September 29, 2010
April 24 marks the trout opener. Whether you like to cast spinners for rainbows, drift night crawlers to wild cutthroats, work minnow imitations for big brown trout, or float diminutive dry flies to mountain brookies, here's the region-by-region information you need.
Jerry Whetherbee holds out a quality Deschutes River rainbow. Trout fishing picks up in May on the Deschutes as water warms and insect activity increases. Photo by GaryLewisOutdoors.com
By Gary Lewis
Fire and water - too much of one, too little of the other - were on everyone's minds during the summer of 2003 in the Great Northwest. So we watched the snowpack of Oregon's early winter for a glimpse into the future for 2004, hoping for enough moisture to keep water in our reservoirs and rivers this coming summer. And we hoped for a quick recovery for the watersheds damaged by last year's burns.
Oregon's fisheries are resilient, though. Drought and wildfire may take its toll for a time, but there is still ample trout fishing to be found in our state's waters. From the coast to the desert, from hatchery rainbows to big browns, from western cutthroats to wilderness brookies, Oregonians rarely suffer for trout. Prior to opening day, Washington-Oregon Game & Fish endeavors to locate and identify the year's best fisheries. Here are our recommendations for Oregon trout fishing on opening day 2004 and beyond.
We will tell you where to find the best angling on waters with extended seasons, and where to be when the sun comes up on April 24, the traditional opening day of Oregon's trout season.
NORTHWEST On the North Coast, you will find your best trout fishing in lakes and ponds. Many waters are regularly planted with legal fish. Some lakes receive stocks of "trophy" trout that average 2 pounds, or steelhead in the 6- to 10-pound range.
Near Lincoln City, fish Devil's Lake through the early summer. Fish average 10 to 12 inches; holdovers can run to 18. Several boat ramps provide good access. Troll spinners, or fish night crawlers beneath a float for best success.
Coffenbury Lake in Fort Stevens Park is regularly stocked with trout and, sometimes, surplus adult steelhead. Many anglers fish from boats, but a trail circles the lake and docks provide good access. All methods work well here.
The Big Creek Reservoirs are two 20-acre lakes near Newport. Bank access is good and small boats and float tubes work well for trollers. Try spinners, single eggs, Power Bait or night crawlers.
Located 6 miles south of Florence, Siltcoos Lake is 3,100 acres in size, and grows large wild cutthroats and holdover hatchery rainbows to 9 pounds. Legal-sized rainbows will be stocked through spring and summer. Concentrate your efforts near the mouths of tributaries all season, and fish the Kiechle arm and north of Reed and Booth islands. Sea-run cutthroats and steelhead can be part of the incidental catch in Siltcoos. Take care to release wild sea-runs unharmed.
Lytle Lake, north of Rockaway on Highway 101, will be best for stocked rainbows and resident cutts in the spring. Shallow and weedy, it is also capable of producing bigger fish. The boat ramp is on the northeast side of the lake. Good fishing can be found along the shore.
Other good bets for Northwest trout fishermen are North Lake and South Lake, Meares Lake, Hebo Lake, Tahoe Lake, Bay City Reservoir, Cullaby Lake, Sunset Lake, Vernonia Pond, Lost Lake, Smith Lake, Spring Lake, Buck Lake, Dune Lake and Alder Lake.
SOUTHWEST Diamond Lake should be on your list in southwest Oregon. Substantial stocking should provide good fishing for trout from April 24 through the end of October. Keep your eye out for chinook, which were planted to control the chub population. Slow-troll small, dark nymphs and streamers. Bait fishermen will find success in 10 to 30 feet of water. When the water warms, the best angling will be near the mouths of cool-water streams.
Nearby Lemolo Lake is a good bet for kokanee, brook trout and large browns. When targeting the brown trout, use large Rapalas, swimbaits, and similar minnow imitations in the Lake Creek and North Umpqua arms. Fish near shore early in the season.
Toketee Reservoir, open year-round, has been producing above-average brown trout for the past couple of seasons. Some of the best fishing is from early spring to late May. If you go, fish the upper end with nymphs and streamers.
Try the upper Smith River for native cutthroat trout. It opens on Memorial Day weekend and the first few weeks will offer the best fishing.
Go early in the season for the best action on Emigrant Lake, near Ashland. This large reservoir will be well-stocked with legal rainbows. Trolling is a favored method on this lake.
Applegate Reservoir's low elevation and warm temperatures contribute to a long growing season. Catchable rainbows and chinook salmon are stocked on a regular basis. Warmwater species are also available.
Count on regular stocks of catchable rainbows in April and May in Squaw Lake, Howard Prairie Reservoir, Hyatt Lake, Ten Mile Lake, Saunders Lake, Powers Pond, Empire Lake and Bradley Lake. Fishing in Galesville Reservoir should be good through the summer.
WILLAMETTE Eighty miles east of Portland and high in the Clackamas drainage, Timothy Lake is a good bet for spring fishing. Timothy's brook trout get big feeding on the multitude of crayfish that call the lake their home. In June, the hatchery rainbow bite picks up and it is possible to get holdover trout that stretch the tape to 18 inches. Kokanee are an added bonus. For the best action, fish the mouths of tributaries, the smaller arms, and shallow water.
Southwest of Hillsboro, Henry Hagg Lake provides one of the best early-season opportunities for Portland-area anglers. Best trout action will be from March through June. The bite will pick up again when waters cool in late September. Abundant rainbows (ODFW stocks 60,000 legal fish a year), smallmouth bass, and perch make fishing interesting. Rainbow trout average 10 inches and can grow beyond 5 pounds in this food-rich water.
North Fork Reservoir offers great fishing for hatchery trout from Memorial Day weekend through the fall. It is a long, narrow, deep lake that is stocked with rainbows throughout the season. Concentrate your efforts in the upper lake and near the resort. Three boat ramps make this lake convenient to boat anglers. Troll bait, spinners or minnow imitations for the best success. Plenty of access along the bank provides good opportunities if yo
u don't bring a boat.
Mount Hood's Trillium Lake will produce fish throughout the season. Rainbows in this pretty lake average 10 to 14 inches. Trout that wintered over from last fall can tip the scales at 2 pounds. Boat access is good and trolling Rooster Tail spinners or small spoons can be very effective. No motors are allowed.
Harriet Lake, in the Clackamas drainage, can produce trophy browns, rainbows and brook trout. Its size makes it ideal for rafts and float tubes. Troll spinners and streamer flies.
Bring your float tube if you head to Benson Lake in the Columbia Gorge. Access is best on the south shore. Plunking with Power Bait, casting spinners or trolling flies are popular methods.
Other North Willamette district waters that will receive good stocks of hatchery fish are Faraday Lake, Timber Lake, Haldeman Pond, Salmonberry Lake and Silver Creek Reservoir.
Heading south, Green Peter and Detroit reservoirs will be good choices.
Detroit is stocked with more trout than any other reservoir in Oregon, making it a must-fish for area trout anglers.
Upstream, look for good hatchery trout fishing in the Breitenbush River (a Detroit tributary), mainstem Santiam and Quartzville Creek.
Try the mainstem Willamette from Corvallis upstream. The river boasts resident trout and there are a fair number of larger fish. