A lot of Utah anglers might not even know what a splake is, much less where to catch one.
Buckley Jolley certainly knows. The monster he caught in November at Joe’s Valley Reservoir is still there.
Jolley landed and released a 30.5-inch splake, earning Utah’s new catch-and-release record for the species. The Division of Wildlife Resources certified the record last week.
The Pleasant Grove man said he knew something was up early as he felt a heavy pull on the end of the 7-pound fly line he was using.
“It felt heavy,” he said. “I had to play the fish just right and let him run if he needed to run.”
It took the angler, who was fishing from shore, about 15 minutes to land the lunker. He said it felt as though the fight lasted 30 minutes. The previous record was 29 inches, also caught at Joe’s Valley in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
So what, exactly, is a splake?
The fish is a hybrid cross between a male brook trout and a female lake trout. They are one of several species found at Joe’s Valley. Others include tiger muskie and cutthroat, rainbow, brook and tiger trout.
There are numerous trophies in the Emery County reservoir near Orangeville, according to recent gill net surveys, including a growing number of splake between 20 and 24 inches.
“That’s the great thing about Joes Valley,” says Calvin Black, the DWR’s assistant aquatics program manager in southeastern Utah. “You always have a chance at a fish like that.”
The mix of fish in Joe’s Valley has resulted in a decrease in Utah chub, a fish species that competes with trout for food and space. Tiger muskies, a predator, have helped curb chub populations at the reservoir.
So how do you catch a splake?
Jolley caught his in 15 to 20 feet of water using a white streamer fly. Lures that imitate chub, shiner or crayfish are especially effective. Look for structured terrain off points that slope into the water.
Other Utah reservoirs where splake can be caught include Causey, Fish Lake, Lost Creek, Mill Meadow and Koosharem.