What To Expect When Fishing Flaming Gorge for Lake Trout

My Flaming Gorge Fishing Methods

When Fishing Flaming Gorge we enjoy a 20-foot Lund fishing boat equipped with Garmin Livescope, traditional sonar, G.P.S, and electric motor to ensure you’re always over fish. You hook and land your own fish. I provide the tackle, custom-made rods, lures, boat control, lake knowledge, coaching, and tips to assist you in catching the big one. I will show and tell you how, but you do the catching. Vertical jigging with light tackle consisting of 12 lb. line, one to three-ounce jigs, and my own custom rods ensure you a battle with each fish. This is much more exciting than trolling with heavy line or down rigging. You actually catch your own fish, not just reel them in after they’ve already hooked themselves!

This is precision, predatory fishing; not just trolling around waiting to grab a rod from a rod holder. You hold the rod, present the jig, and fish! I design some of my own jigs, build my own rods, and have developed special methods to consistently catch these large, wary fish. I locate the fish, position and hold the boat directly over them, tell you exactly when to drop the lure, and watch both the jigs and the fish’s reaction on the sonar. Usually, I can tell you exactly when to be ready for a strike!

Lure presentations are based on how the fish react to the lure. Sometimes they want it on the bottom, sometimes they want it higher up. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. You should be completely focused on your presentation, ready for any slight indication of a strike, and ready to set the hook immediately. Bites are subtle with a straight-down presentation. You gotta be focused! It’s both challenging and rewarding.

We begin each day around sunrise, usually at Lucerne boat ramp, and usually fish through early afternoon. Each day is different. Most are 6-8 hours. The fish and weather will tell us when to stop. Most fish are caught during the morning hours, though sometimes the bite continues into the afternoon. Breezes and wind can often make afternoon fishing tougher due to the waves hampering your lure presentation and boat control.  I don’t fish during lightning storms–ever.

We mostly fish the lower two-thirds of the lake, which spans both Utah and Wyoming. You should be licensed for both states unless otherwise advised. 

I have spent the better part of the past 30+ years trying to learn as much as possible about catching Flaming Gorge lake trout, including observations with underwater cameras. Over the years, I have developed special lures and techniques specifically for Flaming Gorge, and fished every little nook and cranny of the lake. With over 6,500 fishing days on Flaming Gorge, I feel I’m as knowledgeable about these lake trout as anyone, and can pass pieces of this knowledge on to you with each trip.

Flaming Gorge Lake Trout Seasonal Patterns

Early in the spring, through April, crowds have not yet stormed onto the scene, and the fish move actively throughout the lake. Weather can be fickle, but the fish are usually less-fickle early in the season. As weather warms, crowds increase. Fish become easier to find as they begin to “hold” in certain areas. Warmer temperatures push the fish down onto deeper humps as summer progresses, and by mid-summer they’re stacked up in certain locations. By early October, they move to their spawning beds where they’ll spawn in early November. In December, they leave the beds and resume feeding again right up until the lake freezes (IF it freezes!) Great fishing continues right through the winter and into spring, continuing the cycle.

Capt. Jim Willams, Full-Time, Professional Guide

I have fished Flaming Gorge since the late 1970’s, and moved to Flaming Gorge in 1991 after developing jigs and methods to consistently catch large lake trout. Guiding is my sole occupation. I have been guiding professionally since 1981, spending many seasons throughout Alaska, Wyoming, and operating a wilderness fishing lodge in Canada, and guiding for winter tarpon in the Florida Keys from 2001 to 2009. I’m now hosting baby tarpon fishing on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula during the winter, November-March.

My goal is to put you on fish and give you the best opportunity to catch them. I don’t guide on a clock, or charge by the hour. I do whatever it takes to get you into fish. My service is very personalized to each client’s different wants and needs. I use only top-notch equipment, and often fish with jigs that others on the lake aren’t using. I guide over 100 days annually on Flaming Gorge.

My Boats For Fishing Flaming Gorge

20-foot Lund Alaskan W/ 115 hp. Mercury 4-Stroke, Garmin Livescope, GPS, Custom Maps, Minn Kota electric. With custom modifications, she is the ultimate lake trout jig-fishing machine for Flaming Gorge. Roomy, low-sided, and custom wind protection for the cold days.  

20′ Gregor Sea Hawk W/115 hp. Mercury 4-stroke
Garmin Livescope, GPS, Custom Maps, Minn Kota Electric

Location And Climate

Flaming Gorge stretches from north to south across the Utah-Wyoming border for 91 miles. It was created by a dam on the Green River in the early 1960’s. The Wyoming side cuts into small cliffs and rolling sagebrush hills. The Utah side curves into steep, red canyon walls topped by pine forest. Bald eagles and ospreys build nests near the water and soar overhead. Flaming Gorge is 410 miles from Denver, and 160 from Salt Lake City. The Green River below the dam provides world-class fishing for brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout.

At 6000 feet in elevation, this is a cool, arid, high-desert climate for the most part. It can and will snow anytime between early September and late June. However, snowfall is infrequent from June-Oct. Spring and Summer thunderstorms are common, though usually short-lived, with more lightning and wind than precipitation.

January and February usually mean a frozen pond and cold periods. HOWEVER, on some years, it brings the best fishing of the year on the nicer days between stormy periods. There are no crowds and fishing is terrific! Mornings below freezing sometimes lead to afternoon temperatures in the 40’s! A special time in certain years.

March and April also bring some great fishing in uncrowded conditions. Storms can blow up any time, and weather is often wet with rain or snow. The calm days are spectacular though.

May and early June weather is usually calm and nice in the mornings, and windy in the afternoons. Be prepared for quick changes when spring cold fronts roar through. It can go from 80 degrees to 30 in a few hours. Perhaps the most popular time of the year, meaning good fishing and lots of company on the lake.

Late June through August normally brings hot summer days in the high 70’s and 80’s, with an ever-present chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. Fishing becomes very stable and productive. Crowds thin in August as school starts and early hunting seasons begin. 90+ degree days are generally rare, though we do get a few. This is the only time I’ve never seen snow here.

September and October are the driest months, cooler, with a shower or skiff of snow once in a while when a moist front passes. Crowds thin as school starts and hunting seasons begin. I love September weather and fishing. Last good shot at the big fish until after the spawn.

November and December are favorites.  Cold with lake fog common in the mornings. Morning temps are below freezing and highs often remain below freezing. Be prepared, but post-spawn fish are hungry! Fish between the storms. Crowds are gone again. Chains sometimes required to launch (I have them!)