January 21, 2020

Bear Lake Fishing Guide

Often referred to as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” due to its alluring turquoise waters, Bear Lake is the second-largest natural freshwater lake in the State of Utah. Covering 109-square miles from Utah across the Idaho border, it is home to four species of fish that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

About four out of every five years on average, Bear Lake ices over, setting the stage for prime ice fishing opportunities as well. Though Bear Lake has the environment to appeal to anyone in search of an outdoor adventure, anglers are especially in-store for a unique kind of paradise.

What's Biting?

Bear Lake hosts four endemic fish species: Bonneville Cisco, Bonneville Whitefish, Bear Lake Whitefish, and the Bear Lake Sculpin. Bear River Cutthroat Trout and Lake Trout can be found near Cisco Beach, Rainbow Cove, and the Bear Lake Marina. Bear Lake is home to a trophy cutthroat trout fishery where the Idaho State record cutthroat (19 lbs.) was caught. Lake trout in Bear Lake may grow to be as large as 30 lbs.

When Are They Most Active?

The Bear Lake area is a legitimate lure for novice and seasoned anglers any time of year, with fresh fish harvests springing up every season. The Bonneville Whitefish spawn in mid-December, luring Cutthroat close to shore as well. Whitefish remain active in the area until around mid-March. Bonneville Cisco spawning in late January - early February. create one of the best times for fishing on Bear Lake, with millions of Cisco drawing larger cutthroat and Mackinaw. The Bear Lake Whitefish have a month-long spawning season beginning around the end of February, continuing a run on Cutthroat and Mackinaw.

Bear Lake Sculpin come into spawn around the end of March through mid-April. Bear Lake Cutthroat spawning season runs from mid-April through the end of June, creating an expansive trolling grounds for inshore opportunities. Peak time for the most colorful Cutthroats runs from April through mid-June.

The Mackinaw spawn in late October and early November, paving the way for prize fly fishing catches averaging around 5 lbs. or more. The once-thriving Rainbow Trout is no longer a prolific species in the Bear Lake area, but an uncommon treat rewarding the occasional angler. The fishery is on a waiting list to re-introduce this species.

Where To Cast A Line (Or Dip A Net)

Fishing from boats is a classic and favorite option of many Bear Lake anglers, but there are plenty of ways to aim for the catch of the day in these bountiful waters - and more than one method to try, as well! Your successes at fishing Bear Lake largely depend on knowing where to fish, and how to lure the catch, so here are some insider tips!

On the western shores of Bear Lake, just north of Garden City, you'll find Bear Lake State Park and Marina - home to boat slips, a 5-lane boat ramp, great trolling and ice fishing opportunities, and the annual Bear Lake Monster Winterfest event. This popular fishing competition and fundraiser is centered around the winter spawning of the Bonneville Cisco close to shore, and finds many ambitious fishermen casting dip nets to pluck Cisco from the ice.

The east side of Bear Lake is also a great place to fish. Still within the State Park, you'll discover the areas of First Point, South Eden, Cisco Beach, Rainbow Cove, and North Eden here. Trolling and jigging are popular pastimes at Rainbow Cove and Cisco Beach, where boat ramp access is also available. Tip your jigs or bait with sucker meat or Gulp minnows in white, green and chartreuse for best results! Trollers do well using minnow type lures, rapalas, and flatfish off downriggers close to the bottom. For Lake Trout fly fishing, aim to visit in the late fall.

The DWR keeps the Garden City Community Pond stocked with Rainbow Trout. This 3-acre pond just off Bear Lake in Garden City is a favorite hidden gem and a popular spot for anglers seeking a relatively easy catch. It's also a great location for fly fishing in the fall. Limit two trout.

Not far from the shores of Bear Lake, Laketown Reservoir is located in Rich County, Utah. This is a smaller reservoir and the waters aren't very deep, but it's a great place for a family fishing adventure. Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout are the primary species here, and can be fished easily from shore using traditional baits and lures. Limit four trout.

Local Guides And Equipment Rentals

Licensing And Regulations

Anglers in possession of a valid Utah fishing, combination hunting license, OR a valid Idaho fishing license can fish anywhere on Bear Lake. On the Utah side of the lake, you can use two fishing poles per fisherman, but use of two rods by one person on the Idaho side of the lake requires a special permit. If you are fishing from a boat from the Idaho side of the lake, you must also have a current Idaho Invasive Species Fund sticker on your watercraft.

Buy your license online and review current regulations in detail at wildlife.utah.gov . You can also purchase your fishing license(s) in-person through local vendors or the Idaho Fish and Game and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) offices. You can even display and use your licenses on your mobile device for convenience! License pricing varies based on residency, length of permit time requested, and age. Nonresidents can expect to pay $24 - $40 for 3 or 7-day fishing permits. For all local, up-to-date fishing information, check the latest fishing report.