During the 2005 summer, Mark Wiley, a volunteer with the Student Conservation Association, interviewed anglers during creel surveys and also fished the park streams and Baker Lake to determine fish health. He made the following observations.
Lehman Creek and Baker Creek are the best streams to fish for numbers, size, and variety of trout. There are many good pools all along Upper and Lower Lehman and the Baker Creek campgrounds.
Snake Creek is more difficult to fish, but offers good fishing in certain places below the pipeline, where brown trout are established. To get to the water you must often slide down steep banks or crash through thick vegetation. This is not only difficult, but it often spooks fish. Above the pipeline, the newly established population of Bonneville cutthroat trout is small and thus is more difficult to fish.
The population of Bonneville cutthroat trout in Strawberry Creek is not large enough yet for high quality fishing, but there are good numbers of trout in certain sections of the creek. In late July, I caught and released five Bonneville cutthroat trout during one afternoon. Please use catch and release techniques for this species since at this time they are very limited in number.
Baker Lake is different from the streams in several ways. It requires casting and careful fly selection and presentation. The average trout in Baker Lake is larger than in the streams, but much more selective. I took fish on both nymphs and dry flies but I often saw them inspecting a fly and turning away from it before striking. Locating the fish visually and then casting to them was an effective way to catch fish at Baker Lake. It is easy to spot the fish in the calm clear water but it is also easy for the fish to spot you. Keep that in mind when approaching the lake and you will increase your chances of catching fish.
On the streams I used a fly rod like a cane pole, attaching a short length of line from the rod tip with a fly on the end, then dipping the fly into the water. The fish are so aggressive that the strike should come within a few seconds. If there is no strike and the pool looks like it should have held fish, it is likely the fish was spooked and you should move on.
In the streams, there was rarely a fly that fish would not take. Dry flies, wet flies, and nymphs all worked well, but small dark colored nymphs used just below the surface appeared to have the most success.
I saw several common mistakes made by anglers:
- Fishing in a location where no fish exist. Read or ask about the park’s fishing opportunities and activities before going fishing. The park website and Snake Range Recreational Fishing brochure is a good source of information.
- Spooking fish so that they hid. To avoid detection, approach trout from downstream, fish from behind streamside vegetation, and make few sudden moves. Walk carefully to avoid tumbling rocks and other things that cause noticeable vibrations in the water.
- Overestimating a trout’s size. Use smaller lures, bait, and hooks since the fish are usually less than 10 inches long.
Advice is no substitute for experience. What works for one angler may not work for another. Great Basin National Park offers wonderful opportunities for all types of anglers, so get out and try your luck with some beautiful mountain trout.
All state fishing regulations apply, and fishing licenses are required for all over age 12 to fish in the park. More information is available at the visitor centers.
Please do not move fish between creeks. Whirling disease is expanding into Utah and northern Nevada, and we are trying to keep it out of the park. Thoroughly wash all waders and other gear before entering a different creek.