We've been hearing strange reports from Starvation Reservoir this year. Lots of small walleye which are easy to catch, but only a few big ones. And more big browns than in the past. In fact, we've heard the brown fishing has been downright good at times. And we've been hearing about big chubs that bite aggressively.
All that seems out of character for Starvation, which has traditionally offered spotty fishing for big walleye, and not much else. The smallmouth fishery there has been coming on strong, but few people have focused on the bass.
So, Starvation has been ignored by most people, drawing a relatively few dedicated walleye fishermen.
Because of these reports, we decided to go check the place out for ourselves. We visited the water in mid-June and did indeed find fast fishing for small walleye. We had some kids with us and one insisted on fishing with a green Triple Teazer tipped with pink Power Bait. He trolled that behind the boat and caught the first fish — an 11-inch walleye. We caught lots more small walleye trolling and casting Rapalas.
We also caught chubs. Big, fat 12-inch chubs that hit our Rapalas. Pretty strange. I'd caught chubs on worms and flies, but never Rapalas.
As we cruised the reservoir we graphed lots of fish along rocky shorelines and around submerged islands and ridges. The walleye seemed to be concentrated in the transition areas (break lines) where the bottom becomes rocky or changes slope.
We fished through the afternoon and evening and found the bigger walleye holding close to structure, down in the rocks.
Pull a nightcrawler or Rapala behind a bottom bouncing sinker in the transition zones and you will almost certainly catch fish. A good sonar unit really helps you zero in on productive spots.
The bigger fish are usually caught on plastic jigs and grubs, or crawlers using a Lindy or spinner rig. One quarter ounce white grubs have been working well. Bounce them in and out of the rocks along the bottom.
Smallmouth fishing has been good in most places where broken rock comes down into the water. Work around the base of larger rocks close to deep water. Jigs and grubs have been the most effective for bass.
The browns seem to be making a comeback, and some nice ones have come out of the reservoir this year. Most are caught inadvertently by walleye or bass fishermen. Some people go after the browns specifically just after ice-off, and again during the fall when the fish are preparing to spawn. It's harder to catch browns during the heat of summer. Rabbit Gulch has been a good area for browns. If you want to target the browns try fishing jigs or Rapalas around rocks in fairly deep water.
So, what's going on at Starvation? Nobody knows for sure. DWR biologists working the reservoir say there are just as many big walleye, they are just hard to catch. Surveys last fall and this spring turned up 12, 13 and 14 pound fish. Every expected year-class is represented in the population. There are good numbers of "pups" which are easy to catch, but no more than normal.
The brown population does seem to be on the increase.
And the chubs — they are the mystery, and the secret to the future at Starvation. They are the primary forage fish for all the predators. Studies have turned up good numbers of big chubs, but almost no little ones. And that's been the case for several years. Some biologists are concerned the chubs may not be reproducing successfully, and that the population will crash when these big adults die off. Others think the situation is stable — that only big chubs turn up because the small ones hide in the rocks close to shore, or other places where they are difficult to study.
The reservoir is full of predators which seem to grow slowly until they reach a size where they can eat the abundant 12-inch chubs. Then they explode, becoming big and fat rapidly.
Small walleye are abundant, and compete for a limited food supply. Biologists say it would help management if some of these small predators are harvested. Take a few home and eat them. They are excellent. But release any large walleye so they can continue to build the population.
And release the chubs. They are needed to feed the walleye.
Starvation is a fun reservoir which is under-fished and under-utilized by recreation boaters. The marina at the state park was busy when were were there — we actually had to wait in line five minutes before launching. But Starvation is a good sized water and it was easy to get off by ourselves. It's a great place to water ski and jet ski.
There is a nice sandy beach up toward the top of the reservoir, and one other party was using it. The modern campground at the state park fills up on weekends, but usually has openings other times.
Starvation is located near Duchesne, west of Strawberry, about 117 miles from Salt Lake.