Looking to avoid cabin fever? Here are 9 ice fishing events to check out this winter

An undated photo of anglers ice fishing at Deer Creek Reservoir in Wasatch County.

An undated photo of anglers ice fishing at Deer Creek Reservoir in Wasatch County. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Winter's return the past few weeks isn't only beneficial for those recreating in Utah's mountains; it means ice fishing is back, too.

And there are close to a dozen events that Utah agencies are helping sponsor over the next few months, where people can get their fix of fish this winter.

"This is still a good time of year to fish," said Faith Heaton Jolley, a spokeswoman for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "A lot of people associate fishing with the summer, warm weather, running water and the streams; but ice fishing can actually be an awesome fishing experience, as well."

That's why state wildlife officials and the Utah Division of State Parks partner every year to promote the activity through various events that cater to outdoor enthusiasts who might not be looking to hit the slopes, or who just want to try something new to do this winter.

Jolley said ice fishing isn't as impacted by the state's drought. Utah wildlife officials raised fishing limits this summer because low levels and warm water resulted in less oxygen in the water for fish.

"If they're getting cabin fever from being inside for too long while the weather's cold, there are some good options to get outdoors even if you don't ski or snowboard," she added.

Ice fishing, like more traditional forms of fishing, still requires a valid fishing license for Utahns age 12 and up — as well as the equipment needed to ice fish.

This infographic shows the safety risks based on thickness of ice.
This infographic shows the safety risks based on thickness of ice. (Photo: Utah Division of State Parks)

Utah State Parks officials add that people should avoid going out on ice that is 3 inches thick or less out of safety risk. Ice that is 5 inches thick generally can support a small group and ice that is 9 inches thick or more can support multiple vehicles, although experts say no ice is guaranteed to be safe.

But if you're up for the adventure, here are nine events to consider this winter.

Buckboard PUPulation Control contest

Location: Flaming Gorge Reservoir

Date(s): All winter

About: This event, hosted by the Buckboard Marina at Flaming Gorge and sponsored by both the Utah and Wyoming wildlife departments, aims to control the population of small lake trout, referred to as "pups," at the massive reservoir.

It actually began in late October and continues through June 12, 2022, meaning people can participate during both ice and more traditional fishing seasons. The registration fee is $25 per angler age 14 and up, and $10 per angler under the age of 14, which can be paid at Buckboardmarina.net.

The first-place grand prize for those registered is a Camp Chef pellet grill or $500 cash, while the second-place winner will receive the option the first-place winner doesn't select. There are also "instant winner" prizes, like $100 for every fish returned that has a pink Floy tag and $50 for every fish with either a green or orange tag.

More information about the event can be found here.

Millsite On Ice Fishing Tournament

Location: Millsite State Park, Emery County

Date(s): Jan. 7-8, 2022

About: This event, sponsored by Emery County, has already sold out but people can still register to be added to the waitlist, Jolley said. The first day of the event is a two-person team tournament and the second is an individual event with "$2,000 in cash awards each day and thousands in drawing giveaways," according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

People can sign up for the waitlist here.

East Canyon Ice Fishing Derby with Fins & Fur

Location: East Canyon State Park, Morgan County

Date(s): Jan. 15, 2022

About: Hosted by the Fins & Fur Guide Service and East Canyon State Park, this event features cash prizes for anglers who catch the biggest fish. Registration, which can be completed online, costs $50 per participant but comes with a raffle entry; the first-place prize is $1,000 in cash.

Rockport Ice Fishing Tournament

Location: Rockport State Park, Summit County

Date(s): Jan. 15, 2022

About: This fishing event includes cash prizes for the top three finishers, depending on how many people enter. Rockport State Park and the Marina at Rockport officials, who organize the event, said last year's first-place winner won $3,000. There are also raffle prizes for those who enter.

The cost is $40 to register, which can be completed online up until the day of the event.

Ice Addiction Tournament

Location(s): Rockport and Steinaker state parks, Summit and Uintah counties

Date(s): Jan. 22, 2022, at Rockport Reservoir and Feb. 5, 2022, at Steinaker Reservoir

About: This event is hosted by Tightline Outdoors, which has similar events being held at locations in Colorado. Prizes are awarded for the number of fish caught by contestants. Anglers have until Jan. 20, 2022, to register online for the Rockport tournament, and Feb. 3, 2022, for the Steinaker tournament. The fee is $50 per participant.

Monster Cisco Disco & Tournament

Location: Bear Lake State Park, Rich County

Date(s): Jan. 22, 2022

About: Wildlife officials are quick to point out this isn't as much an ice fishing event as it is a winter fishing event because the lake doesn't freeze over. Nevertheless, prizes are awarded for people who catch Bonneville cisco, a fish species endemic to Bear Lake, from 6 a.m. to noon.

The event is free aside from the entrance fee for Cisco Beach, which is on the east side of the lake. There is also a free breakfast of fried cisco and scones from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. that day. More information about the event can be found here.

Burbot Bash

Location: Flaming Gorge Reservoir

Date(s): Jan. 28-30, 2022

About: This event, hosted by the Flaming Gorge Chamber of Commerce and also sponsored by both Utah and Wyoming wildlife agencies, aims to control the burbot population in the reservoir. Burbot is described as a cod-like fish that "rapidly reproduces and preys on other sportfish species" within Flaming Gorge, according to the Utah DWR.

The contest awards $30,000 in cash and prizes for anglers who catch the most burbot, as well as ones who catch burbot of all sizes. Registration will begin online Dec. 31 and continue through Jan. 24, 2022, and there will be no in-person registration due to COVID-19 concerns.

Slotbuster Tournament

Location: East Canyon and Lost Creek state parks, Morgan County

Date(s): Jan. 29-30, 2022

About: This first-time event is another tournament where anglers are encouraged to catch the largest fish. Fish that exceed 22 inches are referred to as "slotbusters" — hence the name of the tournament — and anglers are only allowed to keep slotbusters during the tournament. All fish less than 22 inches in size must go back in the water.

The expected first-place winner prize is $5,000, but there are $10,000 in prizes also available. The cost of registration ranges from $50 to $125 depending on if an angler plans to fish both days and when they register.

More information about the event can be found here.

Starvation Ice Bowl

Location: Starvation Reservoir at Fred Hayes State Park, Duchesne County

Date(s): Feb. 12, 2022

About: This event focuses on catching the longest trout and walleye in the reservoir, with prizes awarded for the largest fish. The registration fee is $60 per team plus the cost of parking. More information about the event can be found on the state park website.


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