By LaVarr Webb
Perch fishing was fairly fast at Deer Creek early that January, but the fish were small. However, the possibility of trout and walleye keep things interesting.
It was cold and smoggy in the Salt Lake Valley in early January.
But at Deer Creek Reservoir the air was clear, the sky was blue and the sun was even warm when the wind wasn't blowing.
Better yet, the fish were biting! We caught three kinds of fish at Deer Creek that day — lots of perch (mostly small), one trout, and a surprise walleye.
Yes, a walleye! A nice, fat, 16-inch walleye.
Yes, Virginia, there are walleye in Deer Creek. But the effect on the perch didn't seem to be apparent, at least where we were fishing. We found lots of perch, could have caught buckets full of them, but they were mostly very small. We only caught two that were good-sized.
We were fishing about halfway between the dam at one end of the reservoir and the island at the other, in fairly deep water, about 65 feet. We dropped to the bottom with spoons, tear drops, ice flies, jigs, Crippled Herrings and about anything else, with hooks tipped with nightcrawlers, meal worms and perch meat.
Almost immediately there would be a tap, tap, tap as a small perch worried the bait.
Catching these small perch was something of an art. You could never count on them chomping on the bait and hooking themselves. You had to lift the rod tip just as they hit the bait or they'd be gone. If you walked away from your rod and then tried to grab it when the tip started bouncing, it was too late.
So, the way to catch small perch is this: Use a short rod. Don't hold the rod in your hand (unless you use a bobber) because your sense of touch isn't as fine-tuned as your sense of sight. With your rod stationary on the ice, propped up on your tackle box or something else, you can see your rod tip bob up and down better than you can feel the strike while holding your rod.
But you've got to stay right with your rod. Sit on a bucket or chair with your rod handle between your feet or kneel in the snow next to your rod. Keep your hand within an inch of the rod handle, ready to set the hook at the slightest twitch of the rod tip. (Obviously, you have to be able to tell the difference between a perch nibble and the wind.)
If you can lift up just when the perch is pulling down, you'll catch a lot of perch.
It takes a small hook. Use a big hook and all you'll get is a lot of bites and no fish.
The walleye are supposed to be impacting the perch, reducing their numbers and increasing their average size. Maybe that's the case in parts of the reservoir. Where we were, we found lots of small perch and very few larger ones.
Probably a couple hundred anglers were out on the ice on New Year's Day. We talked to a number of them and they had mostly small fish like we had. Some had caught some pretty nice trout. One group fishing for trout dropped their lines about 15 feet below the ice. That seemed to be where the trout were suspended that day. They used some kind of spoon or lure tipped with salmon eggs, cheese, nightcrawler or Power Bait.
We tried it for a short time and caught one small rainbow on Power Bait, about 8 inches.
Then came the surprise. Just about sundown, Bobby Webb, 10 years old, who had caught about 30 perch, suddenly had his rod bend nearly in half. It wasn't a small perch. We figured it was either a whopping perch or a nice trout.
He reeled it up and, voila, a bug-eyed walleye. It took perch meat on a tiny teardrop hook. Bobby also caught a nice, big, fat perch just as we left.
With the sun down, it turned cold in a hurry on Deer Creek.
We went home with a bucket full of perch and a fat walleye.