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Posted by Don on April 4, 2010 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

For me, springtime on Utah Lake means quick, short fishing trips using a small boat ready to go at a moment’s notice, and sharing each adventure with a friend who is just as passionate about catching largemouth bass as I.  Bob Johnson is a neighbor of mine who I met for the first time on the roof of a houseboat parked at the mouth of the San Juan River on Lake Powell a dozen years ago.  Since that time, the two of us have gone to fishing school in the marshes and bays of Utah Lake and have learned to target trophy-sized largemouth bass in a unique and effective way.

In 1999, Bob spent some time fishing with Dee Thomas, a Hall-of-Fame professional angler from California who is known for inventing “flipping”, a method of presenting bass lures in close quarters.  This method, combined with a more widely –accepted presentation called “pitching” were fascinating to Bob and upon his return, he couldn’t wait to teach me how to “flip” and “pitch.”  Since there was precious little bass water available in our area, we decided to tackle many of the reed-filled areas of Utah Lake very close to our homes in west Provo.  That decision changed both of our lives.

Pitching became our favorite bass presentation, and Utah Lake became our favorite bass water.  Pitching is simply an underhand throw that looks more like a pendulum swinging more than it does an actual “cast.”  Pitching allows anglers to move quickly through likely bass haunts, covering water much more efficiently than other methods.  Once we mastered the technique we began catching a lot of fish.  There were days that we caught and released dozens of 3-plus-pound bass in just a few hours on the lake.

Another reason for our success was the choice of fishing rods.  We purchased rods called “pitching sticks” that still come in various sizes but have similar features.  A heavy-action rod, pitching sticks are between 7’ 6” and 8 feet in length after using a built-in telescoping extension.  This type of rod enables us to hook and hold large fish that fall for our presentations in very close quarters – sometimes just a few feet from the end of our rods.

The final reason for our continued success our choice of baits.  Bob introduced me to a bait called a “Brush Hog,” a creature bait Dee Thomas successfully used on the California Delta, near Stockton, CA.  Over the course of several years we altered our bait choices to include a unique blue/black jig that looks like the crawdads in Utah Lake.  For close to 10 years we have used the same baits with surprisingly consistent results.

 Very recently, Bob and I once again found ourselves on Utah Lake when the air temperature was still in the 30s.  Though we didn’t really expect to catch many fish with the water and the air still very cold, we were both itching to see how our bass had wintered.  After just an hour of pitching our blue/black jigs, we had landed three beautiful largemouth bass, and had missed another three massive strikes.  Though the fishing wasn’t fast and furious by our standards, the companionship was great, and the promise of the coming warm weather had us looking at our Google calendars to plan our next trip.

Don’t let the spring pass you by without checking out the great fishing available right here on Utah Lake.  From walleyes and catfish to white bass and largemouth bass, there is a fish for almost any angler.

Posted by Don on March 21, 2010 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

After a long, cold, and wet winter that included ice covering several bays in the Hite area, Lake Powell is finally warming up and promises incredible recreational opportunities in 2010. The lake level is nearly 10 feet higher than at this time last year, and with the upstream snowpack at close to 100 percent of average, water levels are predicted to rise to near 10-year highs by mid summer.
A few friends and I spent a couple of days on Lake Powell this past week and although a cold, brisk wind continually reminded us that spring was still slowly creeping its way into the southern Utah, we found the scenery spectacular, the solitude refreshing, and the fishing – well, it had a little way to go to keep up with the rest of it.
Aramark, Lake Powell’s current concessionaire, has just reopened the Defiance Lodge at Bullfrog for the 2010 season and there is a real excitement in the air. Some of the contractors working with the company told me they will be remodeling some of the lodging and will be increasing the availability of houseboat rentals and storage.
Perhaps the most important change to the entire Lake Powell experience will be passing through the mandatory decontamination booth in operation near the boat ramps. These facilities are manned by employees of the Forest Service, and oversee the certification of every boat entering the lake. The quagga and zebra mussel threat to Utah waters precipitated the need for decontamination facilities all over the lake. Before you launch this year, you must either have your boat professionally cleaned at one of the decontamination facilities, or you must certify that your boat has been cleaned and allowed to dry for a minimum of five days before launching. It is hoped that these extra precautions will stop the spread of the invasive mussels, and the penalties for not getting your boat certified are quite prohibitive. Not displaying a certification on the dashboard of your vehicle can be punishable by a $5000.00 dollar fine among other charges. Officials aren’t fooling around. They mean business.
Due to the new certification requirements, the boat ramps, for the first time in my memory, will also hold to business hours. At Bullfrog, for example, the ramp opens at 7:00 a.m. and closes at 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and 9:00 p.m. on weekends.
DWR officials predict that the fishing for 2010 will be the best anglers have experienced in many, many years. The shad population is strong which translates into fat, healthy stripers, walleyes, bass, crappies, and catfish. Even now, the walleyes are finishing their spawn and are beginning to bite. The stripers are holding in stained water in the backs of canyons. They will respond to small minnow baits like Pointer Minnows or Rapalas. The largemouth bass are chasing jigs and spinnerbaits in water between two and eight feet deep. And, the smallmouth bass are just beginning to come up out of their winter haunts.
Lake Powell attracts recreational boaters and anglers like a magnet, and 2010 promises more of what attracts people to America’s Wonderland than we’ve seen in a decade. Take some time to reintroduce yourself to the beauties that await you just a few short hours southeast of the Wasatch Front.

