On almost any day you will find 10 or 20 or 30 people fishing the wild section of the Provo River, from Olmstead Diversion upstream to Deer Creek. But there will be very few people fishing below Olmstead — almost as if there is an invisible line drawn there that says good fishing above, poor fishing below.
Fortunately, Mother Nature doesn't work that way. There is very good fishing available below Olmstead, as many Utah Valley kids will testify. Big fish are available — perhaps as many big fish as in the famous, heavily fished, wild section.
"I guarantee you that you can catch just as many nice big browns down below (Olmstead) as you can above it," said Charles Thompson, DWR fisheries manager for the area. "It's loaded with fish."
Thompson said the entire river is loaded with fish. "There is no way we can put more fish in that upper section unless we go in there and make more habitat. Really, we could talk about the river all the way from the dam to the mouth of the canyon. We're getting a lot of reproduction up there up above and there's no place for the new fish. They're being pushed out by the other fish and they end up down below. There is a tremendous population in the lower river."
The water level is lower below Olmstead and the river is fairly easy to fish. But the upper section gets a lot of publicity and so it attracts the most attention. People just don't seem to get interested in the lower section. Last year the DWR did a study on the wild section during June, July and August. They found the river supported 33,000 fishing hours during the period, and that 34,650 fish were caught. That's 1.05 fish per hour — good in anybody's book. Fishermen kept 2,000 fish. That section of the river is getting about as much pressure as it can stand and still maintain its aesthetics and wild beauty.
The lower section of the river can stand more pressure. It's a very good fishery and we might as well enjoy it. But let's work to maintain it as a quality stream.
Above Olmstead fishing is restricted to artificial flies and lures, to allow effective catch and release. The brown trout limit is two fish and there is a slot limit. The idea is to protect larger fish and see if they will grow to trophy size.
There are no special regulations for trout fishing below Olmstead. But UTAH FISHING magazine encourages people fishing the lower Provo to adhere to the spirit of the regulations enforced on the upper section. Practice catch and release. Let's protect the bigger fish and see how big they will get.
Studies indicate that 10% of the trout which are caught on artificial flies or lures and are then released die. However, the death rate is even lower for fish caught on flies or lures if they are handled carefully and then revived before being turned loose.
The death rate is far higher for fish caught on baits (over 50%). There is a good chance that more Provo River trout die from being caught and released than die because they are taken home and eaten. Lets work to make sure the fish we release actually survive.
Periodically, even the best fly fishermen injure fish. There is nothing sporting about releasing fish which will just die. When you injure a fish, take it home and eat it, if you can legally do so. It might as well die for a purpose. That's no problem on the lower Provo, where the regular fish limit applies. But too often, people fishing the wild section keep throw back seriously wounded fish. The best strategy is to use barbless hooks, play fish quickly but carefully, and return each one uninjured to the water.