at this waterbody in south-central Utah. Perch fishing at the lake is so good that there’s an annual Fish Lake Perch Tournament.. Located in Sevier County, this waterbody also offers rainbow trout, lake trout and splake. Recent gillnet surveys show the size and number of lake trout in Fish Lake has increased.

  • Big Sandwash Reservoir: Located in eastern Utah in Duchesne County, this waterbody offers rainbow trout and bluegill, in addition to perch.

  • Mantua Reservoir: Located in northern Utah in east Box Elder County, this waterbody offers perch as well as bluegill and rainbow trout.

  • Pineview Reservoir: Located in northern Utah in Weber County, this waterbody offers both perch and crappie.

  • Rockport Reservoir: Located in Summit County, this waterbody is within a state park. In addition to perch, it offers rainbow trout.

  • Echo Reservoir: Also located in Summit County, this waterbody is part of a state park. It offers rainbow trout, in addition to perch.

Oplinger says perch are a great species for kids and new ice anglers to fish for because you can catch a lot of them through the ice. “These waters also offer rainbow trout, and Mantua and Big Sandwash offer bluegill,” he said. “Rainbow trout and bluegill are two additional species you can catch in large numbers. Luckily, they take baits and lures similar to those used for perch."

Tips to help you be successful while ice fishing

Once a waterbody freezes over in the winter, fish often stay near the bottom of the lake. Because of that, a good recommendation is to start fishing with your lure about a foot off the bottom. If you aren’t getting strikes, try reeling your lure up and setting it at different depths. Fish finders can be helpful in determining where the fish are. Also, if anglers around you are catching fish, don’t hesitate to ask them the depth at which they’re fishing.

While many fish species still fight as hard under the ice as they do in open water, some species have a more subtle strike, so you have to carefully watch the tip of your rod to know if you’re getting bites. Adding a device called a spring bobber to the end of your fishing rod can help you detect these subtle bites.

You can catch any fish species through the ice, and any time of day can be good for ice fishing.

“The best way to prepare for ice fishing is to make sure you are dressed warmly for the colder weather and to make sure all your equipment is ready,” Oplinger said. “If you are new to the sport, you can get additional tips and recommendations from fellow anglers, employees at tackle stores or online. It’s always a good idea to check local fishing reports as well.”

Safety recommendations

A general safety recommendation is to not step on the ice unless it is at least 4 inches thick. Keep in mind, though, that ice thickness can vary across a lake. If you see the ice is 4 inches thick in one spot, don't assume it’s 4 inches thick across the entire lake. Be sure to drill test holes into the ice as you venture onto it. You should also avoid putting large groups of people and equipment in a small area — spread the weight out.

“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 also recommend taking a rope with you. It’s always a good idea to have someone else with you when ice fishing.”

Find more ice safety tips on the Utah State Parks website.