THE GREAT OUTDOORS — As spring turns warmer and summer approaches, Willard Bay will begin to heat up for fishing action. Perhaps the most sought after species in the reservoir are walleyes and wipers.
There’s a variety of methods and water vessels that will allow the angler opportunities to produce some catches of these delicious, white meat fish. Arguably some of the best-tasting fish in northern Utah, catching walleye and wipers can take some practice and adjustments in strategies. But the rewards are great, and the two species have a lot to offer to the pursuing angler.
You could call walleye a large version of a yellow perch. These toothy fish are an olive green color with yellow sides and white edged fins. The dorsal fin is prominent, and while not the best fighters available, at the dinner table, they more than make up for their lack of excitement on a fishing pole.
They sport bulging, glassy looking eyes and are known for their vision in dark water and in darker times of day such as very early morning and late evenings. In other words, low-light conditions are thought to be best for these fish. While the state record walleye is over 15 pounds 9 ounces, the average fish will typically run 1 to 3 pounds.
For those who pursue white bass in other lakes, it’s easy to recognize this hybrid fish. A cross between a female striped bass and a male white bass, these eating machines put all their energy into growing and not reproducing. Their horizontal black stripes along a white/silvery body make them easily recognizable, along with their dark gray to black back.
Wipers are known to grow upward of 12 pounds, but an average wiper at Willard Bay runs between 2 to 4 pounds on a good day. Also a delicious tasting fish, they are excellent fighters on a rod and reel and offer great fun to those who catch them.
Fishing accessibility for walleye and wipers
Both walleye and wiper can be fished from boats, but are not limited to this approach. Float tubers, pontoons and kayak anglers can also have good success with catching these fish. You can either cast to fish in structural areas, such as rocky edge lines or you can troll along in your water vehicle of choice.
Even bank anglers have success, especially when the walleye come into the rocks for spawning and feeding.
Tips for fishing walleye
Many different rigs will work for successfully catching walleyes, but one favorite lure of choice is a crawler harness. This lure comes with an attached leader and generally two single hooks for attaching nightcrawlers. They also sport a spinner blade for attraction.
Crank baits, both deep-diving and lipless lures such as Rapalas and Rattletraps, are also efficient in catching walleye. Lures with the plastic lips protruding from the front will dive to different depths. Willard is rather consistent in depth, and once you find the right lure, you’re set for keeping your lure in the strike zone. Rattletraps have a lipless design and vibrate furiously when retrieved or trolled. These lures are quite attractive to walleye, and when these fish are on the feed, they’ll take them readily.
Jig fishing, frequently from a fixed position, are great at producing catches as well. Twister-tail grubs, tube jigs and the like bounced along the bottom will pick up willing walleyes for your landing net. Just cast in a circle (rotating like the numbers on a clock face) until you find success. If no fish are found, move and try a similar approach in your new spot.
Fishing walleye near the bottom of the lake is best, and there are a couple of ways to achieve this. Bottom bouncers, a safety-pin type designed weight, will get your lure down in the water. Just experiment with different weights to find what will keep you in occasional contact with the bottom. Also, lead line is popular, and you can fish the harness with about two colors of lead line out, depending on the weight of your line. Again, you’ll want to experiment based upon the equipment you’re using.
Tips for fishing wipers
Similar tactics can be used for wipers, but depth doesn’t always seem to play a vital role in catching these voracious feeders. Rattletraps, again, are useful because they vary in the depth they dive, being weighted lures. Rebel and Rapala crankbaits are the go-to lure for many anglers fishing wipers and can be retrieved or trolled at a quicker speed rate than you might otherwise use. Boaters will travel upward of 2 mph to entice reaction bites.
In the summer, when the wipers begin to “boil” or chase schools of baitfish and gizzard shad, you can find fast action in closing in on the boil and casting spoons, white Rooster-Tails or other such lures. You’ll want to make an erratic retrieve rather close to the top of the water, to fool feeding wipers. These boils frequently attract gulls to feed as well and watching for diving birds can mark an active spot. The longer into the summer it gets, the more frequent late-evening boils become. Being in the right place at the right time is key.
Regardless if you are fishing on the water or from the bank, you can obtain success as Willard Bay heats up for good early summer action. You may even catch a bonus catfish or crappie in your efforts. Nonetheless, a trip out to Willard Bay can be a great way to spend a morning or evening. Just don’t forget the bug spray!