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Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19

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Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19
If'n I was to believe the weather forecrashers, Monday would be the least breezy day this week. So I headed for the south marina. Met WH2 and Wiperslayer at the ramp, launching their boat as I was launching my tube.

Air temp 55, water temp 67 at launch, warming to almost 70 at noon. Very high tide...and pretty good clarity. Just a trickle coming in at the baffles.

Silly me. Once again I deluded myself into thinking I might get a walleye or wiper. So I did not bring my LHBE minnows. Just lots of plastics and cranks...and of course some fligs. Brought crawlers, perch meat and Gulp Minnows to sweeten the lures.

Fished my way out the channel without any love. Started getting inquiries about 50 yards north of the channel entrance. I had been dragging a fire tiger flig with crawler on one rod and throwing a shad pattern swim bait on the other. The flig rod went bendo and TA-DAAA. The first silly kitty of the day.

As I continued to work along the dike...in water from 10' to 15'...I continued to get regularly molested. In addition to the pestiferous (but fun) catfish, I also got some smallie smacks. Nothing big. 8"-12". But they sure did like a white Gulp Minnow fished on a propellered jig head (pistol Pat). Even caught a few cantankerous cats on it too.

I kept changing up flig colors to try to find something the cats would not chomp. They hit everything I tried...with any kind of bait or combo. Had a tough time even trying to fish plastics. I would put out a freshly baited flig, put the rod in the holder, make a cast with the plastics and BENDO on the flig rod. Some problems are better to have than others.

Most of the cats that came to net were very fat pregnant mamas. However, I did catch one very dark male almost as soon as my Gulp Minnow splashed down next to the rocks on one cast. I only kept a few females for the table and they all had well developed eggs. The warmup this week should see them wrapping up their spawn soon.

The parking lot was well attended with boat trailers today. Quite a few craft on the water. But the ones I could see seemed to be moving around more than they would if they were on fish. Curt and Ira paid me an on-the-water visit about mid-morning. At that time they said they had not done much yet. And a couple of boaters who came in when I did just before noon also moaned about poor luck. Guess the fickle weather messed up the fickle fish.

When I got back to the ramp I noticed hordes of newly hatched fry swimming in the warm shallows. Couldn' t tell the species. Figured they were either shad or carp. Mighta been walleyes. Didn't have my microscope so all I could do was take a picture.

(This post was edited by TubeDude on Jun 24, 2019, 2:25 PM)
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Re: [TubeDude] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
Good job Pat. Sure wishing I could have joined you. Them Willard cats sure make good eating.



Larry

...one flew east, one flew west,
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest...
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Re: [TubeDude] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
Good seeing you out there Pat. We started seeing bait balls out in the open water today for the first time, I think we will see more of them in the coming weeks. After we left you we moved to a more productive area and it turned out to be a great day, our best this year for mostly none kitty type fish. I'll post about it a little later.


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Re: [FatBiker] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
The way the fish were cuddling up to the rocks, I'm sure you could have "rocked" them with your fairy wand. In times past a group of us would walk the dikes and fish crawlers under a bobber right next to the rocks. And that was in the time when there were ten plus pounders in the mix. Yee haww.


I had one walleye about 15 inches right up to the net before it gave me the jig back. Also right next to the rocks on the Gulp Minnow.


Saw quite a few suspended fish that could have been either shad or crappies. Neither would accept anything I offered. And my sonar ain't good enough to show that kind of definition.

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Re: [wiperhunter2] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
Glad you guys found some fish.


I also saw some "gob anomalies" that looked like they might be shadlets. Hope there was a big and prolonged spawn to refill the grocery locker for the fishies. Now if it doesn't get them so fed up they won't bite.

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Re: [TubeDude] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
I always think about that part of the shad spawn too, last year they spawned early and often and the result was a poor catching year. Lets hope this slow start this year will give the predators something to eat but keep them looking for moreWink.


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Re: [TubeDude] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
Nice work on the kitties etc. It seems that they follow you wherever you go, or something like that. Too bad the walleye didn't know how to hang on. You found one though. This sure is a good year for high water. Your picture of the ramp doesn't even look like Willard when I went up there.

It will be intersting to see how the greater abundance of groceries affects the fish. The cats almost never seem to slow down for that though.
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Re: [Piscophilic] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
"It will be intersting to see how the greater abundance of groceries affects the fish. The cats almost never seem to slow down for that though."

Catfish are known for their omnivorous tendencies. They eat almost everything...and anything that does not eat them first. There is actually a lot of potential food in Willard, besides the shad.

When the shad are too big for most of the predators to live on, they can find some alternative sources. These include the young of all other species, spottail shiners, logperch, crawdads and even hordes of midge larvae. Walleyes tend to rely mostly on shad and some of the smaller fish...and can get skinny when shad and small fish numbers are low. But catfish usually manage to eke out a living on whatever else is available.

I have filleted Willard cats with tummies full of gobs of midge larvae. And I have found remnants of young perch, sunfish, crappies and even baby catfish in them. Yesterday, most of the 5 cats I kept had crawdads in their innards.

Before shad and wipers were put into Willard, the catfish were both more numerous and got much bigger. The water stayed up in the rocks year round, with less demand from water users, and there were always plenty of nutritious mudbugs. Crappies were abundant all over the lake...in all year classes.
And the catfish and walleyes ate a lot of them too.


