Beneath the icy surface of Bear Lake in Winter, this renowned Utah fishing spot is teeming with fish. And when the lake freezes over, Bear Lake transforms into a hotspot for ice fishing.
With the right gear and a bit of patience, anglers drill through the ice, hoping to reel in the lake’s bounty. Simple, cold, and rewarding—that’s ice fishing at Bear Lake.
Ready to join in on one of the best winter pastimes of Bear Lake? Grab your pole and book your stay today!
What is Ice Fishing?
Photo Credit: Denis Pepin
Bear Lake is a popular destination for ice fishing, which is one of the best outdoor activities in the area. Ice fishing is a type of fishing that’s popular during the colder months when bodies of water like Bear Lake freeze over with a solid layer of ice. You’ll strap on your ice cleats, pack your sled with gear, and head out onto the lake.
Anglers will drill or cut holes into the ice surface to ice fish using specialized equipment like augers, Spud Bars (ice chisel), picks, and ice scoops. Once the hole is drilled, they set up their fishing lines or rods, often using live or jigged bait like grubs, worms, or crawlers, and wait for the fish to bite. This is a great time to open the thermos and catch up with family and friends!
Why Bear Lake is Great for Ice Fishing
Photo Credit: ver0nicka
Bear Lake is excellent for ice fishing for several reasons. The first is that it has a fairly consistent track record of freezing over approximately four out of every five years.
Another reason is for its size and depth. Bear Lake is the second largest natural freshwater lake in Utah. Finally, this lake has several different types of fish, four of which you won’t find anywhere else (Bonneville Cisco, Bear Lake Sculpin, Bear Lake Whitefish, and Bonneville Whitefish)!
Where to go Ice Fishing in Bear Lake
Photo Credit: Dan Thornberg
Bear Lake is quite large and dotted with several spots that are excellent for ice fishing. However, there are great spots to ice fish all over Bear Lake, and we recommend fishing in a few different places and depths to see what works best for you. Some of the most popular spots for entering the ice are Bear Lake State Park, Cisco Beach, First Point, and Rainbow Cove.
Additionally, just a short drive from Bear Lake, Montpelier Reservoir offers a quieter alternative for ice fishing. The Montpelier Reservoir is best for catching rainbow trout because they are particularly active in the area.
No matter where you go, be sure to follow important ice safety tips, including sharing with someone where you’re going, talking to the locals for advice, and verifying ice thickness before you go!
Fun fact: Cisco Beach, Rainbow Cove, and the Bear Lake State Park Marina are also excellent for fly fishing on Bear Lake!
If you are venturing over to the Idaho side, check local fishing regulations with Idaho fish and game, and make sure you have a valid Idaho fishing license.
The Fish in Bear Lake
Bear Lake’s reputation as a prime fishing spot is bolstered by the fact that it’s the only place in the entire world where you can find certain species of fish, including the Bonneville Cisco, Bear Lake Sculpin, Bear Lake Whitefish, and the Bonneville Whitefish.
Photo Credit: Valery Evlakhov
These small whitefish are endemic to Bear Lake, silver in color, and streamlined in shape. They typically prefer rocky areas, and they spawn over at Cisco Beach around the rock piles. The Cisco is a popular fried fish dish around Bear Lake.
Timing is everything with Ciscos. Aim for their spawning season in January and February and fish in shallower regions. They also make great bait for larger fish. If you love fishing for Cisco, you should be sure to attend the Bear Lake Monster Winterfest Cisco Disco fishing tournament!
Bear Lake Sculpin
Photo Credit: NYS DEC via Flickr CC 2.0
These bottom-dwellers are unique to Bear Lake, characterized by their spiky dorsal fins and mottled appearance. The older Bear Lake Sculpin often inhabits the deeper, rocky portions of the lake, while the younger ones spend more time at the surface.
Because they’re so small, Bear Lake Sculpins are less sought after by anglers, but they are one of the preferred foods of the Cutthroat Trout! They’re also endemic to Bear Lake.
Bear Lake Whitefish
Photo Credit: Splingis
Like the Sculpin, the Bear Lake Whitefish is a bit too small to catch the eye of fishermen. These fish are pretty special, though, as they’re also endemic to Bear Lake. The Bear Lake Whitefish stay close to the bottom of the lake and are rarely found closer to the surface.
Photo Credit: Natalya Osipova
The Bonneville Whitefish is a fish to look out for while ice fishing in Bear Lake. These are great fish to catch close to shore, and anglers typically use jigs or spoons to lure them in.
Photo Credit: CSNafzger
Cutthroat Trout are native to Bear Lake, get quite large, and they’re found all over the lake. In addition to the Montpelier Reservoir, you can find Cutthroat trout in Rainbow Cove, Cisco Beach, and near the Bear Lake Marina. Along with the Bonneville Cisco and Bonneville Whitefish, these are the main fish you’ll be hoping to catch in Bear Lake ice fishing.
Fishing Tips: We can’t resist Cisco, and neither can the Bear Lake Cutthroat Trout- they make the perfect bait! Lures and jigs also do well with Cutthroat Trout. They’re predators and like to go after moving prey, so anything that replicates will draw them in.
You can also find rainbow trout, lake trout, Mackinaw, and other species in the lake. Check out our Bear Lake fishing guide for more on the different fish in Bear Lake.
Essential Ice Fishing Equipment
Photo Credit: PRESSLAB
To ensure a successful and safe ice fishing trip on Bear Lake, you’ll want:
- Ice Auger for drilling holes in the ice
- Ice fishing rod, line, and reel
- Spoons, lures, and jigs
- Proper apparel: Waterproof boots, insulated gloves, and thermal wear to stay warm.
- Something to sit on: You can brave the old school style and simply bring a bucket, or bring along a chair, or even a portable ice shanty if you want to stay really warm.
- Safety Gear: Ice picks, safety rope, and a whistle for emergencies.
Restrictions and Important FAQs on Ice Fishing in Bear Lake
Photo Credit: SnapTPhotography
Before heading out, familiarize yourself with the local regulations for ice fishing on Bear Lake. Here are a few you’ll definitely want to take note of:
Both Utah and Idaho sides require a valid fishing license for ice fishing and any fishing on Bear Lake.
Be aware of bag and size limits for each fish species. For example, you’re only allowed a daily limit of two trout.
Always ensure the ice is thick enough to support your weight. As a rule of thumb, 4 inches of clear ice is typically safe for an individual but always check local guidelines.
Ready for Your Bear Lake Ice Fishing Adventure?
Whether you’re a long-time angler or just getting started with ice fishing, Bear Lake Ice fishing does not disappoint.
After a day of ice fishing on the lake, there’s nothing better than coming home to your cozy, luxurious rental home, ready to warm up by the fire or cook fresh catch. If you’re ready for the ultimate Bear Lake ice fishing adventure, book your Bear Lake Luxury stay today!