(Evolution of fishing at Willard Bay)
Some 88,000 wipers (a cross between striped bass and white bass) were stocked into Willard Bay on June 25. The fish were between two and four inches long. They should grow rapidly and add an exciting dimension to a Wasatch Front reservoir which is already producing remarkable fishing.
The stocking went great, after the fish finally arrived, said Tom Pettengill, DWR northern region aquatic manager. The DWR driver got down to Wahweap to pick up the fish and got sick. Another driver was sent down, and the fish arrived about 1 a.m. Saturday morning, instead of early Friday evening. The wipers were put on boats in the north marina then released into open water in the lake. Pettengill said they looked good and apparently traveled well.
The four-inch wipers will begin eating shad immediately, and should grow to 2-3 pounds within a year. Some will reach five pounds within three years. The maximum size for wipers in Willard will be 12-15 pounds, probably more like 15, Pettengill said. That will take 5-6 years.
There is an abundance of small shad in the reservoir right now, and so the little wipers should have plenty to eat. The abundant shad should also protect the wipers from being preyed on by other sport fish.
"We are going to have to stock every year because they don't reproduce," the fisheries manager said. Because they are sterile, numbers can be controlled and so they can be used as an effective management tool, while providing excellent sport. They wipers do go through motions of reproduction, and one or two couples around the country have successfully produced offspring but it is extremely rare.
Unlike walleye and channel cats, wipers prefer open water, and Willard has plenty of that. "It's a 10,000 acre bathtub and the open water hasn't been utilized," Pettengill said.
Pettengill said he's been pleased with what's happened at Willard, particularly this spring and summer. "This year we have seen walleye fishing really improve. I think we are on the edge of the catfish improving dramatically. Last year we saw cats up to 18 pounds; this year perhaps we'll see a 20 pounder."
Walleye fishing has been good during the past month. It seems like the best fishing has been in the middle of the afternoon, which is completely backward for walleye. "The best fishing I've had during the last month has been in the middle of day, on calm days. The fish we've caught have averaged 19-24 inches, with a few up to 26 inches."
A recent check by conservation officers found all fishing boats except two had taken walleye or catfish or both. Sampling this spring showed 25% of fish were big females that should provide good spawns for years to come.
A lot of channel cats are being caught at Willard, but most are small. Pettengill said he's hearing some complaints about the size of the fish.
"We've had such good reproduction the past two years that the little cats are abundant, and easy to catch." In a couple more years all those little cats will be big, and the fishing should be incredible.
Walleye start feeding on shad when they are only two inches long, and double in size about every month during their first summer. Young channel cats grow more slowly. During their first two summers their mouths are just too small to eat fish. During their third summer they will start to eat the shad, and then growth will come fast.
Willard's good now, and getting better. We can be patient.