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Willard Bay Reservoir
Willard Bay Map
- Elevation: 4,223 ft.
- Surface Area: 10,000 acres
- Volume Capacity: 193,300 acre-feet
- Max. Depth: 36.1 ft.
- Avg. Depth: 19.4 ft.
|Highs||86 (7 Day Average)|
|Lows||60 (7 Day Average)|
|Water Temp||68-71 (Measured in the South Marina)|
|Water Level|| Low ( Make sure to stay out of any marked closed area or a citation will be issued)|
Willard Bay Reservoir is located about 10 miles north of Ogden, with two
off-ramps from I-15. It is not a big lake, by comparison to some of the
other wiper waters in the country. This manmade shallow bowl is only
10,000 acres in size, but it has several clearly defined areas popular
with wiper chasers. In several places around the lake there are
underwater "trenches" gouged out by heavy equipment during the dredging
and dike building process. These depressions sometimes provide enough
extra depth to attract and hold more fish.
Willard Reservoir is a portion of the Great Salt Lake that was diked
off and dewatered. It was then filled with water from the
Weber River that would
otherwise have flowed into the Great Salt Lake, and stored for
irrigation and other uses as may be needed on the northern Wasatch Front.
Willard Bay is a very popular reservoir with both boaters and fishermen.
The current state record Wiper, weighing in at 9 lbs. 12 oz., was caught
at Willard Bay. Wiper - a hybrid
between a white bass & a Striped Bass, are are known for being
aggressive fighters, and are very popular with local Utah anglers.
The Northeast corner of the reservoir has traditionally been a good place
to catch crappie. Most years the water is high enough to provide flooded
stickups, where crappies prefer to spawn. However, in low water years,
they have to settle on using some gravel and weed beds...and not much
of that. When this happens, there is likely to be a poor spawn with low
Wipers are caught all over the reservoir, with trolling being the most
popular method to catch them. A popular place to troll is past 'the
lightpole', the light pole that is out on the dike. See below for more
fishing location tips.
- Wiper limit: 3 fish
- Crappie limit: 10 fish
- Walleye limit: 6 fish, but only 1 over 24 inches
- CLOSED to the possession of gizzard shad (dead OR alive)!
- Two poles may be used if a 2-pole permit is purchased
Fishing Tips - Where to fish:
- North Marina:
This is the largest and deepest of the two marinas. It is the safest
for launching larger boats, especially during low water periods. There
is surprisingly good wiper action right inside the marina when the water
is up and the shad come inside. Those who do not fish from boats can
sometimes get into wiper boils right next to shore inside the marina.
Even when the wipers are not showing, they often cruise around inside
the marina and can be taken on various baits or lures if you hit them
- Northeast Corner:
The entire area from the mouth of the north marina to the north dike
can be good for wipers, at different times during the year. There is an
uneven bottom contour here, with deeper trenches, gravel bars and even
a couple of rocky humps. There is a large area of trees and brush that
is flooded during high water and attracts baitfish and predators alike.
When the prevailing winds from the southwest blow shad into that corner,
you can experience some great boil action in the shallows. It can also
be a good area for anglers who wade or cast from shore.
- North Dike:
The long straight manmade dike that runs along the north side of
Willard is a popular starting point for wiper trollers. They usually
motor over to a spot just west of the outlet structure and then start
trolling toward the “Light Pole”. Since wipers often follow contour and
depth lines while hunting for shad, you can work in and out…watching
sonar to find the fish and feed them your lures. When the water levels
are up into the rocks, this dike is a great spot to walk and cast for
fish that cruise close to the shoreline.
- The Light Pole:
This is a prominent landmark on the west side of the lake. It also has
some of the deepest areas of the lake. These holes and trenches can be
almost 30 feet deep during high water periods, and only half that in
lean times. If the shad are deep, or the wipers are "dogging it" in
deeper water, deeper is better. The rutted perimeter road ends at the
light pole for bank tanglers.
- The West Side:
This is the long straight leg of the dike running approximately from
north to south along the far side of Willard. Some of the deeper
trenches occur here, it is one of the favorite wiper trolling lanes.
Unfortunately, it is also popular with the “power squadron”…water
skiers and wake boarders. Wiper trollers and the power squadron do not
coexist well. Bank tanglers can access the entire west side by parking
anywhere along the rutted dirt/mud road and walking up over the dike.
