Don Allphin

A large cutthroat trout is shown on Strawberry Reservoir. Cutthroat trout are willing to strike a jerkbait after partially digesting a 10-inch rainbow trout. Trout gorge themselves when forage is available.

As we continue to follow the CDC’s and our state’s recommendations to keep us healthy and safe, for those able to fish Jordanelle, the early spring jerkbait bite is alive and well.

This column was written as a result of getting glowing reports from several of my friends that live near Jordanelle and have enjoyed some terrific action while self-isolating.

I first wrote about early spring jerkbait fishing at Jordanelle two years ago in conjunction with the stocking of 250,000 kokanee salmon in the reservoir. It was my theory that with all those fingerlings being placed in the Provo River, the predator species — brown, cutthroat and even rainbow trout — in the immediate area around the river channel as it entered the main reservoir, would line up in the proverbial dinner line waiting for the kokanee salmon to swim downstream and move into the reservoir.

I even published a video that showed where the predator fish would wait to ambush the kokanees as they made their way into the Provo River Arm.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) stocked 130,000 more kokanee salmon on March 30, and from the reports from some of my friends, the browns chasing kokanees as well as jerkbaits.

Kokanee salmon eventually travel in large schools but initially, when they are first released, they move in tiny schools until they figure out their new environment and get settled into their new home. Most of the salmon in Jordanelle end up near the dam at some point so they don’t really have too far to migrate which means the entire Provo River Arm can hold aggressive trout ready and able to chase down and eat the newcomers.

If I were to fish the reservoir in the next few weeks, I would start where the river channel enters the reservoir and look for small and large points, pieces of structure such as fallen trees, protruding rocks, flooded shrubs or even boulder-strewn flats, where predator fish might set up in ambush mode waiting for the kokanees or other minnows to swim by.

Then, I suggest you travel downstream (towards the dam) on either side of the arm, fishing each and every piece of structure that might hide a predator fish. Be patient because the trout might not be active all the time. One of my buddies went to Jordanelle a couple of times before he figured out when the fish were ready and willing to bite. But, when they did bite, he caught a couple of dozen great brown trout in a few hours.

So, what size and kind of jerkbait should you throw? The photo included in the column was actually shot on Strawberry but works very well here. Notice that the cutthroat had a rainbow trout in its mouth but was still willing to hit the jerkbait. The lure was a Lucky Craft Pointer 128 in the Brown Ghost color.

In my experience, when the principle forage is roughly 3 inches long, the larger Pointer 128 is too large to be as effective as the Pointer 78 or 100 series of lures. Laser Rainbow, Ghost Minnow, or Aurora Blue would work very well to imitate the forage.

Throw the lure beyond the target (point or structure), give it three or four quick jerks with the rod tip down towards the water, and then hesitate and allow the lure to suspend in the water column. After a few seconds continue to retrieve the lure in stop-then-go manner. When it happens, the strike will be massive.

Most jerkbaits will attract interested predators. The learning curve might be a little steep at first but once you master the cast and retrieve … and get that first strike, the effort will have been worth it.

This has been a tough couple of months for most of us. Take the opportunity to (safely) get out and do something that will get your mind off the pandemic. Catching big browns on jerkbaits should be just what the doctor ordered.

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