KSL Outdoors: Bonneville whitefish at Bear Lake

(Adam and Tonya Intro) Welcome to KSL Outdoors and beautiful Bear Lake, I’m Adam Eakle. (tonya) I’m Tonya Kieffer. (adam) First time here right? (tonya) first time here and did you know that this is where the Idaho state record for cutthroat is. It’s renowned for it’s cutthroat, 19 pounds. (adam) I did not know that, I do know that there is some big lake trout in this reservoir, up to 30 pounds, but it’s the spawn of the Bonneville whitefish that draws anglers to this Caribbean in the Rockies every December.

(Adam and Tonya) ladies and gentlemen I’d like you to know that this many layers is required to keep your body temperature 98.6 degrees. (adam) it was a nippy 31 degrees when we left the truck. (tonya) I’m cozy.

Tonya and I are meeting up with the Bear Lake Project Leader, Scott Tolentino and he’s invited a few buddies from a website called bigfishtackle.com.

(Tonya) Hi Pat I’m Tonya. (pat) hi tonya, I’m pat. (scott Tolentino) she’s a ninja.

Scott is not only the biologist on the lake but he also hold the catch and release record for Bonneville whitefish. If there’s someone who knows more about Bear Lake and the endemic Bonneville whitefish, I’ve yet to meet them.

(Scott Tolentino, DWR, Bear Lake Project Leader) this is what we are after, Bonneville whitefish. This one is a little bit smaller than average, he’s about a pound. Most of them are about a pound and a half to two pounds. They have a very large mouth compared to our river whitefish and they are pretty aggressive at this time of year. They are feeding very little, but they are hitting out of aggression cause it’s during their spawning season. These fish are all in here on any rocky shoreline on the west side of the lake. There is several boats out this morning, seems like everybody is picking up a few fish.

(Scott) Oh look at that fish on! Now that is a whitefish, see how that tip is vibrating on his rod? (pat) I need to take this rod back it’s got a bend in it. (scott) yeah.

(Scott) that’s the size we are after, he’s doing good. (pat) that’s on my little pale perch. (scott FISH) there’s a hit. (pat) you have a two rod permit? (scott) I do.

Scott has us fishing near the dike of an old marina near Gus Rich Point, the dike was destroyed by wind, but the rocks remain.

(Scott) this whole area, all the way around this point is covered with rocks on the bottom so these whitefish are in here spawning on these rocks.

(Scott) we are just casting out, letting you line go slack until it hits the bottom, then just a couple of jigs bounce it two or three inches. Then I hold a tight line and let it pendulum back to the boat and then a lot of times, they’ll hit it as it’s sinking back or hitting the bottom there.

(Tonya) you got another one! (scott) yeah I’ve got one. (tonya) geez. (adam) he’s kicking your butt, but I will say Scott always kicks everyones butt. (scott as he lands fish) well that one day, I kicked Adam’s tail and then he went on a tear and I couldn’t catch up so. Remember that? (adam) yeah I still remember catching the cutthroat. Yup.

Bear Lake and the valley is down right beautiful this time of year. The crowds are gone, you pretty much have the lake to yourself. The Bear Lake State Park is a great place to launch a boat, you really don’t even need a boat as you can fish for these whitefish right at the marina. Scott expects the spawn and the bite to last about another week.

(Tonay) the famous whitefish. (adam) looks like a snag? That is a snag! (tonya buries her head in lap) (laughing)

Pat Scouten, better known as Tube Dude on BFT, is famous for his jigs. I’ll bet I’ve fished with a half dozen or so anglers that have Pat’s lures in their tackle box. Today his jigs and his custom road runners tipped with a nightcrawler, were the ticket.

(Pat Scouten, AKA, Tube Dude) I think black was the best color today, but we also did well on chartreuse and I caught a few of the better fish on my pale perch color. That I use a lot for perch and walleye in other waters. But it was funny for awhile there I had to change lures to get new fish.

