Don Allphin

Don Allphin with a four pound largemouth bass caught in a bay just out of the chocolate water flowing into Lake Powell from the Colorado River during the run off.

The weather continues to warm (despite last weekend’s cold front) and runoff from an exceptional snowpack is making its way into streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. For the rest of 2019, all this new water will help the recreational outlook statewide and the fishing should eventually follow suit.

Let’s take a look at the trouble with too much water entering our waterways and impoundments.

My wife, Jeri, and I went for a six-mile hike the other day in the tops of the Uinta Mountains. Following a well-marked trail, we soon realized the trail was acting like a ditch or small canal, with melting snow gushed down the trail, flooding it and carrying dirt, small rocks, bark and limbs down the gradual slope toward a nearby reservoir.

After our wet but enjoyable hike, we passed several small lakes that appeared too muddy to fish — the result of the runoff. Anglers were frustrated because the fish weren’t biting, and the streams that entered the lakes looked like the stream passing through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Fishing “chocolate water” is rarely fun, and even though fishing might get tough for the next few weeks, here are some tips on how to beat the runoff.

Rivers and Streams

As streams rise (just like our hiking trail), the banks erode and debris, including rocks, logs, branches and dead vegetation, are pushed down stream, making fishing very difficult to nearly impossible, not only because of water clarity, but also overwhelming current and the lack of access to the banks. The Provo River (especially above Jordanelle Reservoir), where there is little to stop or slow down its flow, is a great example of this kind of challenge.

It is much easier to fish the section of the Provo below Jordanelle and below Deer Creek because water managers can (to some extent) control the flow below the dams. Still, at times (just after a storm), even those sections of the Provo become difficult.

This same thought process can be used with almost any river or stream in the state. If there is no dam to control the flow (during the runoff), fishing will be very slow. It is much wiser to concentrate on waters that are controlled by an upstream dam. Besides the current, water clarity will improve significantly in a more controlled environment.

The good news is that within the month, much of our snowpack will have melted and the rivers and streams should eventually slow down and clear up.

Lakes and Reservoirs

If you fish small, isolated lakes with just one inlet or source of water, you may just have to be patient until the stream clears up and lake follows suit. But, even in chocolate water, bright-colored spinners or lures will still attract a strike or two. Just don’t expect the same kind of action you might see in a month or so when the lakes become significantly clearer.

On larger lakes and reservoirs, avoid the inlets where the dirty water enters. Rarely is there so much runoff that the entire impoundment is dirty. However, on a shallow reservoir such as Otter Creek in southern Utah, the entire reservoir might be chocolate water and you may simply need to wait until the water clears to consistently catch fish.

I like to fish bays and coves that have no visible inlets and are located away from the main channel of a lake or reservoir. It is amazing to see how (even at Lake Powell) just targeting coves or bays away from the main channel will significantly improve water clarity and therefore fish activity. Remember, off-colored or stained water doesn’t mean you can’t catch fish, but chocolate water is difficult for everyone.

Without a doubt, this year’s runoff is the largest we’ve seen since 2012. But, by being patient and searching for areas less affected by incoming dirty water, you should still be able to catch fish. And, as the year progresses, the fishing should continue to improve. Good Luck.

Don Allphin can be reached at