The best ice fishing lakes in Utah deliver every time that anglers make the trip to the hard water.
Utah has several lakes that offer prime ice fishing. Some are located in beautiful, sweeping mountain valleys, surrounded by pine forests and majestic mountain peaks. Others are in remote canyons that offer once-in-a-lifetime views of red rock vistas and Rocky Mountain sheep.
The common catch ranges from trophy lake trout, Bonneville strain cutthroat, tiger trout and rainbow trout to yellow perch and burbot.
On top of that, there are places to catch crappie, smallmouth bass (if they’re biting, they can be pretty opinionated in the winter), and even the occasional mountain whitefish. A few lakes will give you white bass action all day long.
Utah has a very dedicated ice fishing following. Chat boards and groups focused solely on the hard water sport are prevalent, focusing on a few specific lakes. There are honorable mentions, and we’re sure there will be some great spots that get missed, but let’s take a look at the best ice fishing lakes Utah has to offer.
Ice Fishing Tips
The first thing you should know about ice fishing in Utah is that you need the right gear.
Most lakes that are frozen are also windy. Plan on that. Ice tents like clamshells come in handy. They vary in size from a single angler through a five- or six-person unit.
Next up, you’ll need a way through the ice. An ice auger with a six- or eight-inch bit will be big enough for most fish.
Flaming Gorge will test that “big enough” theory at times with the giant lake trout hiding in there. Every year it seems another record is caught. The last one was around 53 pounds. Good luck getting that through a six-inch hole. It was taken in late spring from a boat, then released to hopefully be caught another day.
Tip-ups are a great way to spread some bait around, particularly when burbot fishing on the Gorge. These clever contraptions will set the hook for you, alerting you with a flag. You need to be quick, though, because the burbot will just swim off with the entire rig.
Typical baits are waxworms and mealworms. Small jigs, spoons and other lures all work well. Different techniques, such as a slow jig or twisting the line slowly between your thumb and index finger, will bring the fish to the yard.
The season typically starts in mid- to late December in Utah, depending on the weather. There are years when the hard water doesn’t set in until mid-January, while other years, it can happen in late November.
A good rule of thumb is that 4 inches is thick enough for an average person, 5-6 inches is suitable for a snowmobile or 4-wheeler, and 8-12 inches will support a truck.
Now let’s take a look at the best ice-fishing lakes in Utah.
Best Ice Fishing Lakes in Utah
Strawberry Reservoir, or the Berry, is widely known as one of the best trout fisheries in the Rockies.
The lake is regularly stocked with catchable rainbow and cutthroat trout. It holds large numbers of big fish and is easily reachable, located about an hour and a half southeast of Salt Lake City.
Winter finds the Berry freezing earlier than some of the other lakes on this list. There aren’t many trees around to block the wind, which can get bitterly cold.
Once the ice is thick enough, it’s as if someone blows a whistle that only ice anglers can hear. There are suddenly ice tents everywhere. The best time of day to go is whenever you can get up there. The bite is pretty consistent throughout the day.
You may need to move around a bit to find them, but once you do, you should have consistent action.
There is a solid population of kokanee in Strawberry that are readily catchable throughout the winter. The lake averages kokes of 14-16 inches, which isn’t too bad for a winter fish.
One of the places to try if you’re not having much luck is the sunken bridge. Strawberry used to be two separate reservoirs and was combined into a larger single lake in the early 1990s. There are some submerged structures to find fish, but the sunken bridge may be the best of them.
When you arrive at the lake, check at the marina to see where the fish are biting. They also offer guided ice fishing trips, bait, snow machine rentals, fishing gear rentals, or whatever else you might need.
Check the forecast before heading out. It’s a big lake, and it’s far too easy to get lost in a whiteout.
Scofield Reservoir is located about two hours southeast of Salt Lake City.
It’s at a pretty high altitude, so be prepared for some snow. The drive up to Scofield can be tricky as well. Check ahead to make sure the road is safe.
Scofield has some great rainbow, cutthroat and tiger trout fishing in Utah. They get pretty big here, eating the abundant crawfish population and baitfish cruising around the lake.
There are also way too many chubs in here. Locals generally don’t return them to the water, instead keeping them to use as cut bait at other lakes.
Gold spoons tipped with wax or mealworms and a piece of chartreuse glow tape on the side will bring the trout in.
Use an ice fishing finder to make your job easier, and be sure to test the ice thickness before stepping out there.
