An ice fishing retreat on the south slope of the Uinta Mountains
By Jared Blackley
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SIX LAKES RESORT
You typically don’t get a view of a fish being reeled in through the ice until the very end. The act is all about the feel—how strong the fish pulls and how much it fights. The process can be exhilarating. Getting the fish through the hole and holding it up, admiring its colors and size, can be bliss.
At the end of a day spent fishing on the ice, there may be nothing better than being able walk back to a warm cabin with Jacuzzi, and Six Lakes Resort and Fishery in eastern Utah offers this option.
Most of the lakes at the resort were originally built during the late 1970s and early 1980s by Ned Mitchell, who owned a construction company that built roads for oil companies in the region. The current owner, David Nelson, bought the property in 2004. He says Mitchell built the lakes as a way to keep his employees busy during the otherwise slow winter months. Mitchell had the lakes stocked with fish, but the property didn’t become a commercial fishery until after Nelson bought it from Mitchell’s heirs.
“We’ve done a lot of improvements to the property since we bought it,” says Nelson. “There are actually seven lakes now and all have big healthy fish in them, some as big as 8 pounds.”
Working with the Fisheries and Wildlife Research Unit at Utah State University, Nelson and his team designed the lakes to be the perfect habitat for fish. Each lake flows from one to another until the water reaches the Big Sand Wash Reservoir at the southeast corner of the property.
The idea is to maintain the natural water flow and oxygen levels that allow trout to thrive without having to be artificially fed. Each lake has different species of fish, and each species was chosen for the specific lake based on the habitat. Most have different varieties of trout, but Island Lake has blue gill, large-mouth bass and even the elusive, prehistoric-looking tiger muskie.
All fish caught must be released, and flies and lures need to have a single, barbless hook. Only artificial flies and lures are acceptable. (Resort guests, however, may keep one fish per angler and pay $5 per kept fish. Only fish between 11 and 16 inches may be kept. There are also rules for keeping a trophy fish over 16 inches.)
Mitchell built his second home on the property, a large cabin that now can be rented, which accommodates up to 20. Nelson has since built an additional cabin with five bedrooms, 5 ½ bathrooms and a 10-person hot tub. There are also two campground areas, one of which has two “camper cabins,” each with a queen bed, bunk bed, kitchenette and restroom. The other campground has three camper cabins.
In peak summer months, Nelson says the campground (which includes five tent sites and a covered pavilion with tables and benches around a fire pit) is rented out to large groups in its entirety. However, in winter months, it’s possible to rent just one cabin at one of the campgrounds .
If you’re new to ice fishing or don’t have the proper gear, the resort offers a guided service that provides a warm tent, hot chocolate and a warm meal. Just make sure to book the guide in advance.
The entire resort can be rented for family reunions or corporate retreats or weddings. In addition to the kitchens in the cabins and at the campgrounds, the resort has a commercial kitchen that can handle meals for more than 100 people.
There is no on-site café or restaurant, and during winter months, food service in Altamont is limited. Pizarro’s (15773 W. 4000 North, Altamont, 435-454-3090) is open daily 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. for burgers, shakes, sandwiches and pizza. But it’s best if you bring groceries to prepare your own meals.
The resort offers annual fishing memberships, as well as day-use passes if you don’t want to spend the night. But staying in a cabin within walking distance of the ice can be a real treat after reeling in some big, healthy fish.
To get there: Six Lakes is 140 miles east of Salt Lake City (about a 2 ½ hour drive). Head east on Interstate 80 until just past Park City and take exit 146 for U.S. 40. Travel 96 miles southeast until you reach 12000 West. (The turnoff is in between Duchesne and Roosevelt, about 25 miles east of Duchesne.) Turn left and travel about 13 miles to the resort.
Six Lakes Utah
500 N. 12850 West
While You’re There
To fish larger reservoirs in the area, there are several good options. Big Sand Wash Reservoir abuts the Six Lakes resort. It was created in 1965 by an earth-fill dam. While the shoreline is 98% privately owned, the state owns a small segment at the boat ramp where public access is unrestricted. Besides the boat launch, public facilities are undeveloped.
You can catch walleye and small-mouth bass at Fred Hayes State Park at Starvation Reservoir (4 miles northwest of Duchesne on U.S. 40, 435-738-2326, StateParks.Utah. gov), only a half-hour’s drive from Six Lakes.
Just an hour away, at Strawberry Bay Marina (Strawberry Reservoir, 23 miles east from Heber on U.S. 40, 435-548-2261, StrawberryBay.com), anglers target cutthroat and rainbow trout as well as kokanee salmon.
Note: A Utah fishing license isn’t required to fish at Six Lakes, but one is required at any public reservoir.
The town of Roosevelt is 25 miles east of the resort with a Main Street begging to be explored. If you like kitsch and nostalgia, stop in at Marion’s Variety (29 N. Main, Roosevelt, 435-722-2143), an old-fashioned soda fountain/dime store (established 1933) with a row of stools at the counter. Enjoy barbecue burgers with chips, soup, pie, shakes and banana splits and other diner classics. Shop for trinkets, travel gear, toys and gifts while you wait on your order.
About an hour’s drive from Six Lakes (toward Salt Lake), just west of Strawberry Reservoir, the abundance of large meadows and rolling hills around Daniels Summit Lodge (17000 U.S. 40, Heber City, 800-519-9969, DanielsSummit.com) makes the area one of the best places in the state to snowmobile (you can rent snowmobiles from the lodge).
Nelson says a lot of the people who stay at Six Lakes take advantage of his other commercial property, the Pleasant Valley Hunting Preserve (3733 W. 10000 South, Myton, 435-646-3194, PVHunting.com). Just 20 minutes from Six Lakes, Pleasant Valley is the largest reserve of its kind in the state and allows for a hunting season that can extend through March.
A SAMPLING OF 2020 ICE FISHING TOURNAMENTS
Need a reason to drop your line down an ice hole this winter? Check out these ice fishing contests sponsored by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State Parks in February.
Rockport State Park Tagged Fishing Classic
This contest runs through Feb. 29 at Rockport State Park in Summit County. More than 100 fish in the reservoir are tagged, and anyone catching a tagged fish and turning it in before month’s end wins a prize. More details at StateParks.utah.gov/parks/rockport/events
Starvation Ice Derby
Held at Starvation Reservoir at Fred Hayes State Park on Saturday, Feb. 8. Participants will target trout and walleye, and prizes are awarded based on fish length. Registration is $15 to fish for one species or $20 to fish for both. More details at the Utah State Park website.
Fish Lake Perch Tournament
Hosted by DWR and other organizations, the annual Fish Lake Perch Tournament will be held Feb. 22 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants will target perch and can win prizes if they catch a tagged one. More details on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Eventbrite page.
A valid Utah fishing license is required for anyone over 12 to fish in any of the events. Licenses can be purchased at locations throughout the state or online at WildlifeLicense.Utah.gov. Participants also should familiarize themselves with ice safety recommendations on the Utah State Parks website.