The ice and the cisco arrived on cue.
First ice of the season on Bear Lake showed up on Sunday and the first cisco on Monday. Perfect timing for both.First, because a covering of ice makes it easier to fish. Success has traditionally been better fishing through ice than by wading into the open water with a net.
And also because the timing of the cisco's arrival will put the peak of the spawn over the weekend, a time when most fishermen are able to get to the lake.
The first thin coating of ice showed up on the lake early Sunday. By Monday morning, when the first fishermen arrived to look for cisco, the ice was about 11/2 inches thick.
While ice that thick can hold a fishermen, extreme caution is necessary. Early Monday, in fact, one fisherman opted to break through the ice and stand in waders to fish rather than risk the thin ice, while nearby two others chose to take the chance and stand on the ice to fish.
The ice is now more than three inches thick and considered safe for fishing.
Fishermen typically do better fishing for cisco through the ice because they have a better view into the water and are therefore better able to catch the fish. Also, ice allows fishermen to get out to where the fish spawn rather than be limited to those few fish that happen to come into shore.
According to Bryce Nielson, fisheries program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources at the lake, conditions point to good fishing for cisco this year.
Several limits (30 fish) were pulled from the lake on Wednesday. He expects some of the best fishing, however, to develop on Saturday and Sunday . . . "When the spawn peaks." he says.
Traditionally, fishermen have come to the eastern shores of the lake with axes, ice augers and dip nets to fish for cisco.
A hole cut in the ice gives anglers the opportunity to net fish that might pass under them.
Recently, points out Nielson, fishermen have discovered new methods.
They've found, for example, that a flashy lure suspended near the bottom and jigged occasionally will attract the small silver-colored fish. As they investigate they can be snagged.
Nielson points out that some fishermen have found this a more productive method than netting.
Also, fishermen have begun working in teams - one jigs a shiny lure to attract the fish while a second nets them as they come in to investigate.
Nielson points out that a female cisco looking for a mate will shake her body. A shiny lure jigged off the bottom resembles this action and will attract fish in to investigate.
The Bonneville cisco is a small fish, about six inches long, that is endemic to Bear Lake. Nowhere else in world can the fish be caught.
Those familiar with the fish say that cooked right it is a tasty treat. Most fishermen, however, catch the fish to use as bait for future fishing trips to Bear Lake.
It is legal to use cisco for bait in Bear Lake. Bear Lake cutthroat, lake trout and white fish all utilize the cisco as a food source.
Resident fishermen contend that any lure will work better with a piece of cisco meat on the hook, especially the tail of a cisco.
And because the predator fish follow the cisco in to their spawning areas, it also becomes possible for fishermen to hook a nice cutthroat, lake trout or white fish while jigging for cisco.
According to Nielson, there is about eight inches of snow along the eastern side of the lake.