Scofield is at a high enough altitude (a bit over 7,600 feet) that it freezes earlier than most lakes in Utah. It might have fishable ice by the week after Thanksgiving some years. There are a few other lakes nearby that join it around the same time.
Some areas around the lake, like the areas around the docks, offer deep enough water that you can sit on the concrete and still get deep enough to catch fish.
Hyrum is a popular spot in northern Utah, right near Logan and about an hour’s drive north of Salt Lake City.
It’s popular among anglers searching for yellow perch and bluegill. It also has a healthy catfish, brown trout and largemouth bass population.
The ice essentially shuts down the largemouth, though the occasional catfish is caught. Browns are pulled out year-round.
In the winter, most people are there for the abundance of yellow perch. Perch tend to school up in the winter and don’t move around very much. If they aren’t biting, move to another area.
The limit on the lake can vary, so check current regulations, but it’s typically 50. You’ll see anglers catching them one after the other all day long. They aren’t the tiny ones you expect in an overpopulated reservoir, either.
Waxworms are the bait to go with here.
The best spot is on the eastern portion, accessible from the beach. Head out to water in the 30-foot range and move deeper from there as needed.
Be aware that this lake gets very crowded on weekends due to its proximity to Utah State University in Logan. It’s the closest ice fishing location in the area and can be elbow to elbow on some days.
Mantua is another popular lake in northern Utah.
Trout and yellow perch will keep you busy here, as will some slab-sized bluegill and crappie. Mealworms and waxworms should tip your gold-colored Kastmasters. You’ll be glad you stopped here.
Once you arrive, check out the northeast bay, just south of the courtesy dock. That’s the place to be. Big fish circle the area. There seems to be a lot of baitfish in the area year-round, so give it a go.
If you’re not getting any bites, add a leader to the hook of your Kastmaster and tie an ice fly to the end, tipped with a waxworm.
The other area that always seems successful is the southeastern bay. Use the same techniques, and you’ll likely land a good number of perch, along with a few trout.
Test the ice thickness here as the lake can fluctuate. It’s important to keep ice safety in mind at all times.
Flaming Gorge Reservoir
Flaming Gorge is a vast reservoir, famous for impressively large game fish of multiple species. It’s located on the far northeastern border of Utah, about 3 ½ hours from Salt Lake City.
Part of the lake is in Utah, with the more extensive section landing in Wyoming. It’s possible to get a stamp to allow fishing on both sides of the lake.
There are several ice fishing tournaments held here every year, with the Burbot Bash being one of the most popular. Burbot are an illegally planted invasive species that have taken hold and aren’t letting go any time soon.
Burbot are native to more northerly states, including parts of Washington. They are the only freshwater member of the cod family, and they resemble saltwater lingcod caught on the Pacific coast. In fact, some people call them freshwater lings.
While they may look weird, burbot are some of the best-tasting fish available. They have beautifully white, flaky meat that will make you forget that horror show face and snakelike body.
There have been times that the Gorge has provided world record lake trout, and it currently holds at least 11 Utah state record game fishing records.
Lake trout, rainbows, kokanee, smallmouth bass, burbot and catfish can be found in abundance here. Smallmouth bass are so prevalent that they are occasionally harvested by the DWR to encourage growth and avoid stunted fish.
Flaming Gorge, as mentioned earlier, is enormous. It’s 91 miles long, and all of that length holds fish. When frozen, which is typically early January, you can gain access to deep water and jig deep for 25-pound plus lake trout. Even 50-pound plus fish are becoming more common every year, and 30-pounders are caught regularly.
Once you fall in love with the Gorge and catch trout all day or burbot all night, you’re going to want to do it again. The next time you come out, try it in the summer. The smallies are waiting, as are the big horned sheep.
East Canyon Reservoir
East Canyon has always been an enigma. During the summer, catch rates can be fantastic one day and nonexistent the next. That’s not the case when ice fishing.
The lake holds a solid population of 2- to 5-pound rainbows, brown trout, cutthroat, tiger trout, kokanee (possibly lost due to low water caused by drought), smallmouth bass, wipers and crappie.
Ice fishing for trout can range from good to excellent. The western end where the creek enters the lake is a terrific spot for trout, though the ice thickness fluctuates due to the water inflow.
At the other end, near East Canyon State Park, trout are caught regularly in approximately 45 feet of water. Pick a section and move every 45 minutes or so if the bite is too slow. A move of 20 feet can be all it takes to change your day from a slow one to an epic one.
