There are plenty of great trout fishing options within minutes of Portland, Oregon’s Rose City.
By MD Johnson
Portlanders are, almost to the person, familiar with the Rose City’s Saturday Market. And the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, perhaps better known as OMSI. And the Trail Blazers, Powell’s Books, Voodoo Doughnut and the zoo at Christmas time.
But what many metro-dwellers might not realize, even those who travel, oft-far, to the outskirts and beyond for the purposes of wetting a line, is there can be found an almost mind-boggling variety of trout fishing opportunities which require outdoors enthusiasts to never leave the sights, sounds — and in the case of Voodoo Doughnut, the smells of the city itself. It’s true; there’s trout fishing a’plenty within an hour’s drive of Pioneer Courthouse Square.
“Creating and maintaining these types of (urban) fishing opportunities are a priority for us here at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW),” said Todd Alsbury. A 14-year-veteran of the agency — a decade in his current role — Alsbury is the fisheries biologist for the North Willamette Watershed; rather, the Sandy and Clackamas river drainages, an area that encompasses the Portland metropolitan area and beyond. “These urban opportunities give us the chance to get a group of folks interested in fishing and in the outdoors. Otherwise, we may lose the chance to get people involved.”
Alsbury continued: “A lot of people don’t have a mentor. They’re unsure of how to take that next step — say, salmon or steelhead — into the outdoor world away from the metro area. We, then, need to create something in close proximity to the metropolitan area because (often) there’s not time to get away from the city. If we can connect the young people, they’ll often get their parents or others involved. These urban fishing opportunities are a great way to connect people in urban settings to the natural environment.”
To drive home this “connecting people with their environment” point as it relates to the Rose City’s urban trout fishery, Alsbury uses Blue Lake located near Portland’s Marine Drive as an example. “The day after Thanksgiving — Black Friday,” he said, “the ODFW provides what I refer to as a ‘complete experience’ for anglers. The agency has fishing tackle on hand. We provide a cleaning station and teach people how to clean their catch. How to tie knots. We want to give them everything they need to have this complete experience.”
Blue Lake, incidentally, provided Alsbury with one of his most memorable urban trouting experience; that is, from an educator’s standpoint.
“A young man came to one of our events and got involved,” the biologist noted. “He really wanted learn. But then he wanted more than just a trout experience, so we suggested he become involved in a steelheading group. He’s a mentor now, helping us with our events. It’s interesting to see (things) like that, and we as an agency want to foster those types of things. We want to get people involved.”
So where can anglers, new or veteran, get involved, enjoy some time outdoors, and catch the main course for a wonderful braised rainbow trout, without venturing too far from the hustle and bustle that is downtown Portland? That question in mind, Alsbury’s top metro trout waters might look a bit like the following.
This 62-acre lake is located in Blue Lake Park east of downtown Portland in the City of Fairview. “It’s a beautiful metro park,” noted Alsbury. During Spring and early Summer, the lake receives healthy stocks of 8- to 12-inch rainbows, along with some larger brood fish; however, and for those of the “I’m fishin’ for whatever’s biting” mindset, Blue Lake does harbor quite a good population of warmwater species, including largemouth bass, bluegills, and channel catfish. Paddle boats, rowboats and canoe can be rented at the park. A fully accessible fishing pier is located just north of the park entrance.
ST. LOUIS PONDS
Alsbury speaks very highly of this complex of small ponds located south of Woodburn near the town of Gervais, or just a tad under an hour away from Pioneer Courthouse Square. “There are seven ponds here,” said Alsbury. “Three stocked with trout, and the rest with warmwater fish, including smallmouth bass and channel catfish. It’s a nice treed area, with cottonwoods. And while it’s next to (Interstate) 5 so it’s accessible, you’re still fishing close to nature. There is a paved trail,” he continued. “Three fishing docks, and three piers. People can take wheelchairs right up to the edge of the ponds.”
Alsbury explained the ODFW is “trying to focus on St. Louis Ponds as an outdoor learning area,” along with its role as not only a trout fishery, but one of Portland’s premier multi-species fisheries. “The ponds are relatively close (to the city), but outside of the metropolitan area,” he said. Between February and October, the agency stocks several thousand rainbow trout, both legal-size (8- to 12-inch) and larger fish, into complex waters, providing a year-round fishery for anglers of all experience levels. Boats and other types of floating watercraft are not permitted on any of ponds. Visitors should be aware that the area is gated from October through February; however, access is still allowed, and this downturn in angling pressure can make the trouting not only more enjoyable, but more productive as well.
