Fishing through the ice gives the angler an opportunity to literally walk on the water — to stand directly above the fish he wishes to catch in whatever depth of water he chooses and to work the bait or lure in the immediate vicinity of the fish time and time again. Ice fishing gives the angler advantages he has at no other time of the year.
And, that means the angler has a better chance to catch fish than at any other time of the year. Bluegill, perch, crappie and rainbow trout are the most popular wintertime fish. But, the big Bear Lake cutthroat, lake trout and browns are also vulnerable through the ice.
Of course, you probably won't catch tiophy fish by dropping a meal worm or a bunch of salmon eggs into your ice fishing hole. Big fish require large lures and real food and that means minnows or fish meat.
You can buy frozen chubs and sucker meat from any of the bait dealers or you can buy bottled minnows. Brown Bear Bait company bottles emerald shiners in several sizes. The bottled shiners are nice because they are convenient, don't unthaw and make a mess and they last a long time, even after they are opened, without stinking up your tackle box. Whether you choose meat, chubs or shiners isn't really important, though different fishermen swear by different types of meat. What is important is that you give the fish the taste and smell of real food.
Some fishermen think that the Bonneville cisco make the best bait when ice fishing for big Bear Lake cutthroat trout. They are the natural food for the cutthroat and really get the big fish excited. The 1990 fishing proclamation says (page 4) that cisco can only be used for bait in Bear Lake and the cisco must be dead. No live fish are allowed as bait.
As a general rule the big fish will be found in deeper water than the smaller ones and you will have to spend a lot of time fishing before you hook one. Use big spoons, airplane jigs, two or three inch bucktail jigs or big skirts tipped with meat to attract the big fish.
If you want to spend the winter fishing for a trophy then go after the big browns and lake trout at Flaming Gorge, the lake trout at Fish Lake, the big cutthroat and lake trout at Bear Lake, northern pike at Redmond Reservoir or Yuba, big browns and walleye at Starvation, giant albinos and browns at Joes Valley or the big cutthroat and rainbows at Strawberry. You won't catch a lot of fish, but you just might catch the biggest fish of your life.
If you are going after rainbows, crappie, bluegill or perch then use smaller jigs and salmon eggs, night crawlers or meal and wax worms. Meal and wax worms are probably the best allround bait there is for ice fishing. Tip an ice fly with a meal worm and the panfish will go nuts. Once you have found a school of pan fish, you won't be able to get your bait to the bottom without having a fish take it.
For panfish try Willard Bay for crappie, Pineview for bluegill and crappie, Newton for perch and bluegill, Deer Creek for perch, Cutler for crappie, Mantua for bluegill and Yuba for perch.
If you would like to take home a limit of rainbow try Hyrum, Deer Creek, Lost Creek, Causey, East Canyon, Scofield, Mill Meadow, Forsyth or Fish Lake. For big rainbow up to about 10 pounds try Piute, Johnson, Panguitch or Currant Creek.
For splake try Joes Valley or Fish Lake. For kokanee try Flaming Gorge or Porcupine. For white bass try one of the boat harbors at Utah Lake.
Next time the fog rolls in along the Wasatch Front and the sun disappears, don't let it get to you. Head over to your favorite bait dealer, pick up some niinnows and meal worms and get above it all. Once you leave the valley and the fog the sun will come out, the day will be nice and the fishing will be great. There is an old proverb that says, "The worst day fishing is better than the best day at work." Take time to go fishing.