By Dave Webb
If you want to see a star show, try camping out at Fish Lake on a clear, crisp moonless fall night. I camped there on October 12 and I've never seen the stars bigger or brighter. On top of the mountain, at an elevation of 8,843 feet, away from the city lights, the Milky Way stretched across the entire sky and the shooting stars seeming to come right at us; the star show alone was worth the trip.
Very good fishing added to the joy of the outing. And the area's wildlife provided a wonderful show of its own. We saw at least a dozen deer feeding along the eastern shoreline of the lake in the early morning, a two-point elk along the roadway at dusk (this while elk hunters swarmed the hillsides) and several large hawks patrolling the meadows.
Fish Lake is an exceptional recreation spot -- a treasure with something for everyone.
Fishing at the deep, natural lake is generally good year-round. The lake is considered one of the best in Utah for ice fishing -- the big splake in particular cooperate well with ice fishermen and provide exciting action which generally begins around Christmas time. A few lake trout and plenty of rainbows and perch add variety to the fishery.
We hoped to find a few big lake trout as they moved toward spawning beds, so we started out trolling along the east side. We saw a few scattered fish in deeper water, but nothing we could really target. So we moved over to the edge of the weeds and enjoyed good action.
The weeds have become a key feature at Fish Lake. A ring of pesky millfoil extends 20-50 yards out from shore in most areas around the lake. The weeds are thick; they provide an almost impenetrable fortress for yellow perch, which have become very abundant in the lake. Find a hole in the millfoil, or fish along the edge of the weed ring, and you can usually catch perch all day long. But rainbows, splake and lake trout all come in along the weeds, and so you are never sure what you will catch.
In general, rainbows and perch inhabit the upper part of the water column, splake are deeper (often down around 40 feet), and lake trout are deeper still, often down near the bottom in water 80 or more feet deep. Big fish, in particular, seem to follow this pattern. But, where there is a rule there is an exception. At Fish Lake you can catch any species at any depth, any time of the year. In the spring and fall in particular, big fish sometimes forage up closer to the surface.
We were drifting with the wind, working jigs along the edge of the weeds. The water was about 20 feet deep when we started the run, but it quickly became more shallow as the wind pushed us slowly along. The water was crystal clear; we could easily see the bottom. At a depth of about 12 feet we saw a bunch of small fish in against the weeds. We could see that the majority were perch, but there were a few rainbows present. We flipped a jig over near them, and a little perch darted over to investigate. Like lightning, out of nowhere, a 14-inch splake dashed in and smacked the jig as we watched in amazement.
My son, Aaron, put a red-and-white Dardevil on his line and cast along the edge of the weeds. On the first cast a surprisingly heavy fish hit hard and gave him a battle. When he finally got it in we discovered it was an 18-inch lake trout. A surprise indeed, since he was casting into water that was not more than 10 feet deep.
14-inch splake and 18-inch lake trout are pretty common at Fish Lake. They are fun to catch, but to win bragging rights you really need to catch splake 18 inches or bigger, and macks at least 25-inches long. The big macks are hard to come by, but if you work at it, if you put in enough time on the water, you will catch your share of big fish.
Our best action came on the north end of the lake, near the channel that separates the main lake from Widgeon Bay.
Before heading to Fish Lake be sure to get a copy of our detailed map which shows water depths, campgrounds and other features. It's essential, if you want to get to know this lake.
Fish Lake is a great fall and winter fishery.