Brad Kerr

Fishing at Bear Lake without a boat? Here's how to do it successfully

By Brad Kerr, Contributor | Posted - Oct. 16, 2018 at 2:01 p.m.

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BEAR LAKE, Rich County — Bear Lake’s population of cutthroat and lake trout can be difficult to catch. But during this time of year, as the water cools even more from its already frigid state, these trout are more readily available to those willing to utilize kayaks, pontoons and float tubes to move out into deeper water and away from the shoreline.

Here are some tips to help you have success during your next fishing outing:

Rig your flotation device

Several items can be added to your kayak, pontoon or float tube to make fishing more efficient and productive. Anglers often use portable fish finders for depth and fish location, as well as battery-powered trolling motors on kayaks. These small boats can handle the additional weight of a 12-volt battery and have the space to rig the motor for a day on the big lake.

Since downriggers (fishing rod holders) aren’t practical for a kayak or pontoon, trolling with lead fishing line can get you deep enough to put your lure in the strike zone. You’ll also want to have a landing net large enough to handle a big fish.

Cutthroat trout with an adipose fin, a soft fin found on the back behind the dorsal fin, must be immediately released. Only cutthroats with a clipped, healed adipose fin may be kept at Bear Lake. Check regulations for further tips on limits.

Lures and techniques

When trolling with an electric motor or paddling yourself along at a decent speed, you can get your lead line to reflect five colors or more. It's also recommended to use a big Needlefish, Kastmaster, flatfish, broken-back Rapala or large spinning lure to entice a strike from the fish in Bear Lake. Experiment with different depths until cooperative fish are found.

If you don’t have the ability to troll, try vertical jigging. You can either jig right off the bottom or at different depths that will allow you to find fish in a particular spot. Colored, metered braid can be purchased in 25-foot intervals for controlled depth fishing. Most come in four colors, with depth marks every 5 feet or so for more accurate control. Spools come in 500- to 1000-foot rolls at a variety of pound-test lines, as well.

Jigging tubes, grubs (3/4 ounce or bigger) or spoons (such as a Hopkins of 1 ½ ounces or so) tipped with sucker or chub meat can give you a quality offering to entice lake trout and cutthroats. Hooking into a large trout at such depths gives any angler a great battle and a fun time.

When a strike occurs

Sometimes the bite of a large lake trout or cutthroat can be jarring and vicious, so try to remain focused on the task at hand. If you feel weight or a slight pull on your rod, try to sense if the take is complete before setting the hook. If you feel a hit but get no immediate weight on the line, reel in the slack to see if your fish has come up with the lure and has taken your bait. If that is the case, set that hook and hold on. If you don't hook the fish, continue to jig your lure, as these trout will often come back for more.

Be careful when traveling out into deep water

Any lake can have wind come up that can make your float tube drift, likely in a direction you don’t want to go. Being too far from shore when a stiff wind comes up could also easily get you into a position where you can’t reach safety very easily.

Always fish with a partner or two, preferably with someone who has a trolling motor on their device. Controlling your position while floating is vital, and wearing a life jacket at all times on the water is a must. Have a communication device with you as well, in case you need to request help if the wind begins to blow too hard.

How to dress

Be sure to dress warmly, with layers beneath your waders. You can get chilled in that cold water, even in the summer months. Being warm will make for a much more pleasurable fishing experience.

For tips of other things to do at Bear Lake, visit

Do you have any tips for successful fishing at Bear Lake? Let us know in the comments.


Brad Kerr

    KSL Weather Forecast