Brett Roper column mug

Brett Roper

There are finally hints that winter is losing its annual battle with spring. The rising snow level and appearance of tulips are almost enough to get us to overlook the snow flurries that will continue for the next couple weeks. Warming temperatures and longer days bring a lot of changes hunters and anglers have long been looking forward to.

One of the most obvious signs of spring is the loss of ice from the area lakes. As lakes in and around Cache Valley become ice free, their surface water temperatures warm to 40 degrees fahrenheit, causing the lake’s waters to mix. This seasonal turnover increases the amount of oxygen and food in the water, causing trout to become more active. If you are lucky enough to be among the first people on a lake after ice out, fish will often take the first fly or lure they see. This is also the time of year big trout are more likely to make mistakes.

The next several months are a great time to pursue walleye. These fish are currently in the process of spawning along the shorelines of Willard and Yuba Reservoir. While you can catch fish during their spawn, the ones you could likely catch are the smaller males. Larger sized walleye are more likely to be caught during the post spawn period of May and June. If you fish Willard Bay, there is a good possibility of catching wipers and crappie. Given the size and shape of this lake, it is best fished from a boat. That said, much of the best habitat is the rocky dike that forms the lake’s shoreline, so with a little effort, bank anglers can learn to become successful.

Spring is a great time to cast for tiger muskies — which are sterile northern pike muskellunge hybrids. While Pineview Reservoir is the best known lake in the area for these fish, young tiger muskies were stocked in Newton in 2017. Given they have had two years to grow, these fish should now be it the 25-inch range. Catching these big fish are exciting, but all tiger muskies caught at Newton Reservoir must be released even though the general regulations allow you to keep one fish over 40 inches in many lakes.

If you want to fish trout in rivers this spring, you’ll probably have a very short season, as all the local watersheds have over 100 percent snowpack. It is likely that by the end of April many of the local rivers will be too high to wade. I have been fishing the Logan River and Blacksmith Fork the last couple weekends and when the weather has been warm, the fishing has been good.

As May and June arrive, another option is largemouth bass fishing. That people have been catching bass through the ice at Hyrum Reservoir is a sign that fishing for this species could be good in this reservoir in the coming year. There are many other nearby places to catch bass to include Mantua Reservoir, Cutler Reservoir, Twin Lakes, Newton Reservoir, Condie Reservoir, Winder Reservoir and Glendale Reservoir. As opposed to walleye fishing, the best time to fish bass is often just before they spawn.

If you plan to use a boat in the Idaho portion of Cache Valley, there are number of things you must remember. The first is several lakes have restriction on the types of boat that can be used. Secondly, remember to purchase an invasive species sticker before your first trip. This can be done on line though the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation website.

Lastly, April marks the start of turkey hunting. Both Utah’s and Idaho’s season starts in the middle of April. The difference is in Utah most of April is set aside for limited entry or juvenile hunts while any person with a turkey tag can hunt Idaho. The general season in both states runs through most of May. Given to amount of snow still covering the base of the mountains and that most the turkeys are still found in big groups, it is likely this season will start slowly. Hunting should improve latter as hens start to sit on their nest. If you scout for turkeys before the opener there is the possibility you will encounter shed antlers. If you want to pick these sheds up in Utah before April 15, you must have completed the Antler Gathering Ethics Course from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

The large number of opportunities this area provides hunters and anglers means there is no reason everyone shouldn’t find a way to have a great spring outdoors. Good luck and be safe!

Brett Roper is a fisheries biologist for the Forest Service. When not working or with his family you are likely to run into him anywhere — as long as it is outdoors. He can be contacted at roperguth@gmail.com.

Brett Roper is a fisheries biologist for the Forest Service. When not working or with his family you are likely to run into him anywhere — as long as it is outdoors. He can be contacted at roperguth@gmail.com.