Posted by Don on March 6, 2010 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

Flaming Gorge is a fantastic fishery — perhaps the finest Utah has to offer.  But wildlife biologists such as Ryan Mosley of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, in conjunction with his counterparts on the Wyoming side of the state line, are truly walking a tight rope.  While taking a few hours to show me how to catch some “pup” lake trout through the ice last Saturday, Mosely and I spoke about the reservoir’s future.

“There is no question,” said Mosely, “that most anglers who come here during the summer months are trying to catch kokanee salmon.  That means we feel some pressure to provide them a quality experience.  We are attempting to increase the numbers of kokanee, but are facing some challenges as we pursue this goal.  Flaming Gorge is also a trophy-class lake trout fishery and those big 25- to 40-pounders eat a lot of Kokanee salmon.  So, not only do anglers target kokanee but so do lake trout.”

Adding to this complicated equation is the ever-expanding burbot population.  These “freshwater cod” have, in a handful of years, spread throughout the reservoir.  They are aggressive, opportunistic feeders that gorge themselves on the eggs and fry of both kokanee salmon and lake trout.

“We really don’t know what to do with the burbot,” continued Mosely.  “We’d like to slow their expansion as best we can, though I’m afraid they’re here to stay. They will eat almost anything, but, there is some hope. This past season we finally found burbot in the stomachs of lake trout, which made us feel a little better.  Maybe the lake trout will help anglers keep them in check.”

Meanwhile, anglers must keep and kill all burbot they catch.  Anglers target burbot in the evenings and those who have become burbot specialists routinely catch several quality fish each time they take to the ice. Jigs tipped with sucker meat are among the most popular burbot baits.

“Some people wonder why we’ve raised the limit on smaller lake trout (8 fish with only one over 28 inches),” Mosely said, as he pulled a 20-incher through the ice.  “Smaller lake trout are stuck in a forage bottleneck.   There are too many of them to continue to grow and become trophy-quality.  While they’re smaller, say under 25 inches long, they mostly eat zooplankton.  But eventually, they must expand their forage in order to continue to grow.  It’s one of our goals to harvest more lake trout under 25 inches so eventually some of them will break through the forage barrier and become trophies.”

Of course, if biologists succeed with the lake trout, there will be more huge fish with their eyes squarely set on eating more kokanee.  And, fishery managers like Mosely realize their high wire act will most likely continue long into the future.  “Not only are we trying to improve the kokanee population, we’re also stocking more rainbows,” he said.  “Forage will always be a struggle for Flaming Gorge, but at the end of the day, I’m an optimist.  In the meantime, this is still a great place to fish.”  

Check out some photos of lake trout and burbot at www.heraldextra.com , and good luck with your fishing.

Posted by Don on February 22, 2010 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

February 22, 2010

Readers sometimes get frustrated when they ask my advice on when, where, and how to catch fish through the ice. I tell them exactly what to do, the baits to use, the depths to try, and the structure to use to target the fish, but sometimes they still come up empty? Why?
The answer lies in a simple but powerful word, PATIENCE. Ice fishing is a wonderful yet perplexing sport. At other times in a year, trout will jump out of the water to let anglers know where they are and that they are ready and willing to bite. But under the ice, fish don’t jump, so anglers have a difficult time locating active fish. “I just bought this underwater camera,” said Brian McKane of West Valley recently. “I haven’t even seen a fish.” Fish finders, video cameras and other devices seem to be the answer for finding fish in the winter, but don’t be too quick to judge. Although McKane didn’t see a single fish on his camera, within 20 minutes four nice rainbows were caught by members of his group within a few yards of his camera. Once again, I ask the question, why?
In the winter, trout like to travel in schools. They move from shallow to deep looking for food. Unlike warm water species, trout remain active most of the time. So, having patience with ice fishing doesn’t mean you need to stay in one spot all day long just in case the school should pass by, it simply means you should have a game plan in place to locate the fish using logic instead of relying entirely on your fish finders.
Trout just like most other species like to live near or pass by main-lake points and will move up and down in the water column targeting their ever-changing food sources. Learning what water depth is best for fish on a given day might require anglers to drill several “test” holes to locate the best population of fish. Try starting in six feet of water. Then drill in 10 feet, then 15, and so on until you reach 32 feet. This is where patience comes in. You must test each of the holes until you begin to get bites. You don’t need to spend more than 20 minutes per site, but patiently work through the area and most of the time you will find the correct water depth for the given day.


