Panguitch Lake's Literal "Big Fish"
On Sunday, July 2, officials reopened Panguitch Lake for recreational activities following the Brian Head Fire. Like the nearby resort town of Brian Head, popular outdoor activities at Panguitch Lake were unaffected by the fire.
People have been traveling to fish at Panguitch Lake for a long time. Legend has it this popular high mountain fishery in Southern Utah was named by the Paiute people who once frequented the area and it translates to mean “big fish.”
Fortunately for modern-day anglers, the lake still lives up to the moniker. It’s thrived since 2006, when state wildlife officials started stocking the lake with Bear River cutthroat trout and tiger trout (a hybrid between brown and brook trout) after chemically treating the lake to remove a large concentration of Utah chubs in the productive reservoirs. These fish are notorious carnivores and help keep the recurring population of Utah chub from periodically taking over the lake. Rainbow trout are also on the menu.
Nowadays, the lake is one of Utah’s most popular fishing destinations, and some of the state’s largest trout are pulled right from its waters. Panguitch may be just the place to pull in a trophy trout or two, as fish in the 6- to 8-pound range are not uncommon — with the occasional double-digit ones thrown in for good measure. Not surprisingly, word about the fish-rich waters seems to have spread beyond Utah, too: A 2001 survey showed 68 percent of anglers came from out of state.
Like other Utah lakes and reservoirs, Panguitch Lake can provide off-the-charts action just before the lake ices over in the winter, once the ice is safe enough to drill a hole through and again when the ice first recedes from the shores in the spring. Tipping jigs and lures with sucker meat are a good bet. Small flashy lures tipped with meal worms is another local favorite. Keep in mind that heavy vegetation can make fishing difficult in some areas in the late summer.
Trolling pop gear and a worm, Z-Rays and flatfish from boats can be good, but many people simply fish from shore with bait or from anchored boats. Night crawlers and PowerBait are the top choices among Panguitch Lake anglers. Plastic lures, casting spoons, and spinners from shore or a boat can be effective. Fly fishers strip leech patterns in black, olive, and brown. A sinking line helps reach the deeper fish.
According to a local angler, "The quality of our lake fishery is amazing and would rank in the top 10 in the western United States ... The fish food base for the lake is similar to Canadian lakes with the trout flavor of seasoned trout (trout residing in the lake longer than a year) being comparable to salmon." — Boat Dock Dave of Rocky Point Boat Dock
The trout limit is four at Panguitch and anglers can only keep two cutthroat or tiger trout under 15 inches and only one can be longer than 22 inches. All cutthroat and tiger trout between 15 and 22 inches must be released. Any fish displaying cutthroat trout markings is considered a cutthroat.
A number of small commercial stores surround Panguitch Lake, making it easy to rent a cabin or a boat. And for anglers looking to stretch their adventure into an overnight (or longer) trip, the Forest Service operates three large campgrounds in the area: White Bridge, North Panguitch Lake, and South Panguitch Lake.
*Source: Jeff Turner Flickr