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The Fishes of San Juan County

San Juan County has a number of opportunities for those who like to fish. Fly fishermen may be drawn to one of the little lakes in the Abajo’s to try their hand at hooking a trout. Those that are able to get a boat in the water will probably enjoy Lake Powell and the pursuit of three varieties of bass in that lake. And for those between the two, standing on the dam or shoreline of one of the many reservoirs in the county can reward the novice angler with a stringer full of anything from catfish to sunfish. 


The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website has a great map that will give you the skinny on what’s going on in each of the local fishing holes throughout the county. You will find the link for that and a link to get your fishing license online at the bottom of this article.


At the north end of San Juan County is Ken’s Lake. The lake is about 10 miles south of the town of Moab and just south of the county line. In addition to fishing, the area offers camping and motorhome spaces and over 3 miles of trails. Non-motorized boats are allowed on the lake, and those casting out a line are likely to catch Largemouth Bass or Rainbow Trout. The occasional Bluegill, Brown Trout, Channel Catfish, or Green Sunfish may steal your bait as well. 


Moving south and then west of Monticello, you will find a trio of lakes nestled in select watersheds for the Abajo’s. These lakes offer great views and hiking trails in case you bring along family or friends who may not share your enthusiasm for fishing. 


The northernmost of the lakes in the Abajo’s is a 5-acre gem called Foy Lake. This lake is also listed as Spring Lake on some maps, but the locals know it as Foy Lake, named in honor of Claude Foy, a local Monticello resident who used a Caterpillar D4 bulldozer to turn a beaver pond into the beauty you see today. He may have also used that same D4 to create Monticello Lake. . 


Standing on the dam of Foy Lake casting a line in the water you are gazing at tall stands of Spruce, Pine and Aspen trees climbing up to the highest reaches of the Abajo’s. Until about mid-June, snow caps the mountain. Turn your head and look back over your shoulder and you are looking into reds and browns of the Canyonlands with the La Sal mountains 40 or more miles distant.. 


There are some primitive campsites and RV sites near the lake and a vault toilet just below the dam. Foy Lake is spring-fed, so it maintains fish all year round. Brook Trout and Rainbow Trout are the predominant catch, although the lake has been stocked in the past with a hybrid called a Tiger Trout. Even if you strike out completely (not likely), you will be treated to some amazing scenery. 


Monticello Lake is a bit further south of Foy Lake and can be seen from what the locals call The Mountain Road. Monticello Lake sits in a little pocket above a small canyon. From the dam, you are looking again at the backdrop of alpine forests. The lake is not spring-fed, and it freezes over solid in winter. The fish in Monticello Lake are stocked and will be Rainbow and Tiger Trout. 


Closer to Monticello is Loyd’s Lake. And it is Loyd with one L. Loyd Young was a government hydrologist who moved back to Monticello after retirement. With his guidance the tiny town of Monticello navigated the obstacles to get the funding required to create the 100 acre reservoir. In addition to being a good fishing lake it is also the supply for secondary water for Monticello and some of the agricultural concerns nearby. 


Water flows into the Loyd’s Lake reservoir opposite the dam at two points and in spring, runoff is channeled into it near the dam. Fishing is best on the dam or near the points where the natural watersheds feed into it. Although the Division of Wildlife Resources says you can, you CANNOT camp around Loyd’s Lake. No motorized watercraft are allowed on the lake either. Now about those fish. This writer has taken 14 inch Rainbow Trout out of the lake fishing from the north end of the dam. And this writer witnessed a neighborhood kid catch a 20 inch Rainbow Trout out of the lake fishing with a mini marshmallow as bait. In addition to trout, the occasional Green Sunfish is lured from Loyd’s murky depths. Loyd’s has access throughout the winter, so you can succeed at ice fishing should you choose to saw a hole in the ice you are standing on. 


Back out to 191 and southbound, water becomes a bit scarce until you get to within spitting distance of Blanding City. The Recapture Reservoir is a 265-acre lake just north of the town. 191 crosses the dam that impounds the lake water. On either side of the dam, you will find roads that turn off to the northwest. Almost any sized watercraft can be launched, motorized, sail or paddle. All are welcome. The fishermans likely results in this lake will include Black Bullhead Catfish, Bluegill, Green Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, and even Northern Pike. This lake too, is accessible in the winter months, and ice fishermen can be seen dangling a line in the water while the snow flurries fly. Camping is permitted on the reservoir, and there are some vault toilets on the south side of the lake. There is also room for RV’s on both sides of the reservoir. 


The name of the reservoir comes from a local myth dreamed up by an early pioneer regarding the recapture of the Aztec Ruler Montezuma by Cortez in the canyon dammed for the reservoir. Absolutely nothing backs up the myth.


Blanding, not appearing to want to excite anyone with a name, also has Blanding Reservoir No. 4 at the north end of their city limits. The 35-acre reservoir has a small boat ramp but does not allow motorized watercraft. No camping is allowed at this lake either. Anglers are likely to catch Rainbow Trout, Tiger Trout, and Largemouth Bass. 


Lake Powell is best left to the experts as this writer's fishing exploits on the lake are limited to catching a single catfish near Bullfrog Marina from the shoreline. The nice people at Visit Utah have a great piece on how to fish Lake Powell at this link. Lake Powell


And then there are the rivers. The Division of Wildlife Resources information lets you know that most of the Colorado River through San Juan County is remote, and access is limited. But if you do manage to get a line in the water, you are most likely to catch Common Carp and Channel Catfish. The same is true of the San Juan River as it makes its way from the state line to its confluence with the Colorado River. Sure there are exceptions but nobody is pulling out a trophy Brook Trout from any place along the shoreline within walking distance from the car. 

Residents and visitors alike need a license to fish in the state. The state does offer a free fishing day in early June, allowing anyone to angle away for no fee. Utah residents can purchase a year-long license for anywhere between $5 and $37, depending on age. Non-residents can get a 3 day permit for any age for $28. Longer duration permits are available for higher rates.


The rates are available online for all anglers at this link Utah Fishing Licenses. The map and information on San Juan County fishing spots can be found here Utah Fishing Map


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