Last Saturday on Deer Creek, I watched a group of anglers from Mapleton and West Valley catch some quality fish using ice flies tipped with wax worms. They didn’t all catch fish at once, but the school methodically moved through the water column and targeted each of their offerings a few minutes after one another. It was a lot of fun to watch.
Don’t give up on winter quite yet. Ice fishing will actually be at its best within a few weeks. Remember to be patient, and most importantly, enjoy Utah’s winter wonderland with family and friends. For more detailed information about ice fishing and to see more photos taken on the ice, visit www.heraldextra.com.

Posted by Don on February 22, 2010 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

February 22, 2010

Most anglers pass through several stages in their fishing lives, and I am no different. When ice fishing was a new concept here in Utah, I was “Donnie on the spot,” excited be able to fish in the wintertime, and spent a lot of time learning the sport. Then, when I began writing about fishing, and had many opportunities to ice fish with some of the sport’s best anglers, I admittedly became a little spoiled. If I wasn’t catching five or six trout an hour, I quickly lost interest. Now, having passed through the “excited” phase and although I still love to catch fish through the ice, the commitment necessary to actually gather the gear, load the truck, head to the lake, unload the gear, haul it out on the ice, drill the holes, locate the fish, and then catch a few, for me translates into fewer and fewer trips each year.
A reader recently asked me my advice on where take some boy scouts ice fishing. Happy to share the most current information I had, I directed him to Deer Creek. He emailed me a week or so later telling me he and his scouts had a great time and the group caught several nice fish. Last Saturday, after having passed by Deer Creek Reservoir several times this month, my curiosity got the best of me and I just had to stop and get a first-hand ice fishing report.
The day was beautiful, with temperatures close to or just above freezing. I encountered a little slush as I stepped onto the ice from the shore, and as my feet broke through the ice in about six inches of water, I wished I had brought a board to put down as a bridge across the slush. Once on the ice I located a group of anglers about 200 yards off shore. “No, we haven’t caught a thing,” said Brian McKane of West Valley, in response to the age old question, “Having any luck?” “We haven’t even seen a fish on our fish finders or our fish camera,” he continued. “We’re wondering if there are any fish at all in the lake.”
“Wait a second,” said Leslie Glabraith of Mapleton, from the comfort of her a lawn chair, “isn’t this just about perfect? What a great day to be here!” And, she was right. Being on a frozen lake on a warm day and spending time with family and friends – that’s my idea of fun too. “And,” she continued, “I can’t think of a better place to be today.”
I explained to the group that the trout usually school during this time of the winter and that they usually make the rounds in water from around six feet deep all the way down to 30 feet. I told them to be patient and I moved on.

Posted by Don on February 7, 2010 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

When Gary Winterton of “Hooked on Utah” invited me to accompany him on a little fly fishing adventure to the Green River last week, little did we realize that a wading trip would quickly turn into a full-blown float trip through the “A” section of the Green River from just under Flaming Gorge Dam to Little Hole.

After meeting Eric Manwaring and Rodney Kirk of Thunderstick Hunting Preserve, while on a late-season elk hunt, I told Manwaring of our plans to fish the “Green.”  “My little brother is a guide on the river,” he said.  “I’m sure he’d love to take you guys on a float trip.”  And, before you could rig up a rod and reel, the date was set and last Thursday we met at the Flaming Gorge Resort, and were treated to a day on the water with guides Spencer Manwaring, Kevin Clegg, and Shane White.

“February is a little hit-and-miss” said Spencer Manwaring as we prepared to launch his drift boat. “It’s dependent on weather, and we’re about a month away from the river really turning on.”  Winterton and I were just happy to be floating instead of wading in the cold, winter water, and were excited to see what the day would produce. Winterton fished a ginger streamer and I experimented with several different techniques with a spinning rig.  Although I have fly fished all my life, a shoulder injury a dozen years ago still keeps me from using a fly rod for long periods of time.