HENRY HAGG LAKE
This 1,153-acre reservoir near Forest Grove is approximately an hour from Portland — “The farthest one out from the city,” said Alsbury — but it’s a large body of water stocked with rainbows several times a year by the ODFW, and one where anglers stand an excellent chance of hooking into that once-in-a-lifetime ’bow weighing in excess of 10 pounds. And for those who might grow weary of catching redsides, Hagg also harbors excellent populations of smallmouth bass, crappies and yellow perch; in fact, the standing Oregon state-record smallmouth — an 8.1-pound monster of a fish — came from Henry Hagg in 2005.
Live bait, PowerBait, fly-fishing, trolling, casting; Hagg lends itself to any and all styles of trout fishing throughout the course of the year. Bottom-fished PowerBait or salmon eggs is a popular method for bank-runners, while Rooster Tail and Mepps Agila inline spinners, Kastmaster spoons, and trolling-specific rigs, i.e. small flashers matched with Mack’s wedding ring spinner combinations score fish for the boating crowd.
Small at only 25 acres, Faraday Lake near Estacada makes Alsbury’s list of top fisheries without hesitation.
“Faraday gets recycled summer steelhead, some larger steelhead, and rainbows,” said the biologist. “The trout will be in the 8- to 10-inch range; however, some of the steelhead can weigh up to 15 pounds.” With such behemoths a possibility, Alsbury recommends anglers upgrade their tackle, line strength in particular, just a bit should one of these steelies take a liking to what passes in front of their nose. Faraday is a bank fishing-only reservoir; no boats, rafts, or like floating devices.
SHERIDAN AND HUDDLESTON PONDS
Located near the town of the same name, Sheridan Pond covers but two acres; still, as Alsbury said, the small water does receive over 100 brood trout and provides ample opportunity within an hour’s drive of the city. The downside? Sheridan’s proximity to the state federal correctional facility, doesn’t make for the most aesthetic of outdoor settings. Still, the fishing is good. Similar to Sheridan, Huddleston Pond, aka The Pacific Plywood Log Pond, also receives both legal-size rainbows and near 150 brooders. Huddleston sits at edge of the town of Willamina, roughly 70 miles from Portland, and is bordered by Willamina Creek.
ON THE WASHINGTON SIDE
For those on The Evergreen State side of the Columbia River, metropolitan Vancouver isn’t without its trout fishing opportunities. Perhaps the best known, and understandably then the most popular and oft-angler crowded, is Klineline Pond near Salmon Creek. Situated within easy access of Interstate 5, this 12-acre former gravel pit was created almost 50 years ago by the Clark County Parks Department, specifically as a place for folks to wet a line. Today, it receives thousands of rainbows, browns, and coastal cutthroats, courtesy of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Klineline Pond is a perfect example of an urban lake,” said Stacie Kelsey, a inland fisheries biologist for the WDFW’s Region 5 headquartered in Vancouver. “Located in Salmon Creek Park, the lake is popular with anglers of all ages, and lies only a few minutes north of the Columbia. Excellent open shoreline areas provide room for anglers to learn and practice fly-fishing. Two pole fishing — with the proper endorsement — is permitted; however, boats and other floating devices are not allowed.”
Interestingly enough, Kelsey recommends biscuit dough – biscuit dough? – for those anglers targeting Klineline’s population of often sizeable brown trout; otherwise, it’s redworms and PowerBait. Kelsey reminds all anglers that Klineline Pond, like others in Region 5, has been stocked with grass carp, and that retention of these carp is not permitted.
Located within the boundaries of Battle Ground Lake State Park is home, not surprisingly, to Battle Ground Lake, a 25-acre fishery which, like Klineline Pond, sees thousands of rainbows and coastal cutthroats introduced each Spring.
“The lake is approximately 30 minutes from the Washington/Oregon border,” noted Kelsey, “and is stocked from November to May. Battle Ground Lake is one of six lakes that are a part of the statewide Black Friday Opener during which some 2,000 rainbow trout are stocked. These fish weigh about 1 1/4 pounds and are a lot of fun to catch.”
The lake, Kelsey continues, is open year-round, with the exception of the period from Nov. 21 through 24 in preparation for the Black Friday fishery. “There’s a pay boat launch,” she said, “and the lake is very popular for (those with) float tubes and rafts. A trail circles the lake; however, shore access is somewhat limited due to trees. Anglers can fish from the dock located at the boat ramp.” Kelsey does suggest the following in terms of bait choices — worms, red salmon eggs, and neon-colored PowerBait — and recommends anglers switch gear often in order to reveal what might work best on any given day.
We’ve taken a look at some of the many productive fishing options available nearby to Portland-area anglers. These hotspots and others in close proximity to the urban area offer a great opportunity for angling success. Now it’s time to grab your fishing gear and head out to one of these destinations close to you.