This makes winter ice fishing easier, when the road is passable to the
- The Southwest Corner:
As the name implies, this bend in the rock dikes is at the far southwest
corner of Willard. It is one of the few places where there is an easy
road/trail up over the dike. The road exists for the water users'
association to operate and service the pumps they use to suck water out
of Willard Bay for irrigation. It is gated against vehicular access but
can be used by shore fishermen or float tubers. When north winds blow
into this corner, they bring nutrients, shad and predators. At such
times the shore bound angling contingent can experience good fishing
for several species. It is sometimes crowded when wipers chase shad
into the shallow waters there.
- The South Dike:
Again, a no-brainer. The long stretch of dike between the east and
south dikes. Since there is a decent road now travelling along most of
its length (for the water users)…and there are pullouts and trails up
over the dike…it is a good place for shore bound anglers to access the
lake. The fishing is not always the best, but can be good if you time
it right. The best wiper trolling is further offshore than the other
- The East Dike:
The long east dike is bisected by the entrance to the south marina.
Like all the dikes, fishing can be good or bad…on either side of the
marina…depending upon the movements of bait and wipers. Sometimes,
during high water periods, the east dike can be more productive than
other popular spots. The rock dikes on both sides of the marina
entrance are easily accessible on foot and are prime for casting from
the rocks when the water is up. When the water is lower, the lake may
be too shallow to hold wipers within close proximity to the dike.
- The South Marina:
This is where the inlet channel comes in, from the combined Weber and
Ogden Rivers. The fresh running water creates a current that attracts
hordes of wipers during the "false spawn" in spring…usually in May.
Large numbers of "regulars” flock to the big swirling "scour hole"
where the water pours in, to cast jigs and other lures for the confused
and lustful fish. After the spawn there are often some wipers inside
the dredged channel…mainly between the boat launch and the mouth of the
marina. They come inside to hunt for the shad that congregate there.
Soaking bait on the bottom, below a bobber or casting lures can all be
- The Island:
There is a shallow hump about a mile NW of the entrance to the south
marina. It is a fish magnet…drawing shad and predators alike. When the
water levels are up, you can troll over the hump. When it becomes a
true island, in low water, you can cast around the edges or troll at
the desired depths around it. There is usually (but not always) a
marker buoy over the island. If there is no buoy, the GPS coordinates
are: Lat: N 41degrees 22.018 minutes and Long: W 112 degrees 05.423
- The Hog Farm:
Also known as the "feed lot", this operation is a visible from the
open lake. You can see the feed silos and towers on the other side of
the east dike. And, if you get downwind, you will have no questions as
to why it is called a hog farm. The heavenly aroma will clear your
sinuses. But, there are some humps and depressions straight out from
those structures that seem to be wiper magnets. And, that stretch of
the east dike seems to almost always hold fish better than many of the
other stretches of dike. It is especially hot during the boils.
- Freeway Bay:
Just north of the hog farm the east dike makes a big circular dip to
the east and brings the dike close to I-15. The water within this bay
is known as "Freeway Bay". It also can be easily reached by shore
anglers via a dirt road…if you know where to get on it. At road's end
you go up over the dike for some of the best shore fishing…when the
water levels are high. Energetic tubers and tooners also launch from
the rocks here. Trollers should always wash a few lures in the bay.
Lots of dandy wipers taken here when they are in and active.
- Pelican Beach:
The last prominent point before reaching the north marina from the
south is the beginning of Pelican Beach. There is a low island straight
out from this popular picnic and Jet Ski beach, and there is a deep
trough just west of it that can be a great trolling lane. But, you
have to be careful in low water since there are some very shallow
gravel bars between there and the mouth of the marina. Always make a
wide swing out to the west before coming back into the marina after
fishing points further south.
- The Open Lake:
Many wiper hunters just set out their lines and start trolling as soon
as they clear the marinas. Since wipers are free ranging and schooling
fish, it is possible to find and catch a few with this random approach.
But, if you happen to find fish, and sonar shows some anomalies in
bottom contour, you may want to record the GPS coordinates to check the
spot again in the future. It is holds fish one time, it might work
again. But, don't bet your life savings on it. At the very least, you
will want to keep working that school until you limit out or lose the