The weather was perfect and we soon began catching fish.  Winterton, in the front of the boat, struck first with a beautiful 16-inch brown, while I eventually caught a nice rainbow on a black wooly bugger rigged on a drop shot.  We took turns most of the day with ginger being the most popular color of the trip.  We both found our fish near the bank early in the day.  They wanted our flies right on or very near the bottom.  I switched to a 1/8-ounce jig to insure I was fishing near the bottom.

I can’t say enough about our guide.  Spencer Manwaring handled the drift boat like a pro and knew how to read the water as well as I’ve experienced before.  He recognized where the fish wanted to hold and put us right on top of the best water. “Sometimes the fish want to be in the shade and sometimes they want the sun,” he said.  “Today, it appears they like the shade.”

After catching a couple of dozen trout from 14 to 18 inches in length, we exited the river under the watchful eye of a bald eagle from his perch in a nearby tree.  February is a great time to be on the Green River.  There are no crowds, the fishing is great, and the Flaming Gorge Resort stands ready to provide shuttle service, guides, and accommodations at special winter rates.  Contact them at 1-877-FG-TROUT or online at www.FlamingGorgeResort.com.

Posted by Don on July 20, 2009 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

We live in a wonderful part of Utah.   Reservoirs provide great opportunities to spend quality time with family and friends while cooling off during the hot, hot summer.  However, every year boating accidents take several lives, and I believe most are preventable.

For some reason, people don’t believe they need to wear a life jacket when their main motors are running.  This is a huge mistake!  Tournament bass anglers must wear their life jackets whenever the big motor is operating and I can tell you first-hand that some of my closest fishing buddies wouldn’t be alive today if it were not for that rule.  So many things can happen to a boat while it’s moving through the water, any of which could turn a fun day into a tragic one in the blink of an eye.

Here is a partial list of hazards to consider before you leave your life jackets in the storage compartment:

  1.  The propeller could break or shear.  This happened to a friend this spring on the Columbia River in Washington.  Even with his life jacket on, he spent the night in the hospital after being thrown from his boat.
  2. The boat could hit a hidden object.  Another friend hit a submerged log and split his hull, throwing him and his partner out of the boat and knocking both of them unconscious.   But because they wore great life jackets, they floated safely until they were rescued.
  3. Shallow reefs could cause a quick turn thus capsizing the boat.  I’ve watched this happen at Lake Powell quite often.  Boaters fail to notice the change in water color indicating shallow water before it’s too late.  A quick turn of the wheel and the boat capsizes on top of the reef.
  4. High wind or waves could swamp the boat.  At a bass tournament earlier this year, my partner and I were idling out of the marina area at Bullfrog when a friend turned too sharp, hit a wave and he and his companion were thrown from their boat.  We arrived on the scene in less than a minute and both anglers’ life jackets had deployed and though they were shaken up, they were still alive and relatively well.

With new-age styles of life jackets readily available on the market, I can’t think of a single reason not to use them whenever you’re enjoying our many lakes and reservoirs. They’re thin yet effective, light weight yet durable.  Please consider changing your ways if you’re a person who doesn’t use a jacket.  Never forget that boating safety begins with you and me.

Posted by Don on June 8, 2009 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

After receiving several emails from anxious readers wondering why the white bass run stopped as abruptly as it began, I decided to offer an alternate fishing opportunity while there is still too much water entering Utah Lake.  White bass will still be caught in the lower Provo River but not until the runoff decreases.  But don’t stay at home, high water offers another fishing opportunity.

When the lakes floods, fish move to the shallows and take over newly-flooded areas.  So, in the case of Utah Lake, any patch of reeds near the lake or near any inlet or outlet will hold both mud and channel cats.  And, since this is their pre-spawn period, catfish are ready to bite and are waiting for your bait.

Several reports from anglers point to a burgeoning catfish bite from Lincoln Beach and Bird Island to Mud Lake and the east side of the lake through Provo and Orem.  Let’s take a look at how to target catfish while the lake is high.

First, from the shore, I recommend wearing some chest or hip waders and finding small open pockets of water in and around a patch of reeds.  Don’t be too concerned with water depth but I like water between a foot and four feet deep. Then, rig your line with either a large treble hook (number 2) or an EWG (extra wide gap) 3/0 worm hook 24 inches below a swivel and an oval slip weight (number six or eight) or a large bobber.  If you prefer using a bobber, place a couple of small split shot weights about six to eight inches above the hook so you bait will stay near the bottom.  Finally, use worms, shrimp, or white bass meat as bait.

