Fishing For Utah Lake Catfish

The catfish in Willard Bay have been attracting attention lately, because they are getting big! We've heard reports of 18 pound channel cats from Willard, and that's not a bad fish in anyone's book!

Willard has lots of catfish, and lots of big catfish. But they are hard to catch. The fish are well fed and finicky.

Not so at Utah Lake. At Utah Lake people have been quietly, consistently catching nice fish, as these photos show.

Gary Smith, of Grantsville, caught big channel cats in the Lincoln Beach area. He was fishing with shrimp on a hook on the end of his line, and a nightcrawler on another hook up about a foot. The fish took both hooks in one bite, then headed for the other side of the lake.

Gary had a scale with him that topped out at eight pounds, and the fish buried it. "I caught a 12 pounder years ago, and this one's bigger," he said.

He and his family fish in the area often during the summer, and usually do well for 3-6 pound fish, along with a whole mess of fiddlers.

He was fishing from shore, putting his bait out about 30 yards, and the water there was only about four feet deep.

Tony Reed, shown in the bottom photo, caught a nice fish from the dike at the American Fork Marina. He was using shrimp, and was only a few feet off shore.

"It was a strong fish, and fun to catch," he said.

The water level in Utah Lake is high this year – the brush areas along the shoreline are flooded. The fish have been in close to shore spawning, but that is about over now and they will be ranging freely throughout the lake.

Shore fishing is usually good through the summer in all of the harbors, in the Lincoln Beach area, and along the west shoreline. The water is often only a few feet deep in these areas, even 50 yards out into the lake. Most people cast as far as they can, and hope that puts them in water deep enough to attract fish. That's tricky this year because of all the flooded brush – it's difficult to cast beyond the brush. Some people wade out into the water and mud, carrying their bait out until they find a deeper water.

The fish often come into water which is very shallow, and fishing can be productive anywhere. But, in general, action is better in water at least 4-5 feet deep.

The water around Bird Island is fairly deep, and that is a very productive area to fish. Boaters anchor off the island and cast bait, or drift with the wind and let their bait skim slowly along the bottom.

Catfish usually stay near the bottom, so it is important to keep the bait down. When catfish pick up your bait, it's important to give the fish time to move the hook into the back of his mouth, before you try to set the hook. A good rig for catfish uses an egg sinker, which the line can slide through freely, then a swivel, then three feet of leader, then your hook. The swivel keeps the sinker from sliding down against the bait. When the cat picks up your bait, line can slide through the sinker and so the fish does not feel the weight of the sinker.

Some people use some kind of float, or floating bait, near the hook to keep it out of the mud, just off the bottom.

Keep the bail on your reel open when you are waiting for a cat to bite. When the fish picks up your bait, let him run with it for a time, until the fish has time to get the hook well back, or until the fish turns. Then pull up with a strong sweep, to set the hook.

Good baits for channel cats include shrimp, worms, liver, minnows and dough balls.

Action is often good throughout the day, and is usually best in the late evening.