Deer Creek Reservoir has been producing some quality fish of late. Often overlooked for more popular destinations like Strawberry or even Starvation, Deer Creek is giving up good numbers of 15-to 20-inch trout, nice-sized walleyes, small and largemouth bass, and even a few fat perch. Last Tuesday morning, I interviewed several anglers that reported steady trout action while fishing from a shrinking shoreline as ice continued to move down the lake towards the dam. While bundled up and comfortably seated in lawn chairs, the anglers were able to reach the ice with their casts and then pull their rigs off the edge and wait for the fish to bite. Night crawlers and Powerbait were the baits of choice. I knew it would simply be a matter of a few day before ice fishing would be their only option.
The air temperature (above the inversion) was 26 degrees and coming from the cold valley it seemed like a heat wave as I walked the shoreline. I was there to view the stocking of 50,000 rainbows in Deer Creek’s crystal clear water. The 10-inch trout, raised in a hatchery in Loa, were off loaded from tanks on a large truck through a pipe into a 10 X 20 rectangular hole cut in the ice.
The trout appeared very healthy and the stocking took place without incident. Only one fish jumped out on top of the ice and couldn’t quite wriggle its way back into the water. I’m pretty sure a bald eagle watching the activities from across the bay, took note of the struggling fish waited until we left the area before having a little “iced” trout as a mid-afternoon snack.
“We are trying to stock larger trout in Deer Creek,” said Mike Slater, aquatics manager for the Central Region of the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR). “We find that predation is lessened greatly when we stock 10-inchers in the reservoir. This year, it took a little extra time to get them to the size we wanted, thus the late stocking.” Slater assured me this was not in addition to the normal fall stocking of rainbows that takes usually takes place in October but that it simply took longer to raise the fish to the correct size.
I took the opportunity to asked Slater his feelings on the overall health of Deer Creek, and he was very excited to share his assessments. “On a scale from 1 to 10,” he began, “I’d have to give it an 8 or 9: at least as it appears from our prospective. More trout are surviving the winters and anglers are catching them all year long. The largemouth bass are doing well thanks to a few good water years, there is plenty of food in the water and fish are growing. Deer Creek is one of just a few reservoirs where the trout we plant in the fall grow between 2 and 3 inches before spring.”
One potential concern to Slater is the illegal introduction of bullhead catfish in Deer Creek. Theories are that they were introduced at the same time white bass were planted (also illegally). “There is no question the bullheads are reproducing,” continued Slater. “It could be argued that bullhead minnows will compete with all other minnows for food, and therefore affect the future health of trout and other species in the lake.” On a positive note, however, bullhead catfish minnows are great forage for bass, walleyes, perch, and even trout. As far as the white bass are concerned, Slater says there have been no more reports of fish being caught and none have shown up in gill net surveys. He hopes the illegal stocking didn’t “take” and white bass won’t further alter the makeup of sports fish in the reservoir.
When the ice does take over on Deer Creek, many of the same methods employed while there is still open water will continue to be effective under the ice. Most of the trout will generally suspend in 20 to 40 feet this time of year. The best way to test that theory is to drop your line all the way to the bottom and then gently and slowly reel up until your bait until you get a bite. Note how much line was out when the fish hit and then duplicate that depth on each succeeding drop. All the same baits will apply to ice fishing.
Don’t hesitate to take the little trip up Provo Canyon to experience Deer Creek. Ice or noice, Deer Creek should continue to produce quality fish all winter long.