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From Dinosaurs to Big Mack’s

From Dinosaurs to Big Mack’s by James Smith
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If you have been looking for a world-class fishing hole, consider Flaming Gorge Reservoir. These cobalt blue waters are home to a variety of trophy fish, such as huge mackinaw (lake) trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and kokanee salmon. In addition the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam is regarded as one of the finest tailwater fisheries in the world. This prime fly-fishing area offers huge rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout.

Now if you are looking for the dinosaurs you won’t have far to go. The world-famous Dinosaur National Monument, with its prehistoric fossils and dramatic canyons is just 50 miles away.

Flaming Gorge was authorized by the Federal Government in 1956 and the dam was started in 1960; it was dedicated in 1964. In addition to being a great fishery, there is an abundance of wildlife to be seen, including moose, rocky mountain bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and wild horses.

From its rugged Uinta mountains to the deserts this whole area is steeped in the tradition of the old west. There are dramatic geological formations and spectacular views of colorful landscapes and canyons.

But, the fishing is what brought you here. Flaming Gorge Reservoir is located in the Northeast corner of Utah and southern border of Wyoming. Located within this 91-mile lake are three marinas; Cedar Springs, Lucerne Valley, and Buckboard Marinas. Each offer launch ramps, boat rentals, guided fishing and various other accommodations. Now, just as a point of information, Utah’s State Record Mackinaw, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and Wyoming’s State Record Kokanee Salmon, Brown Trout and Mackinaw all came out of Flaming Gorge. The Utah mackinaw was a 51 pound 8 ounce monster, while the Wyoming mackinaw was a paltry 50 pounder.

Recently, a good friend and fishing partner of mine and my neighbor chose the same weekend to fish Flaming Gorge. Here are two different trips on the same weekend with quite similar results, making my point about how great this fishery is. My friend Joe and his partner Jim had made arrangements with Bob Linville to guide them during the week of March 22nd. Bob Linville is the owner of the Cedar Springs Marina which he purchased in 1986. They loaded up Bob’s 24’ Trophy Bayliner and headed out to the fishing “spots”. Two of the best spots were Tortilla Flats and Antelope Flats.

Fishing for big Macks is a lesson in trolling techniques. Bob began this process by locating with his sonar or fish finder, schools of kokanee, under which are usually, the lake trout (mackinaw). Then he set up his downrigger(s) with a lure trolling in about 75 feet of water. The water depth is around 100 feet and the macks are holding tight on the bottom. The purpose of this trolling exercise is to spot the “rockets”. Rockets are lake trout that shoot into view of the sonar (like a rocket) to check out the lure. Once these rockets have been located Bob will drop the lures down to about 2’ off the bottom. He maintains his depth by increasing or decreasing the boat speed to cause the lure to rise or fall, depending upon the contour of the lake bottom.

You can also jig for these lake trout. Once you’ve located these rockets on your sonar you can rig up with jigging spoons, gitzits or bunny flies. The rods, Bob uses are Daiwa 8’ downrigger poles with Shimano Corsair reels and 8# mono, no leader. Best colors were green or white Gitzits and black or white bunny flies.

Now my neighbor, Sam and his two fishing buddies Chuck and George trailered their 22’ Lund Tyee over to Flaming Gorge and did quite well also. They fished the gravel pits near Lucerne Bay in 90’ of water. They try to fish Flaming Gorge every year in the spring and again in the fall. Last October when they were there Chuck landed a 36” beauty that went 24 pounds. George landed a 34” -20 pounder, both very respectable fish. This year they caught a number of smaller 24” to 30” mackinaws that ran in the 6 to 8 pound range.

My neighbor Sam, and his buddies did not use the services of a guide, as they had been on this reservoir a number of times. They knew where to go and where they wanted to fish. For my friend Joe and his fishing partner, this was their first time fishing Flaming Gorge, so they wisely opted for a guide. This is a big, long reservoir and although it may be hard to get lost, there is so much water that it is important to hire a guide to get you on to fish sooner.

It is also a good idea to include a hand held GPS to your fishing tackle/equipment/gear take-along items. Although we know that the fish move from one location to the next, having your GPS along will put you back in the general area to start fishing the next day a lot sooner. Sonar is good to locate fish, but sonar with a GPS module is the best of both worlds. Sonar is not going to differentiate between shad, carp, or trout. So unless you know what you are looking at on your screen you would be ahead of the game to locate yourself over a “known” lake trout area, quickly. Then use your sonar to find the fish. Be sure to input your first waypoint at the dock or marina so that you will have no trouble finding your way back. As they say it’s the “ol bread crumb trail” that gets you home. If you haven’t purchased a GPS unit by now, you might be encouraged to know that recently the United States government removed the “selective availability” feature which used to make civilian GPS receivers less accurate.

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