The fish finder showed 25 feet of water, with a moving bottom. Up and down, with changing colors to go with it; first green or yellow, then turning to red and back again. That meant fish on the bottom, and likely perch at that.
One quick drop with a small jig packed with a wax worm, and the melee began. We caught one fish after another, almost as quickly as you could get your bait down. Most of the fish ranged from eight to ten inches, and we culled the smaller fish and only kept those bigger eater perch.
Sure, that sounds like the old days at Pineview or Rockport, but we're talking Fish Lake. And the bag of fish that day included a good number of rainbow and splake trout up to eighteen inches. That was a bonus. Sometimes the trout were suspended about ten feet off the bottom, other times they were right in the mix of perch so as to come as a bigger surprise.
Oh, we cut a lot of holes in order to find the weed line and get on the good schools of perch, but it was certainly worth it. Moving from hole to hole, we would fish briefly to see if we could attract anything to our lures, then moved on again if nothing made its presence known. The deeper holes marked the occasional trout, but the bigger numbers of fish were moving in and out of the perch schools in search of forage.
We heard stories about the occasional mack coming out of these shallower areas as well, but we saw nothing of the sort on our trip. It would have been a welcome bonus to our excursion. Perhaps next time when we make another run southward we'll have better success for the bigger lakers. You see, we spent time deep-water jigging for macks as well, using large tube jigs tipped with perch meat.
We did catch a few voracious splake, who didn't fear hitting the larger tubes. Their mouths are so large, similar to their lake trout ancestry, that they have no problems being extra aggressive with big meals. The splake are doing very well in Fish Lake, and show steady signs of continued growth since their introduction to this water.
But we concentrated mostly on perch, and reaped the benefits of more trout for our efforts in doing so. Otherwise, it was few fish and far between for us when searching deeper water. A lake contour map wasn't as much help as we'd hoped, as the main basin of the lake tapers into deeper water rather quickly in some areas. The flat we fished was adjacent to deep water drop-offs, but we didn't see fish working the edges the way we thought we would.
Pineview and Rockport have both seen the perch populations go through their cyclic crash over the past few years, and those days of bringing a load of perch home to fillet had become a rarity if you only fish close to home. That brings in the situation with Fish Lake as an alternative: Expect a three-and-a-half hour drive each way. But with more liberal perch limits today, it makes a trip like this much more worthwhile.
I just wish I could have had my grandson with me to enjoy the fast action. Travel distance will dictate the "who" and "for how long" such a trip would be advisable. With multiple drivers who could split the driving time, it makes for an easier travel day for all concerned.
We did it, but managed to have the time to stay a night and fish parts of two days instead of just one. This broke up the drive time, and allowed us more time on the ice as well. There is lodging at the lake, if you make your reservations early enough. Or you could do as we did, and stay overnight in Loa, about fifteen miles away. This was no problem at all, and gave us the chance to be closer to an eating establishment when meal time rolled around.
We also managed to bulk up our fish supply at home, taking home good numbers of perch to fillet for the freezer. And while this makes me wish for the good old days on Top of Utah perch ponds, we saw that it is not entirely out of the question to make a great trip to Fish Lake at least once per ice season.
As this winter has gone, several big lakers have come through the ice this season at Fish Lake. This makes for the additional excitement of never quite knowing what to expect in your catches. So if perch fishing, hot perch fishing, is your bag, you really should consider Fish Lake in your future plans.
Brad Kerr is an avid angler who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.