Pelican Lake (elevation 4800 feet) is a natural lake in the Uinta Basin southwest of Vernal, Utah. Historically, it is noted as a world class bluegill fishery. Pelican Lake has been dammed to impound and release water for irrigation, and water is diverted into the lake via the Ouray Park Canal from the Uinta River. The existing concrete dam was built in 1967, but the lake has been in use as a water storage facility for decades. Consumptive water use is limited to irrigation, and non-consumptive uses include warm water aquatic habitats, wetland habitat, and recreational uses.
Public access is unrestricted. The shoreline is managed by the BLM, the Bureau of Reclamation, and private ownership.
Pelican Lake has a small, natural watershed consisting of Ouray Park, a flat agricultural area north of the lake. The park is bounded by gentle slopes that rise several hundred feet and become rolling hills. The land was originally extremely arid desert (6 - 8" annual precipitation), but diversion of water from the High Uintas have transformed the area into productive agricultural land.
The vegetation communities in the natural watershed include irrigated farmland, shadscale, greasewood, and sage-grass. The diverted watershed includes sage-grass, irrigated farmland, oak-maple, spruce-fir, aspen, pine, and alpine. The watershed receives 15-102 cm (6–40 inches) of precipitation annually. The frost-free season around the reservoir is 100-120 days per year.
The water quality of Pelican Lake is fair. The Utah State Division of Wildlife Resources reports that the bottom of Pelican Lake is covered with rooted aquatic vegetation, mostly Potamogeton and Scirpus, and the perimeter of the lake has mostly cattails and Typha, along the shore area.
The lake provides a productive warm water fishery (estimated Class II), rare in the Uintah Basin. Nationally known for trophy bluegill, this small reservoir, 1,680 surface acres when filled, also has largemouth bass (one to four pounds) and an underutilized bullhead fishery. Bluegills are easily caught and make a great kids fishery. Avid predators, bluegills are only limited by the size of their mouth so use small lures, flies, jigs and baits. Bass are also predators and their main diet is fish, crayfish and the occasional amphibian. Larger fish need a larger jig, crankbait or other lure but remember the lake is shallow so don’t attach extra weights. During the spring, try fishing open areas in and along the edges of the reeds for both species. As the summer progresses, both species will move more toward the edges and out into the deeper waters.
• Bluegill and green sunfish in the aggregate, limit 20.
• Bass limit 6; but only 1 bass larger than 15 inches.
Bluegill are shorter, deep-bodied fish, whose name comes from the dark flap over the gills. The body is olive-green with vertical bars, and some blue and orange may be present. Bluegills can be caught by using worms or insects on a small hook, and will also take a small jig or fly.
Green Sunfish Catch-and-release record: 05/29/00; 10 1/2 in.; Jack Vincent.
Bluegill Catch-and-release record: 01/30/00; 11 1/4 in.; Lance Egan.
Green sunfish are brassy-green or blue-green on the back, sometimes with metallic-green Flecks and dusky bars on the sides. The flap over the gills is a dark color. This fish will strike at worms, bait or smaller artificial lures.
• Angling record: 2003; 0 lb. 15.5 oz.; L-10 1⁄4 in.; G–10 in.; Sean Buchanan; Glassman Pond
• Catch-and-Release record: 05/29/00; 10 1⁄2 in.; Jack Vincent; Pelican Lake