(Scott) they are really good tasting, really mild tasting and pretty easy to catch for the most part and so you don’t need a lot of specialized high dollar equipment, downriggers and fancy depth finders, all you need is an anchor, small boat and a few small jigs. (adam) Pat’s custom jigs and that’s it. (scott) now if you have these you really are into the fish.

(Adam & Tonya tag) First time catching, first time holding the Bonneville Whitefish. What did you think? (tonya) It’s a pretty cool little species, you know it’s endemic to Bear Lake, it’s the only place on Earth that it’s found. It’s cold weather, but it’s a cool fish to catch. (adam) it was a little bit cold, but it wasn’t that bad, for some of us. Hey we’ve got more coming up here on KSL Outdoors.

(guys in other boat) looks like a big cutt. (adam) Oh he’s taking line.

Up next, more species you can catch at Bear Lake, also how you can help Primary Children’s Medical Center, by taking the Bear Lake Monster Polar Plunge.

(Quiz toss) That story in just a moment, but first tonights quiz question on more fish that are endemic here to Bear Lake.


(DJ Ballingham, Garden City) They fight better than anything in the lake and they taste great, we love them. It’s a lot of fun.

DJ and his crew were one of the many braving the cold to fish with us for the Bonneville Whitefish.

(Guys in boat) looks like a big cutt. (adam) oh nice taking line.

The occasional big cutt was showing up in the creel as well.

(Adam) oh that looks like a goo fish, nice cutt! (guys in boat) Good job Cory.

(Scott Tolentino) yeah the cutthroat trout fishing has been pretty good. It’s held out up really well. It started to pick up in September and is still really good out on the lake. A lot of people are trolling but this time of year people start to jig and they really enjoy the jigging and if you are a person who doesn’t want to troll or the equipment to troll you can get out and verticle jig anywhere from about 40 to 50 feet of water and pick up cutthroat.

(Randy hits fish) (adam) there’s he’s got him. (ralph) I’ll be it’s a mack. (adam) Oh he got off.

Whitefish, cutthroat, even lake trout are all popular at Bear Lake, but the biggest draw during the winter, is from one of the smallest fish. The Bonneville Cisco.

Every year hundreds of anglers flock to the shores each January for the annual spawning run of the Bonneville Cisco. Anglers brave the cold to dip their nets in hopes of catching a cisco to eat or to use for bait for the cutthroat and lake trout in Bear Lake. On January 26th, anglers celebrate the cisco run with the annual Cisco Disco.

(Scott) informal party, yeah we are not affiliated with anybody, just a bunch of friends and anybody else on the beach that comes over and wants to grab a bite we are happy to hook them up as long as we have food.

And after you’ve had a chance to catch and taste a few cisco, you can head over to the Bear Lake State Park and participate in the 4th annual Bear Lake Monster Polar Plunge. All the proceeds from the event go directly to the Primary Children’s Medical Center.

Mark Lee/Polar Plunge Participant- In January sometimes, it’s hard to find things to do here. So this is the best we could come up with.

It’s pretty simple, you give the organizers twenty five bucks, they give you a free sweatshirt. Then you dress up in your most outlandish costume and jump into the frigid 36 degree water. Last year Adam did it, this year, it’s my turn.

Adam-Okay, for a rookie like me, what’s it like? Angie-You know what? It’s just like a rush, it’s adrenaline rush. You’re going to jump in and you’re going to jump out and you’re going to feel great.

Mark-You cannot brace yourself for it, you just have to go into it.

Camron Argyle/Polar Plunge Participant- Adam-Have you ever done this before? Camron-Nope, first time! Adam-Well, what do you think? Cameron-I think it’s going to be really cold and I’m going to run really fast afterward.

Angie McPhie/Pres. Bear Lake Rondevu Chamber of Commerce-We raised all our own donations to purchase everything up front so any money that we make today goes straight to the PCMC

The Polar plunge and the Cisco Disco are both set to take place on January 26th. For more information on both events log onto bearlake.org. Time now to head back to Salt Lake to the guys at Fish Tech for tonights Fishing Report.

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