Be on the lookout for the resident bald eagles. It’s always fun to watch them snatch people’s prize catches off the ice.
Keep in mind that there are no services within 20 miles in any direction, so plan accordingly. Cell phone service is spotty at best, nonexistent for most. Most roads that lead here close for the winter, and those that remain open don’t receive the best plow services.
In the summer, East Canyon is about 45 minutes northeast of Salt Lake City. In the winter, it’s a very scenic 2 hours.
Deer Creek Reservoir
Deer Creek is a short drive from Provo and 45 minutes or so from Salt Lake City.
It’s a highly used recreational lake in the summertime (including being on our list of best fly fishing waters in Utah), but it’s also a top-rated ice fishing destination in the winter.
Depending on temperatures, it might not freeze until mid-January. It’s possible to have years that it only partially freezes, with only sections of safe ice.
The lake produces good numbers of rainbow trout, bluegill, yellow perch, large- and smallmouth bass and walleye. Ice fishing here will mostly bring in trout, but if you can find them, yellow perch will fill up your bucket pretty fast.
Typical Kastmasters jigged with a waxworm or mealworm do the trick, along with spoons.
Use caution around the shoreline here. It can become mushy throughout the day. People often report solid ice in the morning, only to sink up to their waist when they leave in the afternoon.
Rockport is a very popular reservoir just up the interstate from Park City. It gets a large number of anglers, so the fishing pressure is consistent year-round. The DWR keeps the lake well stocked with rainbows and has in recent years started planting kokanee salmon.
Rockport Reservoir also has good numbers of smallmouth bass, but they’re a harder sell to convince to bite through the ice.
Every day, just like clockwork, the wind kicks in here. If you have a shelter, bring it. If you have a friend with a shelter, bring them and their shelter. It’s worth making a new friend just to have a shelter to use here. That wind is bitter cold and doesn’t let up.
Find the boat docks on the east side of the lake and head towards the middle from there. Once you’re over 40 feet of water, give it a try. Keep moving until you find them.
If that area doesn’t work, head back towards where the Weber River enters the lake. Just watch out for thin ice.
When you pull off the interstate heading to Rockport, there’s a convenience store that provides almost anything you’ll need to be successful at Rockport.
The Weber River feeds this reservoir and is one of the best fly fishing streams within relatively quick reach of the Salt Lake City area. It can be fished year-round, even in winter when you’ve finished ice fishing, if you bring the right flies.
Last but not least on our list of most highly recommended ice fishing lakes, we have Fish Lake. While it might feel like a long drive, it’s only three hours south of Salt Lake City.
Formed in the caldera of a long since extinct volcano, Fish Lake has incredible views, exceptional fishing, and is home to the world’s largest living organism. Unfortunately, the latter is not a trout, but it’s an Aspen clone that’s pretty impressive to see.
Fish here include rainbows, kokanee, splake, lake trout, tiger muskie and yellow perch (too many yellow perch).
There are points on the eastern side that jut out from the nearly sheer rock wall that the fish congregate to. These are the prime fishing spots and the Twin Creeks area next to the Fish Lake Lodge that has everything you need to keep fishing.
Jordanelle Reservoir is an excellent lake to troll for big trout when it’s not frozen over. It has a decent population of browns, along with a healthy level of rainbows.
In the winter, it has a healthy population of red clamshells set up all across its ice, filled with anglers hoping to catch dinner.
It’s located just outside Park City and can make a great getaway during a ski trip to Utah.
Usually, this beautiful lake east of Ogden would be higher on the list. Drought has caused multiple issues for this once perennially excellent fishery.
Pineview still holds its own at times, but it isn’t as accessible as it used to be.
There are trout, bass, tiger muskie, crappie, bluegill, catfish and carp in there, so it’s still worth testing out.
Utah has hundreds of smaller lakes that are just as unique as the state is as a whole.
Towering red rocks, beautiful arches, majestic mountains, hidden pine forests, and epic fishing are all reasons to bring anglers back here year after year.
Whether you’re at one of these top spots or in your own favorite fishing hole, dropping a jig through the ice and catching a trout is exciting. It never gets old.
Explore the backcountry lakes and find a place that has barely been touched in years, and who knows? That fish might just be a 5-pound brook trout in the Henry Mountains.
Catch More Fish
If you’d like to firm up your knowledge of fishing on hard lakes, check out our simple guide to everything you need to know about ice fishing techniques, equipment and safety.