by Hartt Wixom
There is something serenely peaceful about Panguitch Lake. You drive through the pines of the Dixie National Forest to behold a lake of azure blue in an emerald meadow.
Fishing can also be superb. Years ago I drove to Panguitch Lake in a mid-May blizzard and caught three big rainbow trout in five casts. This year a friend I also found good fishing. After all, it wasn’t named Panguitch (“Big Fish”) by the Paiute Indians for nothing.
Some 13 miles east of Brian Head Ski Resort, the 1,248 acre lake once had chub problems. I found none this time. What I did find was a good many cooperative rainbow trout from 12-18 inches, along with a few cutthroats and tigers. The fish would hit just about any shiny minnow imitation.
Best fishing was on the east end in about 18-25 feet of water. I did not find fly fishing action on this occasion. Local regulars say fly fishing heats up in the southwest corner near the Blue Springs Creek inlet as the water warms sufficiently for insect hatches. “Some of the best fish are taken in that corner,” says Panguitch Lake RV Resort manager Craig Baldwin. Record rainbow mounted on his office wall: 18.4 lbs. Note: the spring gill net survey on Panguitch Lake by the Division of Wildlife Resources reads like this: “Trout numbers are high; 12-14 inch rainbows are abundant; lots of cutthroats running 17-22 inches with one 7 pounder.”
Since I was there in the past, there have been many improvements: a new marina at the resort with dozens of boat slips and a dozen well-equipped cabins. A public boat launch ramp is located half a mile to the east. The cabins provide kitchenettes, refrigerator/freezer, washer-dryer. (Bring your own sleeping bags.) The restaurant has a menu with everything from steak and shrimp to salmon. Boat rentals and basic angling supplies are available. Cabin cost: $100-$150. Slips are $15 per day. ATV rallies are held in mid-summer.
Pontoon boats holding eight people are a popular attraction here, renting for $200 a day. This allows cooking on board, seats in the shade, and space to move around for family comfort.
As for the fishing, I experimented with many different lures and found the following best: Jake’s Spin-a-lures, Mepps spinners, rooster tails and small spoons. Jigs which had been so effective a week earlier for bass at Sand Hollow were ignored. Note: local regulations allow four trout total but a slot limit requires returning cutts and tigers between 15-22 inches. I caught no tigers but one angler who did said they were hard-fighting (must return) 17-inchers.
Duane Woodward, Washington City, skillfully kept the boat moving in the wind about 100 feet off shore at 2-3 miles an hour. This required an electric motor, when with the wind, and the gas outboard when against it. A depth/ fish-finder were big helps, although we passed through some fish apparently not hungry. We found dozens of others which were.
The fish were in extremely healthy condition, small heads, fat bodies, and full of energy on light tackle. I normally use 6-lb. test monofilament unless going for striped bass or lake trout, where I prefer at least 8-lb. test with a larger reel and sturdier rod.
At an elevation of 8,250 feet, this natural body of water can be cold until mid-summer, and even then, mornings and evenings. A circular lake, it measures about five miles around when brim full, as we found it. Panguitch Creek, which tumbles from the lake to the community of that name, was at high flow but clear, with rainbows taking bead heads where you could find slack water.
The surface water temperature was 60 degree on the last week of May. At 68-70 degrees in mid-summer, the fish may go to deepest water, although this is more of a shallow “pasture” lake. It doesn’t go as deep as say, Kolob or Fish Lake.
Panguitch attracts many shore anglers who I also found catching fish. Panguitch Lake Lodge also remains open year around to serve ice fishermen and, of course, deer and elk hunters in the fall.
There are two routes in from the west: Utah 143 south from Parowan, or east of Cedar City on U. S. 14, although on my last trip snow clogged that route near Cedar Breaks National Monument. Contact for Panguitch Lake Lodge: (435) 676-2864, www.rvfish.com