If you want to do any more ice fishing this winter, you had better get at it. As of this writing, ice is still safe on many popular waters in central and northern Utah. But — if warm temperatures continue — it will be coming off everywhere within the next couple weeks.
Late winter is a tricky season for ice fishing. Conditions change daily, making it very difficult to plan trips. Snowstorms can still arise in a moment, making backcountry roads impassible. On the other hand, mild temperatures can melt snow and ice, turning roads into a mucky mess. Warm temperatures can also soften ice in a hurry, creating hazardous conditions.
There's little time left to plan ice fishing trips in advance. It's even difficult to head out on the spur of the moment. You never know quite what you will find at the end of a three or four hour drive.
Reservoirs close to home are particularly attractive this time of year. When the water is close, weather and ice conditions will probably be about the same as they are in the populated valleys. Wait for a nice afternoon, make excuses at the office, grab your rod and take off. Within an hour you can be enjoying some fine action.
So, where should you go? The chunky rainbows at Deer Creek are attractive, if the ice is still safe. (Deer Creek has been very crowded on weekends.) Perch fishing can be good if you catch Pineview in the right mood. Crappie fishing has been good at Willard Bay, particularly from late evening until about midnight.
Fishing success has been slow at some other popular local waters, including East Canyon, Burraston Ponds and Kaysville Ponds. These waters draw heavy pressure, and have been pretty much fished out this year.
If you are looking for good family fishing close to the Wasatch Front it's hard to beat Causey Reservoir, a pretty, medium-sized water on the South Fork of the Ogden River, a few miles east of Pineview. Causey has offered generally good ice fishing all winter long. The road is well maintained, so you can usually drive up to the dam with no trouble.
A good number of people have been fishing Causey on weekends and holidays, concentrating on the area near the dam. But Causey has three long, deep fingers which extend up narrow canyons, so if you are willing to hike a bit you can get away from the crowds. There has been a couple feet of snow on top of the ice — with slush under the snow — so wear good boots.
Ice fishing at Causey is about the same as ice fishing anywhere. It can be real good if you find yourself in the right spot at the right time. It can also be terribly slow at times. I stopped by on February 19 — President's Day — and found about 16 people fishing near the dam. I heard discouraging reports from everyone I talked to, until I approached Greg Wilson and his two friends, all from the North Ogden area. Greg held up two fish, a nice 12-inch cutthroat and an 8-inch rainbow. He hooked another 12-incher while I watched.
Greg was using salmon eggs below a bobber, putting the eggs about a foot off the bottom. "You should have been here last week," Greg said. "Five of us caught 14 fish. The biggest went 14 inches."
Curtis Buren, Ogden, also raved about the fishing he found the week before. "We knocked them dead. Two of us caught 16 fish in a couple hours. Three weeks ago I caught a three pounder out of here."
Curtis said he fishes Causey often, and finds sunny afternoons to be the most productive. He also uses eggs, keeping them just off the bottom.
Shore fishing should be good at Causey when the ice pulls back. During the summer, fishing is generally good for pan-sized fish, and the reservoir gets only light pressure. It's a beautiful place for a canoe or inflatable boat (there is no boat ramp). Fishing is often best up the fingers near the inlets. (This time of year the ice may be weak near the inlets. Use extreme caution).
The water level in Causey is low. You have to climb down about 50 feet of steep bank to reach the ice. There are well packed trails, but the snow and ice can be very slick as it starts to melt.