ALLPHIN: Yellowstone still producing big fish
Although schedules wouldn’t allow me to go this year, my sons Chris and Mark and their families spent last week in Yellowstone National Park, looking for bears, enjoying the breathtaking scenery, and of course, fishing.
“Dad,” Mark said via text on Monday, “take a look at this fish!”
The photo attached to the text message was or a five-pound, 25 inch cutthroat trout he caught while fishing from the shore near the Bridge Bay area of Yellowstone Lake.
“I took the boys down to the lake from camp and casted spinners from the shore,” he continued. “We didn’t stay too long but had a blast and this is the size of the fish we caught.”
Yellowstone Lake has always produced some very nice cutthroats. As many of you know, I caught my first cutthroat on Yellowstone Lake when I was 2 years old and I did it from Steven R. Covey’s father’s boat. My dad helped with church services in Yellowstone back then and Bro. Covey took us fishing a time or two.
Since then, some of my fondest memories are of our family fishing Yellowstone Lake, the Yellowstone River, and several of the small streams that crisscross the park from north to south.
The problem in recent years is that no one in the park seems to care about fishing any longer. Once the lake trout took over in Yellowstone Lake, it is like the cutthroats have been left to fend for themselves, with the Park Service doing very little to help sustain or increase their numbers.
Yellowstone River is even worse. Where anglers might have been able to catch 10 or 12 fish in a good morning of fly fishing in years passed, now they are lucky to catch two or three fish each.
Our middle son, Chris, and his family live in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and make the trip to Yellowstone several times each summer. On his visit to the park on the 15th of July, he and his oldest son, Canyon, caught two enormous fish on the river’s opening day.
In the mid to late 1980s, we used to catch up to 100 fish each on opening day on the river. Times have indeed changed.
But, there are still plenty of fish to be caught if you know what you are doing and where to fish. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite places to fish, even now, in Yellowstone National Park.
1. My favorite place to fish is still Yellowstone Lake from a boat. We like to launch at Bridge Bay Marina and slowly drift/troll Jake’s Spin-A-Lures in 10-to-15 feet of water. Although the catching isn’t incredibly fast, three rods in the water will produce up to three fish each per hour — still pretty good fishing.
2. I like to hike into Shoshone Lake and fish for mackinaw (lake trout) from float tubes. This requires a little planning. You must reserve a camp site right on the lake and then make the seven-mile hike into the area from the road between Old Faithful and West Thumb. The great thing about Shoshone is that it is not pressured and you can keep a fish or two for dinner.
3. The Yellowstone River, although incredibly disappointing compared to years past, still produces some great fish, depending on the time of year. I enjoy August more than July for the best fly action of the year. Concentrate on the stretch just before entering Hayden Valley below the Le Hardy Rapids to find the best hatches. Though there are fewer fish, the ones you catch are truly trophy size.
You can rent boats for Yellowstone Lake, and if you pass through West Yellowstone on your way into the park, any of the fly fishing shops in town will have the latest information about catching fish.
Yellowstone National Park is not what it used to be, but is still a great place to visit and fish.
Don Allphin can be reached at email@example.com.