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Low water levels at Willard Bay


Low water levels at Willard Bay

Last fall, a leaky dike at Willard Bay Reservoir forced the Bureau of Reclamation to keep water levels low to repair the dike. Department of Natural Resources officials from the Division of Wildlife Resources and the Division of Parks and Recreation are keeping a watchful eye on Willard Bay Reservoir for boaters and anglers.

Northern Region fisheries biologists are concerned about how low water combined with other environmental conditions could affect the fishery. They hope that sport fish will make it through this period in as good of condition as they did in 2004 at the end of an extended drought.

Ben Nadalski, fisheries biologist for the DWR's Northern Region, says that while he remains optimistic based on how sport fish faired in the last low water years, it is possible that unforeseen conditions could have a negative effect on Willard Bay fishing. "We are most concerned about gizzard shad, which are the primary food source here at Willard Bay. Gizzard shad can be sensitive to changing environmental conditions such as low water levels which can cause higher water temperatures," he said.

Willard Bay

Water levels will likely drop further. Presently, the average depth of the reservoir is 10 feet. State Park officials say the reservoir is well below 50 percent capacity and will remain at least 50 percent or lower until the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) permanently repairs the dam. BOR is in the process of getting an appropriation from Congress to make the permanent repairs. These repairs might not be completed until 2009 depending on funding and construction variables.

Low water levels have already resulted in some damage to boat propellers. Gene Killian, South Marina Campground host, said he has seen three damaged propellers. "The water level in the south marina is three feet. If you have a fishfinder (depthfinder), for heaven's sake use it," he said.

Nadalski says fishing is still good at Willard Bay. However, he advises boat anglers that lower anticipated water levels might prevent launching larger motor boats at Willard Bay. He encourages anglers with larger motorboats to try other waters with great fishing, such as East Canyon, Hyrum, Pineview, Newton and Mantua Reservoirs.