By Dave Webb
I've been hearing reports of fantastic fishing at Minersville Reservoir. "We caught fish until our arms were tired." That kind of stuff. Reports of big fish lots of rainbows pushing 20 inches. Almost too good to be true. So I decided to check the place out for myself.
I went down on a rainy, windy Thursday afternoon, April 28, fished that evening and the next morning, and came away impressed. Minersville has become a great fishery. It's on its way to trophy status. The rainbows are fat and healthy and growing fast. Fish that are pushing 20 inches now will be 23-24 inches this fall. Big and getting bigger.
Many times you have to choose between fast action and big fish. I know a couple dozen waters where you can catch small rainbows until you grow tired of them. But if you try a water with big fish you often have to go hours between bites. Not so at Minersville. The action is fast, with plenty of 3-15 inches keeping you busy between the big ones. And the 13 inchers fight well because they are so fat and healthy. They often explode into the air once or twice, trying to throw the hook, as you play them in.
Minersville is a wonderful reservoir for a float tube or canoe. It's small and accessible, with several coves which can be reached in a 2-wheel drive high clearance vehicle, so you don't have to hike or paddle to get away from the marina. (There is a nice paved boat ramp at the state park so you can put fishing or ski boats on the water.)
A good fly fisherman in a float tube can catch a lot of fish in an evening - 20 would not be unusual. Olive leach patterns have worked well, along with wooly buggers, wooly worms, damsel flies, renegades - the fish here haven't been picky. Put something just under the surface and you will get hits.
But you don't need to be a good fly fisherman to catch fish at Minersville. The reservoir is kind to kids and beginners. Use your spinning outfit and put a fly behind a casting bubble, or just pinch on a couple split shots above the fly. Cast out and reel in slowly.
Sometimes people ask us to tell them how to catch fish without lots of expensive equipment. I chose the low-tech approach for this trip. No float tube, no fish finder, no fancy fly gear. Just a canoe and spinning rods. Ok, we have a trolling motor on the canoe, but we could have paddled easily.
I had kids with me (my 5-year-old daughter, Xanthe, and Russell Davis, 15). We started around the top end of the reservoir, holding pretty tight to shore. I was casting an olive leach pattern and quickly hooked a 15-incher.
I had tied a Needlefish (chartreuse, with orange spots) on Xanthe's line and let her hold the pole while the lure trolled behind the canoe. After a few minutes she started to get excited.
"Something's pulling, Dad. Dad! Help, Dad!"
I raised her rod into the air and a powerful fish struggled against it. I held the rod while she turned the reel. The drag would sing and line would go out, but she keep reeling and reeling and reeling. Finally the fish came alongside the canoe and I lifted it out of the water. A good 19 incher.
"My fish is bigger than yours," she sang as we watched it swim away.
A few minutes later she hooked another fish. I quickly reeled in my line and leaned my rod against the side of the canoe so I could help, letting my fly dangle over the side into the water.
I held Xanthe's rod while she reeled. A couple minutes later my rod leaped out of the canoe and was gone. I don't know whether Xanthe kicked it or a fish grabbed the fly and took off. It was a sweet little ultra-light. Oh well.
Xanthe volunteered to share, and she did let me hold the rod for a minute or two, now and then.
Xanthe hooked another on the needlefish a few minutes later.
That chartreuse needlefish, with orange spots, is the most productive rainbow getter I've ever fished with. It almost always takes fish, whether worked just under the surface or trolled deep behind a downrigger. It was certainly hot this trip.
When a lure is hot like that, I like to test it against other lures fished the same way. I gave the needlefish to Russell and experimented with different lures on Xanthe's line. I grease them all with Smelly Jelly (who knows if it helps), and we pulled them around the reservoir. We tried a Mepps and a Panther Martin and a Tripleteazer, in various colors. Nothing worked as well as the needlefish.
Until I tied on a small, single tailed glow-in-the-dark grub, on a 1/16 oz. orange jig head. Those rainbows attacked the thing, often hitting again and again until a fish finally hooked itself. I was surprised. I've got to try the little jig up at Strawberry and Flaming Gorge.
We thought the best action would come close to shore. The fish were shallow, gorging on Mayflies (which were all over the place). But the best action seemed to be out in the middle.
As the weather warms the fish will go deeper, and action will slow a bit. But that probably won't happen until July, and even then you will be able to take fish in the coves in the early morning and evening hours. Trolling deep should also be productive during the summer.
If I was going to fish from a tube I would drive around the dam and then over the hill to the north shore, where you can easily reach several coves.
We were there on a Thursday evening, and there was only one other party fishing. On Friday morning we had the reservoir all to ourselves. By the time we left Friday afternoon there were two boats and a float tube on the water. I'm sure there are more fishermen on weekends, and that pressure will pick up as the weather warms.
Xanthe caught seven fish total, and is convinced she is the best little fisher-girl in the world. She enjoyed telling us, over and over, that she caught the biggest and the most. She thought it was a pretty good adventure, and wants to go back. So do my other kids.