WILLARD BAY STATE PARK — In a cloud of dust and a violent splash of water, 10 tons of boulders smacked into the water at Willard Bay Thursday, quickly settling to the bottom of the shallow reservoir.
Once the dump truck sitting atop a barge dropped the boulders into the water, the barge headed back to the launch ramp of the south marina to make way for a second dump truck being readied to drop another load of boulders.
So it will go, day after day, truck after truck, until 500 tons of boulders are deposited into the popular fishing destination to form a rocky reef of sorts for wiper, walleye and channel catfish.
"We are creating habitat where it is obviously lacking," said Kent Sorenson, assistant manager of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' northern Utah habitat section. "This is a vast, featureless bottom in 10,000 surface-acres of water that is almost completely devoid of any structures."
Those structures, like the dumped boulders, are a favorite for fish and gives anglers an edge.
"It really makes a dramatic difference," Sorenson said. "Fish will just cruise by an area because they have no behavioral reason to stay in one place if there is nothing to orient them to."
The boulders, dumped just outside the buoys marking the no wake zone, change that.
"This will give anglers another chance where fish concentrate," he said.
The fish habitat improvement project, one of the biggest ones undertaken by the agency, began Monday with site preparation work. Thursday marked the first full day of boulder dumping.
While agencies and other organizations direct attention to improve the fish habitat and angling experience on rivers and streams, Sorenson said lakes and reservoirs are typically ignored.
"We have really neglected our lake and reservoir anglers for years. This will provide a novel opportunity to make a little equity in our user groups," he said.
Sorenson, who has been trying to get the project off the ground for the last three years, said this will give anglers an improved chance to land a wiper, walleye or smallmouthed bass, which are known for giving a good fight once on the line.
"Let's face it. Fish tastes good. You don't want to go out and not get supper," he said. "We want to give anglers a good value for their (fishing) license dollars."
The agency partnered with Rocky Mountain Anglers and the Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council to fuse public and private dollars to pay for the $120,000 project.
For Sorenson, it has been a long time coming because it took some effort to convince some that the project would be worth it.
"At times I was hopeful, at times I was frustrated and at times I was downright angry," he said. "Without showing somebody what this is, they look at you like you're crazy."
Plain City angler Larry Mangum tries his luck at Willard Bay four or five times a week and said he can't wait to fish the boulders.
"It's hit and miss," he said Thursday, after a morning of fishing. "This is going to be great."