December 3, 2013

Maiden Voyage to Bear Lake

My quest to catch every game fish in Utah in nearing its end. There are five species left on my list, and one of them is spawning for the next few weeks. The only place Bonneville Whitefish can be found in the world is Bear Lake, and the best time to go after them is right now from both the shore or a boat. They hang out along rocky shoreline in 5-15 feet of water to spawn. While fishing for them, you may pick up a Cutthroat or even a Lake Trout that's looking to score an easy meal.
Roger and I headed out Monday morning to make the three hour drive north in pursuit of Whitefish. We arrived around noon to clouds and a lot of wind. We started out fishing the marina on the West side of the lake. The only thing we caught in the hour we were there was some great views of the clear blue water that Bear Lake is known for.
We decided to drive to the East side of the lake and try fishing Cisco Beach (Bear Lake fishing map). The wind was coming right at us on the side. We found a rocky ledge where the depth dropped quickly. We had to battle 3-4 foot waves crashing along the rocks that would splash us making us colder as we search for this elusive fish. We stayed at this spot for three hours working the shoreline. As we were ready to call it a day, I finally had a bite. The fish took some drag as I yelled to Roger I had a fish. As I got the fish closer to shore, I could see that is was a big Cutthroat. This may sound odd, but I felt both excited at have a good sized fish on, yet a little disappointed that is wasn't the Whitefish I was looking for. The disappointment quickly vanished once I netted the fish and saw how thick it was. The 23 inch tank turned out to be the only fish landed on our first day. We took a few pictures, released it, and headed back to the timeshare to game plan for the next day.
The view driving down the pass into Bear Lake valley.

A view on the East side of the lake looking North toward Cisco Beach.

A chunky 23 inch Bear Lake Cutthroat Trout.

One more picture before being released.
The next day, we woke up and were greeted by snow. It was so much colder than the day before, but on the plus side, we had no wind to deal with. Since the forecast called for snow later in the day, we decided to only fish for a few hours, and then leave early to try to beat the storm through the high mountain passes. We went back to Cisco Beach, and went back to working the shoreline. On my third cast I had a sold hit, but I missed my set. he hit again, and this time I got em! I had a solid fight on my hands, but if felt different than the cutty I caught the previous day. A rush of excitement came over me as I got my first glimpse of what was on the end of my line. It was the fish I had come for! Another minute passed before I netted my first Bonneville Whitefish. There's nothing in the sport of fishing that makes me happier than catching a new species. I felt a "mission accomplished" vibe come over me as Roger snapped a quick picture before releasing the fish back in the water. I was able to land one more before we called it quits. Roger's back was bothering him, so he didn't do a lot of fishing on this trip. He usually out fishes me when we go cat fishing, so maybe he was just trying to let me win one.
If you plan a trip to catch these fish, use 1/8-1/16 oz jigs tipped with a worm or use size 0 or 1 spinners and spoons. White was the color that worked for me on the jigs, but other colors known to work are black, orange, and chartreuse. Let your jig bounce the bottom as you reel it in slowly.

Roger trying his luck at catching a Whitefish.

A nasty snow storm making it's way down the lake to greet us.

My first ever Bonneville Whitefish.

Another species knocked off my list!
 We headed for home, and met the snow storm through the first pass between Bear Lake and Logan. It slowed us down some, but the roads weren't too bad. Along the way, I saw a sign that caught my eye, so I had to stop and see the site. It was a little spring called Rick's Spring just off the road. When we got to Logan we stopped at the prominent landmark which is the Logan LDS Temple completed in 1884. It is an awesome looking building. It's crazy to think it was built with hand tools. After that, We stopped at Bluebird Chocolates. They will be celebrating their 100 year anniversary in 2014, and it is their chocolates that help me bribe my wife into letting me fish all the time. Do yourself a favor and order the cherry cordials and english toffee. It will change your life!
The rest of the drive was a snowy mess. It took an additional two hours to finally make it home. We plan to make the trip again in another month or so when the Bear Lake Whitefish and Bonneville Cisco spawn. These fish are also only found at Bear Lake.

What a difference a day makes.

Apparently this is my spring...

A view of Rick's Spring tucked away in a shallow cave.

The Logan LDS Temple.

Bluebird Chocolates; one way I bribe my wife into letting me fish all the time.

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