When the weather starts to get cold and stormy, walleye enthusiasts start to get excited because they know the fish are active, aggressive and hungry.
As the weather cools, the reservoirs "turn over;" the stratified water layers break down and mix, bringing cooler water to the surface. That allows fish to move in closer to shore to feed, where they are easier to find and catch. The fish know winter is coming, and so they feed aggressively to store up energy for the cold months. The result is very good fishing — for those willing to spend a little time and energy getting to know the walleye, its habits and habitat.
And the fishing has been good, according to Jim Gunderson, a member of the walleye-loving Rocky Mountain Anglers. "A lot of nice walleye are being caught at Starvation and at Deer Creek," Jim said. "During the day, it's mostly smaller fish, 1-4 pounds. We are catching them on crank baits, jigs, and trolling with spinner rigs, and night crawler rigs. They've been down 10 to 30 feet deep during the day.
"The bigger fish — trophy fish — have been coming in mostly early, early in the morning and at night. We catch them mostly on crank baits. Jigs have also worked well."
Brighter colored jigs and grubs (chartreuse) have worked well, as have darker colors — dark green or brown. Or combinations, black and chartreuse. "I don't know that color matters as much as presenting it right," Jim said.
Crank baits that imitate chubs work well in Starvation; perch imitators are the best in Deer Creek. But brightly colored Rapalas and Shad Raps also work well — chartreuse and silver.
At Starvation: "Straight across from the main state boat ramp is good, along those walls. And straight across from the bridge, on the north side — that wall that runs kind of southwest to northeast. The smaller fish are going to be scattered pretty much throughout the lake, off of points, underwater reefs, and break lines.
"On the walls, try to find spots where it isn't a steep drop off, but where it tapers off to around 30 feet, then cast in close to shore and fish your jigs down deep. You want to use 1/8-1/4 ounce jig heads, depending on the depth of the water you are finding them in, and the weather conditions.
"The west side of Deer Creek is often productive, off points down toward the dam. Also around the island and some of the rocky areas by Maple Bay."
The best action is usually from first light until about 10 a.m. Those brave enough to fish in the dark often do well in the wee morning hours.
Starvation has traditionally been the prime walleye water in Utah, but fishing there has declined a bit in recent years. The reservoir probably holds the largest number of walleye, and it's usually the easiest place to catch them, but Deer Creek is coming on strong and probably has more bigger fish.
"I don't think there are as many walleye in Starvation as in the past," Jim said. "I think that a lot of it is because anglers are keeping many of the big females — the prime spawners. There seems to be more people out fishing for walleye — walleye fishing is becoming more popular. I don't argue with anyone who wants to eat a fish, the smaller fish are ideal for that situation, but I would like to see the prime spawners released — the five to 10 pounders.
"I think there are state record walleye in Starvation, but I think there is a better chance of taking a record out of Deer Creek."
Fishing should stay good until the lake freezes, probably in mid or late December.
Walleye action should also be picking up in other Utah waters, Willard, Yuba, DMAD and Gunnison Bend, and Lake Powell.
This time of year go prepared for bad weather especially if you are fishing at night. The weather can change dramatically from one hour to the next and if you are not prepared you could be in for a long cold night.
Take extra clothing, enough so that if you get wet or fall overboard you can get dried off — quickly. If the wind comes up be prepared to wait it out. Find a protected bay and wait. Break out the hot chocolate and donuts and take a nap.
The combination of cold weather and cold water can be deadly if you are not prepared.
Also, watch for signs of hypothermia. Even if you aren't wet, hypothermia can set in and it can be deadly. Watch your fishing buddy and if you suspect hypothermia, get him in and get him warmed up. Don 't take any chances!