Alpine Fishing Above the Red Rock Landscapes of Southern Utah
People often say their travels on Boulder Mountain remind them of the Uinta Mountains east of Salt Lake City. But the Boulders have something the Uintas don’t — stunning mega views of Utah’s famous brilliantly colored deserts. Sitting just outside of Capitol Reef National Park, this 11,000-foot peak offers views of the surrounding red canyons and desert-like region. In contrast, Boulder Mountain is heavily forested and home to more than 80 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. With an average rainfall multiple inches more than the lower regions, the area makes for some surprisingly good fishing.
In fact, the mountain’s claim to fame is that an angler caught the state record brook trout — 7 pounds, 8 ounces — in its waters in 1971. If that seems like a long time ago to you, you’re not alone: While larger fish may have been tucked away on remote lakes, many anglers blamed management issues for keeping the fish from growing to that size again.
In answer to their concerns, the state fisheries’ officials worked hard to figure out what anglers wanted on the mountain and instituted a plan to make that happen. The state has since designated 35 percent of the lakes on Boulder to be managed for trophy brook trout fishing and 83 percent designated to have a trophy fish component.
And apparently it’s working. The regulations set to grow large fish appear to be producing trophy tiger trout, and, at the same time, allowing for native cutthroat trout conservation. What does this mean for anglers? Excellent chances of catching “the big one” — or at least, a unique and beautiful one during an angling expedition to Utah fishing hotspots on Boulder Mountain.
These days, don’t be surprised to find a unique variety of fish nipping at the end of your line (some of them trophy-sized). There are tiger trout, which are a hybrid between brook and brown trout and have become a popular target species for anglers. The hybrids are sterile and grow fast because they don’t waste energy spawning — instead they focus on eating. Anglers are taking advantage of that, setting the hook on memories of a lifetime while catching the rapidly growing tigers here.
Brook trout are also recovering, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the state record challenged in the coming years. So if you are considering a brook trout fishing trip to the area, now may be a good time — snagging those honors could be within reach.
The native sport fish on the mountain are also getting some love. Biologists have dedicated specific waters as strongholds for native Colorado River cutthroat trout. Catch one of these beauties on your line and it won’t matter how big it is — with their stunning, bright red colors, these fish are gorgeous just to look at, and their color only gets more intense during the spawning season.
Another unique catch on Boulder Mountain is the Arctic grayling. This colorful addition to the creel is a surprise to many anglers who didn’t know the fish existed up here. Arctic grayling, as their name implies, are not native to Utah. They don’t get too large in the Beehive State, but they make up for it with their prominent, beautifully iridescent dorsal fin. They are sometimes called freshwater sailfish because of this feature.
Find Your Lake
There are a variety of different ways to access the lakes, ponds, and reservoirs on Boulder Mountain. Some of the more remote areas require off-road vehicles, and you may need to hike a bit to reach them. But, many of the Utah fishing hotspots are accessed from the dirt-packed Boulder Top Road, which runs north/south from Highway 24 and starts about 2.5 miles east of Bicknell. Drive past the Perry Egan Hatchery and look for signs indicating Forest Road 154.
For paved road access, take the All-American Road Scenic Byway 12, which runs between Torrey and Boulder, and drive to find some less-out-of-the-way waters. Bonus: It’s a stunning drive anytime of year, but especially during the fall.
Because of the various regulations that apply to each lake, be sure to review the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for information on fishing licenses and other regulations to ensure you’re in compliance with the law while fishing here.