While catfish do dine on shad, the shad are more of a downer for them. Shad slurp up a lot of zooplankton that the young of other species need to grow beyond the fry stage. So fewer crappies survive to edible or catchable size. The crappies that do get bigger than a couple of inches are gobbled up by walleyes and wipers when the shad populations are low.

Catfish used to eat a lot of young crappies, along with the more abundant crawdads. These days there are fewer crappies because of the shad...and the increased predation from walleyes and wipers. You can also find a lot of crawdads in the "W fish". Now, with fewer crappies...and fewer crawdads...it's harder for the cats to make a living.

There has been a noticeable change in the ecology of Willard the past few years. For a variety of reasons, both the walleyes and the wipers suffered large drops in numbers. That meant less predation on available food resources. So the both the numbers and the average size of catfish has noticeably increased. Good for us cataholics. But a downer for folks who prefer W & W.

Check out the two attached pics...of what that launch ramp looks like during low water.

(This post was edited by TubeDude on Jun 25, 2019, 5:03 AM)
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Re: [TubeDude] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
Thanks for the summary and perspective! You have clearly watched that lake for a long time and gained some terrific insights. Thanks again for taking the time to share them.

Many people comment on how Willard can be a fickle and frustrating place. Then again there are those great days. As you have said before, it has a lot to do with the shad moving around the lake and the need to find them to find the fish. I'm far enough away that I mostly watch and think about it.

I still find it strange how the fish (mostly W and W) seem to mostly disappear in the fall, well before they do in other lakes and well before the water temps drop far enough to really slow their metabolism down. The shad are mostly too large then, but they must be feeding somewhere on something. I have always felt that when nobody seems to be able to catch fish that they are stacked up someplace and great fishing could be had if you figure it out. I usually don't figure it out though.

Sometimes I wish I were closer so I could take on the challenge of figuring it out better. Then I go to the golden pond and wrestle with a bunch of nice cats and I'm glad I'm down here.
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Re: [Piscophilic] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
Jim, I have not fished Willard anywhere near as long as Pat or Curt, but I've learned one solid fact in the 15 years that I have been fishing WB. It can, and does change by the day, and that's what keeps it challenging (and frustrating) and keeps many of us going back. Fishin'
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Re: [Piscophilic] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
"I still find it strange how the fish (mostly W and W) seem to mostly disappear in the fall, well before they do in other lakes and well before the water temps drop far enough to really slow their metabolism down. The shad are mostly too large then, but they must be feeding somewhere on something."

Au contraire. Fall is probably the time of greatest abundance of eating sized shad. Most are in the 2-3 inch range. A few are bigger and there are usually some late hatching 2 inchers in the mix. The latter are the ones that usually die out in the late fall, when water temps fall below 55 and the zooplankton thin out. The little ones starve to death because their mouth parts have not changes to allow them to feed on other things.


If the W & W seem to disappear it is only because they are often glutted. And in times of abundance they sometimes only feed for a short time each day, getting all they need with a few quick gulps. The rest of the day they just lay on the bottom or hang at mid-depth...digesting and watching anglers' lures zip by at mach 3.


Even in those times of challenges you can bet there are a tight-lipped and chosen few who still go forth upon the waters regularly...and regularly catch good numbers of fat fish. Those who know the lake best stay tuned to the feeding patterns and preferred hangouts of active fish...and pay attention to their changing feeding times. They also keep changing up their presentations to smaller or larger lures, slower or faster speeds, etc. Well-fed fish require specialized tactics to get them to "yawn" in front of your offerings.


Over the years I have gotten well acquainted with Lady Willard. But as with most of the "fair gender" she can be moody and fickle. Thus, even though I know most of the questions I would not presume to claim that I know all the answers. Of all the waters I fish in Utah, I have smelled skunk more times on Willard than all other waters combined.


I think a lot of us are thankful that there are other waters to which we can go for ego reinforcement after we have been humiliated by Willard.
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Re: [TubeDude] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
Quote:
Fall is probably the time of greatest abundance of eating sized shad. Most are in the 2-3 inch range.

That makes a lot more sense. My most significant experience with shad was at Elephant Butte in NM. The lake has both gizzard and threadfin shad. In the summer the guides there would net young gizzards that were 5-7 inches long and use them for the big stripers. The ones I talked to said they had tried adults, but they caught more fish on the 5 to 7 inch juveniles.

I assumed those were first year fish and that the 2-3 inch ones were threadfin. I can tell them apart, but I didn't take the time to check. So much to learn and so little time.
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Re: [Tin-Can] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
Hey Forrest, it seems like many of us may be afflicted by the same strange form of insanity!
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Re: [Piscophilic] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
I have fished that New Mexico pond...Elephant Butte. Super fishing for largemouth, white bass and stripers. The white bass there get almost as large as Willard Bay wipers.


Elephant Butte is more fertile and feeds the gizzard shad better. They hatch earlier and feed well so they do grow bigger faster. There will be some 5-7 inch shad in Willard by the end of the year but the majority in late fall are less than 4 inches...just right for W & W.

"So much to learn and so little time."



The fun of fishing is in the journey...not the destination. I still learn at least something new on almost every trip...and feel cheated if I don't.

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Re: [TubeDude] Mild Monday at Willard 6-24-19 In reply to
Quote:
The fun of fishing is in the journey...not the destination. I still learn at least something new on almost every trip...and feel cheated if I don't.

I hope for the same. I was only lamenting the lack of "learning" timeWink

I had fished UL before I got transfered to NM. The whites in the Butte were so large I started calling the 17"+ fish "mutant white bass." They are amazing!