Asay Creek, Navajo Lake and Duck Creek

The question is — “to fish or not to fish?”

One of the most popular summer activities in Utah is attending the annual Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City. People come from all over the country to take in the world-class plays during the festival each year. While in Cedar City, visitors often make time to head for nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument to see the natural wonders and escape the heat of summer in southern Utah. The spires, pillars and rock towers are reminiscent of Bryce Canyon National Park, but unlike Bryce, there’s also good fishing in the area.

If you are looking for a good spot to cast your line, head east out of Cedar on Highway 14 with the goal of reaching Navajo Lake. This lake is a high altitude mountain fishing destination, located just over 9,000 feet. The roughly 40-minute drive traverses the open flats of Cedar City through a red rock canyon and forests of pine and quaking aspen.

Fishing has always been good for stocked rainbow trout and brook trout, but an experiment to help control non-game Utah chub has produced some monster hybrid trout. Navajo Lake is a great place for a day trip or a weekend retreat. Because it’s not as busy as other lakes, there’s a better chance of snagging a prize catch. Splake, a sterile mix between a brook trout and a lake trout, are voracious fish eaters and love Utah chub. When the water remains high enough to sustain splake through the winter they grow quickly.

Splake up to 10 pounds have been caught at Navajo. Since the big trout enjoy Utah chub so much, many anglers start their trip to Navajo by fishing with worms to catch Utah chub. The chub are then used as bait or to tip lures.

State officials are working on the water level issues and fishing should remain consistent if solutions are discovered. Ice fishing can be very good for splake, but access usually requires a snowmobile.

If fishing is slow at Navajo, or you just want fish for the frying pan, head a little farther east on Highway 14 to nearby Duck Creek Reservoir. This small, high mountain lake (9,300 feet) is stocked heavily with rainbow trout and also gets a decent number of tiger trout — a hybrid mix between a brook trout and brown trout. Cutthroat roam these waters as well, but are illegal to harvest so make sure to release any that may find their way to your line. Tiger trout are limited to two per day at Duck Creek.

Finally, Asay Creek, located five miles from Hatch, Utah, is an excellent place for fly fisherman to enjoy a day on the river. The blue ribbon water of this spring fed creek has regular pockets of crystal-clear pools, long runs and deep water. Brown trout are stocked in the creek and mountain whitefish are a native species, thanks to the depth of the creek. River access is through the town of Panguitch and the area is seldom crowded.

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