Calvin Black pulls a fish from the water at Joe's Valley Reservoir.
Brent Stettler a veteran of 25 years with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is the Conservation Outreach Manager and Calvin Black a DWR Sports Fish Biologist, both are avid fishermen and live in Price. Black is originally from Utah County. He has worked for the Division of Wildlife for 10 years. He grew up fishing a lot with his father. Brent and Calvin were on Joe's Valley Dam recently to make a survey of ice fishing. They wanted to know the condition of the fish and how plentiful the fish were.
That morning the sky was overcast and cloudy with wisps of fog at lower levels along the sides of the mountains. The temperature was in the low 20s and slowly warming. Periodic light snow was falling. There was two-three inches of snow on the surface of the lake and where holes were drilled with an ice auger the ice was about 14-15 inches thick. Black said that on the western edge of the lake, where the Seely Creek feeds the lake, the ice is thin and dangerous. The main body of the lake is considered very solid at this time. Stettler and Black started out from the boat ramp on the east side of Joe's Valley Dam and walked quite a distance northwest on the lake ice. Black brought to the lake two sleds loaded with equipment, such as an ice auger, a pop-up tent, extra clothing, several types of fishing poles and boxes of fishing lures. He also had a fish finder and an underwater television camera. He pulled the sleds out to where he planned to fish, just to have the equipment close by. The fishermen were hoping to get into a school of splake trout and cutthroat trout. Black said, "We have had in the last few weeks reports that the ice fishing was hot at Joe's Valley Dam for splake trout and cutthroat selected an area for fishing that was possibly over an underwater ridge. This was based on observing a rocky ridge that appeared to be coming down from the lake shore and into the lake water. Black said, "Where there is a rock pile or underwater ridge fish are known to hang around those areas."
Black quickly drilled about eight ice holes, down to the water, in a narrow zigzag line on an easterly direction above the suspected underwater ridge. This drilling was completed before setting up his fishing gear on the first ice hole.
After the first eight holes were drilled Black inserted his fish finder probe about a foot into the water to observe any fish activity. The first few holes tested didn't show much fish activity, so Black drilled a half dozen more holes closer to shore and moved his gear about 50 yards closer to shore. The depth of the water below the ice at the first holes was about 30 feet. The depth of the water closer to shore was about five feet deep.
The fish finder showed there was some fish activity in this shallower water as determined by observing the fish finder and the under water Markham television camera. After not getting any fish bites at these holes close to shore it was decided to move back out to some of the earlier drilled holes.
At two of these earlier holes there appeared to be quite a bit of fish activity on the fish finder and on the television screen.
Black did most of the ice fishing and caught the most fish. Stettler fished also, but he spent some of his time taking pictures and recording the kinds of fish caught. Chub meat had been obtained at a sporting goods store for bait. That way they knew the chub meat was not from a protected fish. The chub meat was cut into very small pieces before being attached to the hook and lure as bait.
Black remarked he was having a great time being outdoors on this good day doing what he enjoys most. He likes being able to work with and help the cutthroat fish population. He also likes working to manage our sport fish population so that we can all enjoy this sport.
Black also said, "At certain times of the year we will take tissue samples of the fish to test for mercury or other diseases. We also take tissue samples for genetic testing to see if the cutthroat sample is from a pure fish." Black wants the sport fishermen and others to know that it is about mid-winter and his group is the only ones on the ice today and there is good fishing in uncrowded conditions. "Do not put you gear away. Millsite Dam is supposed to have fast action for splake, rainbows and tiger trout. We still have a couple of months of good fishing."
Black stated, "Here on Joe's Valley Dam there has been a new regulation change. They have removed the seasonal closure for 2013. Previous years you could not fish the reservoir from Nov. 1 until the second week in December. That closure was lifted for a group of angle fishermen from Emery County who wanted to fish in the late fall for the new tiger muskies established in this reservoir. With the anglers help that no fishing regulation during that time frame was changed." Black had heard recent reports of people catching fish at Joe's Valley Dam in four feet of water and in 70 feet of water.
The DWR personnel started fishing in the 30 feet deep water and gradually moved towards the shallower water.
Black had a wide variety of jigs, from tiny jigs to larger tube jigs, curly tail jigs and grubs. He had several fishing rods of differing lengths. He said, most individuals like smaller fishing rods. Black likes a longer rod because he fishes for big fish.
Black commented that hard core fishermen tend to get many gadgets that are fun to play with and not really necessary. Ice fishing can be as simple as coming to the lake with a hand ice auger, a pole, tying on a jig and a night crawler. Instead of an ice auger an ice spud or ice chisel could be used to hack a hole though the ice. When the ice is 14-15 inches thick it is easier to make holes in the ice with an ice auger.
Black's theory about catching fish through the ice is to have a gas powered ice auger, be mobile, punch a lot of holes and move until you find the fish. Move closer to shore until you find where they are stacked up. Don't be afraid to punch 20 or 30 holes if you have to and move out and back around the shore.
A silver or gold Cast Master was suggested as a good lure. Stettler said, "The Cast Master lure gets the most fish in this area. The Cast Master works for both ice fishing and lake fishing. Jake's Spin-a-lure and Cast Master are the best lures on the entire mountain."
The splake trout is an aggressive fish so Black fished with a simple white jig or a silver spoon. It is more the action of your jigging motion that will attract the fish. Jigging is the moving of the lure up and down in the water four-six inches rapidly.
Black opened his fishing tackle boxes and set out a display of fishing lures of various sizes for pictures. Some of the lures are scented to attract fish other lures glow in the dark.
On this fishing expedition Black and Stettler caught several splake trout and cuthroat trout. The tiger muskies are kind of dormant at this time of the year but the splake trout are a fun fish to catch. All of the fish caught were released back into the water. His objective was to show how good the fishing could be on Joe's Valley Reservoir. Stettler fished with a lead jig head, a pearl colored imitation minnow and on the hook protruding from the minnow he added a little bit of chub meat. Black had on his line a 3-inch pearl white tube jig and a 1/4 ounce jig head inside the tube jig tipped with chub meat. He was also using a 3-inch orange and brown jigging rapala lure. It is a heavier jig. It jigs horizontally rather than vertically.
Black mentioned there is a mercury advisory on the splake trout from Joe's Valley Dam and you should limit the amount of splake trout you eat per month. The fishing limit for splake trout is three fish under 18 inches and one fish over 18 inches. You can catch as many splake trout as you want but cannot keep more than the limit. The splake trout and the tiger muskies are used to help control the chub population.