Always remember when fishing for catfish that they are very aggressive and will come from great distances to find your bait.  Don’t stay in the same area for long periods of time if you aren’t getting bites.  Move around until the fish find you.

When fishing from a boat, always anchor your boat and if you have a fish finder, try to locate a trough or a depression in the bottom.  It doesn’t have to be huge, but if you find a ledge that goes from 1 to three feet of water, that would be a good place to look for fish.  Always keep in mind that early mornings and late evenings and on through the night will be the best times to catch some keeper cats.

This pattern should hold through August and should peak in July.  Good Fishing!

Posted by Don on August 17, 2008 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

After a 30-year hiatus Orrin Olsen and his son Grant joined me for a day and a half of fishing on Flaming Gorge last week.  Orrin and I were friends in high school and had some great times on Strawberry in the early ‘70s.  We went our separate ways after high school and we hadn’t seen each other in person for over three decades.

It was fitting that our first reunion was to be a fishing trip, and our excitement was palpable as we traveled to Manila, Utah.  The weather was perfect, my boat functioned well, we located large fish on my finders, but we didn’t boat a single lake trout.  We had our share of hits, to be sure, but we simply couldn’t get the fish to the boat. 

For me, figuring out the specifics of a certain “bite” is one of the reasons I love to fish.  I think the challenge of conquering their eating behaviors keeps me coming back to a lake over and over again until I’ve seen the fish in all types of feeding situations.  But last week I was completely baffled.  We had one small chance at recognizing and then setting the hook after each bite.  No fish came back for seconds.  It was as if the fish had little interest in eating.  Sometimes when bass are spawning they will “nudge” or “nose” the bait but not strike.  Although the lake trout spawn is still a couple of months away, I couldn’t help thinking they were behaving in a similar manner.

Orrin’s son Grant was focused on catching a larger lake trout.  He stayed with a jigging technique for hours on end, patiently following my instructions and waiting for that one special fish – that never came. At noon, after most of the other lake trout anglers had gone to the dock for a siesta, I asked my companions if they wanted to catch a few smallmouth bass.  They both agreed and we shifted gears.  From large, heavy tubes, we switched tackle to include small topwater lures and smaller tubes.  From the instant we began searching the shorelines for active fish we began catching beautiful, healthy “smallies.”

Orrin and Grant both caught their largest smallmouth bass (over 2 pounds each) and Orrin caught his first bass on a topwater lure.  Although the lake trout where a disappointment, the smallmouth sincerely made our trip.

Sometimes shifting gears to try for another species of fish can turn a frustrating outing to a spectacular one.   We’ll try for lake trout again, I’m sure, but our reunion memories will include catching some fat, aggressive smallmouth bass.

Posted by Don on June 1, 2008 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


By Don Allphin

White bass in huge numbers are making their way up the inlet streams surrounding Utah Lake this week.  Though their size is on average a little small, their numbers are so great that anglers are enjoying the action regardless of size.

My son Don Jr. enjoys taking his young daughters to the Provo River this time of year and teaching them to fish while they can catch a fish on almost every cast. “The girls were able to catch fish all by themselves,” Don says. “We caught over 150 fish in just a few hours.”

One of the problems teaching children to fish is getting them over the enjoyment hump.  They must catch a few fish so they don’t become bored with the process.  Taking children fishing during the white bass run is a sure-fire way to get them excited about fishing while teaching them specific angling techniques that can be applied to other species as well.

I find that a small, white or chartreuse crappie jig (1/16th ounce) is perfect right now.  In addition, small spinners with silver blades work extremely well.  Remember to use in-line spinners so the profile remains small.  As I walk the bank I see a dozen different baits being used by a dozen different anglers.  This is a great time to fish.

Specifically with children it is important to concentrate on both the cast and the retrieve.  White bass continually move up and down rivers or streams; they swim in tight schools this time of year and are easily visible using your Cocoon polarized sunglasses.  Once a school is located make sure your child can cast directly into the school.  I sometimes watch parents allow their children to cast their lines in any direction just to keep them occupied.  When fishing for white bass, this is a mistake.  White bass will hold in the shade, and near structure. They love current but also enjoy the edges of current.  Teach your children where the fish are holding and then encourage them to cast to these spots.

 I find that retrieving jigs or spinners in a slow, consistent manner will entice more strikes than “burning” the bait or “yo-yoing.”  At times bass like to follow baits before deciding to bite.  A slow, consistent speed on the retrieve will attract several bass that will eventually compete for the presentation.

The problem with the spring white bass run is that it is unpredictable in length.  The run has been in full swing now for about a week.  So, take advantage right now and let a child get in on this bass bonanza.

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