A good friend, Brent Daybell, of West Jordan, called me on Father’s Day to report on a weekend bass tournament held at East Canyon Reservoir, northeast of Salt Lake City.

“The fishing was horrible,” he said. “Besides the 20 boats in the tournament on ‘little’ East Canyon, there were so many pleasure boats that park officials were forced to turn people away at the entrance.”

On Friday, I traveled down to Provo for an appointment and passed by Echo, Jordanelle, and Deer Creek as I headed toward my destination. At each body of water, I noticed the numbers of “fishing boats” as compared to “pleasure boats” and realized that it is time to have a frank discussion about how to “fish” around and through the mayhem of summer days on small reservoirs.

When Brent said the fishing was “horrible,” it didn’t surprise me in the least.

When wake boats, ski boats, toy pullers, jet skiers, and other pleasure crafts invade a previously quiet morning, all heck breaks loose.

If you fish main lake points, it becomes almost impossible to stand up due to the waves made by other boats in the vicinity. I was nearly thrown off my bass boat a year ago on Deer Creek when two wake boats ganged up on me (figuratively speaking) and multiple gigantic waves hit me from two directions simultaneously — not a pretty picture. I still caught fish but the “catching” was definitely slower than usual.

So, how do you fish amid this summertime mayhem?

Here are several ways to pull it off without throwing in the towel and going home:

  • Try to fish earlier in the morning and plan to get off the reservoir before the “real” crowds show up. It gets light around 5 a.m. now, and if you want to fish main lake points, for example, try doing it before 8 a.m. The earlier you start, the fewer pleasure boats will be on the water.
  • Choose reservoirs that have areas where boats must be off plane and run wakeless. Deer Creek has the Wallsburg Arm and Jordanelle has the Provo River Arm. Both have buoyed areas beyond which are some great fishing spots that can be reached and properly fished regardless of the time of day. It goes without saying that (if possible) you should avoid reservoirs that don’t have protected bays, coves, or arms that discourage running boats at full speed, whether for safely concerns or by regulations.
  • Fish larger reservoirs such as Strawberry, Starvation, Lake Powell, and Flaming Gorge. Just by the nature of larger, more diverse reservoirs, you are able to hide from the pleasure crafts and still enjoy a peaceful day on the water. At Strawberry, for example, small coves, arms, and “cuts” are almost everywhere. The same is true for the other reservoirs previously mentioned. It might take a little more effort on your part, but being able to avoid the wave action and other distractions caused by too many boats in a small area might just be worth the extra work.
  • If you don’t have a choice and are “stuck” in the mayhem, this is one time I truly believe that if you know how to troll for fish you will be infinitely more effective than casting and retrieving. During wild wave times, I like to troll with a Jake’s Spin-A-Lure, other spoons or jerkbaits, and you don’t have to use down riggers. Many of the trout species around the state are now in the shallows (from 15 feet to the surface) and will react to lures trolled through the top water column.

Summer is a great time for us all to utilize our local reservoirs however we choose. Anglers don’t have any more rights than others to be on any specific body of water.

So, plan to adjust your fishing plans to accommodate the rest of humanity that might be sharing water with you. Follow the aforementioned advice and you should be able to fish and still avoid (much of) the mayhem. Good Luck!

Don Allphin can be reached at don@donallphin.com.