First published in June, 1998
From the reports we're getting about Strawberry, we'd have to say fishing there is pretty darn good right now. That means success is down a bit from the incredible level anglers enjoyed last year but Strawberry is still one of the best trout waters in the Western United States.
During the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about management at Strawberry. The issue, in our opinion, hinges on two questions: "How's the fishing now and what's the prognosis for the future." We're pleased to report that Strawberry is fishing well right now. With sterile rainbows again being stocked in the water, Strawberry should stay very good through the foreseeable future.
Very few rainbows are being caught at Strawberry this year. When a rainbow is caught you can count on it being big and fat. But the good news is some of the older cutthroats in the lake are starting to get chunky. In years past the cutts have been long, healthy but slender. This year we are seeing some cutts with a decent girth.
Shane Dkyster, who guides on Strawberry Bay Marina, expects to see a lake record cutthroat caught at Strawberry sometime during the next few years. That's certainly a possibility. The lake record is 26 pounds, 8 ounces. Cutts up to 17 pounds are now showing up. In a couple more years. . . .
So, debate if you must but do it while tubing or trolling at the Berry!
We asked Shane to provide some tips for summer fishing at Strawberry. Shane runs Mountain West Outfitters and guides for Strawberry Bay Marina. He also guides on private trophy trout ponds that are just a short drive from Salt Lake City. He can be reached at 801-786-0930. People calling from outside Utah can dial toll-free at 1-888-669-3832.
Where to fish
Indian Creek Bay is Shane's choice if he is after large fish. If he wants to catch a bunch of fish he'll work the Soldier Creek side, particularly the area near the mouth of the Narrows.
As the heat of summer sets in the fish will move deeper. On windy, wavy, stormy days (which is much of the time at Strawberry) then work the coves staying about 30-40 yards off shore. Waves will create a kind of eddie current in toward shore which stirs up worms and aquatic live. The fish come into those areas to feed.
There are underwater springs in the Indian Creek area which attract big fish. Water conditions are favorable near the springs - the water is cooler and carries more oxygen. One very productive spring is located one mile due south of the restrooms at Haws Point. Other springs are located toward the back of Indian Creek Bay. A map that shows underwater features is important to help you locate the springs. A good sonar unit also really helps.
When to fish
Early morning is the most consistent time to fish. The best fishing is over by the time the sun gets up. Dusk is also a very good time. But action can be very good through the day at Strawberry, especially on cloudy on windy days. (Wind creates wave action that breaks up the sunlight.)
Black-and-olive woolly buggers are standard fare at Strawberry. Shane says he likes to experiment with variations and that an olive body with black hackle works very well.
A pure black woolly bugger and a red body with gray hackle can also be effective. Size six is a good choice for woolly buggers. Shane puts one bb-sized shot on his leader just in front of the eye of the hook.
Many people use a sinking line at Strawberry but Shane said he seems to do better with a standard floating fly line. He uses eight feet of 25-pound-test leader and then three feet of 3X-tippet material. A tapered leader also works well but is far more expensive.
Experiment with various movements until you find what the fish respond to. Shane says he casts out, takes in any slack, the just lets the bugger sink for a full minute. Then he will begin to retrieve. He usually starts with slow, steady strips. If that doesn't produce then he will experiment with different speeds and jerking motions.
Last July there was a big Mayfly hatch at Strawberry, which provided good surface action. Irrestibles, in size 14, worked well. The secret last year was a perfect dead drift, Shane said. The insects are coming to the top to dry off their wings. They just sit on the water motionless. Cast out, take in slack, then let it sit.
If fishing is slow then change patterns often. Shane says if he knows he's putting a fly in front of fish and they are not responding he will change flies every 15 minutes until he finds something that works.
Spinners often work well at Strawberry, particularly late in the evening. Cast them in toward shore and work them back to your boat. Or troll. Sonar and a downrigger or weighted line can help you get a spinner down to where fish are concentrated, but Shane said they also work well trolled on monofiliment just under the surface. His favorites include:
- Silver Panther Martin
- Panther Martin with black blade and yellow body
- Rainbow Roostertail
- Chartreuse Roostertail
- Rainbow Dardevil
- Krocodile with silver on one side and chartreuse on the other
Powerbait is very popular at Strawberry but Shane says good old worms often catch more fish. They are particularly good when fished near the mouths of streams or over underwater springs.
Cast your bait out and just let it sit there. When your line starts moving then give your rod a jerk.
A rig which lets the bait suspend just off the bottom can be very effective. Put a mini-marshmallow on the hook with your worm to help it float up off the bottom. Powerbait floats by itself and so extra help is not needed.
Shane has been guiding fishermen for five years. "The cutts are noticeable fatter this year," he said. "I've caught some which take you to the bottom three or four times and give you burns on your hands from the fly line. That's fun. I had a 40-fish day at Strawberry this spring. But what I really enjoy is helping someone else catch fish. I would rather do that than catch them myself."
Fishing has been good at Strawberry. Better get up there!