It took me two weeks of dodging rain and snow storms before putting my boat in Strawberry Reservoir for the first time in 2019. Many of you (perhaps on different schedules than I) have already spent a few days getting use to the aftermath of a prolonged winter and super wet spring. Let’s breakdown Strawberry, its current conditions, its overall health (my opinion alone), and what to expect for the rest of 2019.
Strawberry is on the rise. Water is flowing in from almost everywhere. In the Narrows, I noted several impromptu runoff streams cascading down the steep banks into the lake. Exposed vegetation will be inundated and all of the insects, old foliage, debris and downed logs will be underwater, providing more places for fish to forage, hide, or lie in wait to ambush prey. And, due to cooler conditions, the runoff should last most of the month of June and beyond.
In every section of the reservoir, small trout (whether rainbows or young cutthroats) were abundant. While throwing a large jerkbait as a “search bait” there were times that schools of small rainbows would follow, surround, and in some cases try to eat a lure almost as large as they.
Current conditions reflect a great water year, plenty of new cover, and the most important observation – plenty of fish.
Strawberry looks vibrant. It took about 10 minutes before I caught my first 20-inch cutthroat very near the boat ramp at Strawberry Bay. While I worked my way around the immediate area, casting and retrieving a large jerkbait, others in our party (in another boat) were trolling in front of the launch area and catching cutthroats with the occasional kokanee salmon thrown in for good measure. In fact, the trolling was so effective that they stayed in the same stretch of water (within a half mile or so) for much of the day.
Since I wanted to see more of the reservoir, we (two relatives from Norway visiting my brother Dave for a few days and I), moved across to the Renegade area and began catching fish in short order, casting and retrieving the same, large, jerkbaits mixed with a small dose of black marabou jigs and white or green tube jigs tipped with a small piece of a night crawler.
Everywhere we traveled the fish were active and visible when they followed or actually struck our lures, and the average size of the ones we caught was between 20 and 23 inches. It hit me that even though it took the better part of 15 years for fishery managers to figure out how to provide a put and take fishery while controlling the chub problem with the introduction of Bear Lake cutthroat trout, it really seems to be working. I believe the reservoir is as healthy as I have ever seen, and hopefully will remain so on into the future.
Expectations for 2019
The cutthroat fishery should get better and better as the year continues. Now, the larger fish are shallow and will stay there until late July. Then, they will go deep and hang out between 40 and 80 feet of water until September. The smaller (slot fish) will continue to school together, suspended in open water, or will mix in with the larger fish and eventually go deeper.
The rainbows will do rainbow things and be found near the shorelines in and around grass beds and rocky banks. They should readily respond to tube jigs, Powerbait, and spinners of all types. The rainbows seem healthy and are growing quickly.
The kokanees are already active and should stay that way throughout the summer. More and more anglers are learning to troll for these land-locked salmon and are also learning to jig for them too. I believe the presence of kokanee salmon is helping other species thrive.
Strawberry is a fantastic fishery that continues to get better and better. Dodge the wet weather and see for yourselves, great angling awaits your every trip this year.