Dropping water levels are no reason for southeastern Utah's trout anglers to put their fishing poles away for the summer. Hundreds of high elevation lakes and streams are teeming with trout and will provide anglers a chance at some of the best fishing of the year.
"The water levels at most high elevation waters are much more stable than they are at lower and mid-elevations," said Tom Pettengill, sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "The water level may decrease a few feet at high elevation waters, instead of the tens of feet it may drop elsewhere."
Pettengill classifies a high elevation water as any water with an elevation of at least 7,000 feet.
Included are large reservoirs and lakes, such as Scofield, Flaming Gorge and Fish Lake, as well as hundreds of smaller lakes and streams.
Many of these small lakes and streams are found on the Uinta and Boulder mountains. Several are also found on the mountains along the Wasatch Front, on the Beaver Mountains above Beaver and on the Manti-LaSal National Forest.
Pettengill said most of these smaller lakes don't fluctuate much because water isn't drawn from them for irrigation and other uses. They also receive more rain and snow than waters at lower elevations and lose less water to evaporation because of cooler temperatures.
Anglers don't need much gear to fish these small lakes and streams. A spinning rod and a bubble and a variety of lures or flies, or basic baits such as salmon eggs or worms, will work.
"The fish are usually feeding on small stuff so if you're using spinners, I'd recommend a size 0 or 1," he said. "If you're using flies, I'd recommend sizes ranging from 16 to no bigger than 10."
One challenge to fishing these waters is reaching them.
Pettengill said anglers can drive right up to some of them, while others may require a hike of anywhere from one to several miles.
Pettengill recommends that physical limitations be considered and that anglers be realistic about what they can do. They should also take into account that the weather in the high country can change quickly.
Make sure a fleece jacket is included with the raingear in a backpack, and wear some good, waterproof boots for the hike, he adds.
To find success, Pettengill encourages anglers to move around.
"On the Unitas and Boulders, several lakes are fairly close to each other, so if you don't find success at one lake, go to another," he remarked. "And don't overlook the streams, which can provide some great fishing."
During the middle of the summer, anglers should fish during the mornings and evenings, when the temperatures are the coolest and the fish are most active.
Pettengill said that as it gets cooler later in the summer, anglers may want to fish in the middle of the day, when the temperatures are a little warmer and there's more insect activity.Many high elevation lakes get so cold in the winter that the fish in them die.
To know whether a lake has fish in it, Pettengill advises anglers to first look to see if it's teeming with insect activity. If it is, but there is no visible fish activity, all of its fish were probably lost during the winter.
"Also, if you come to a lake and don't see any fish activity, don't give up on it," he said. "Move to another lake to fish but visit that lake again, later in the day. Your timing might have been off a little, and it might be teeming with insect and fish activity the second time you visit it."
For more information about high elevation lakes and streams, contact a U.S. Forest Service office.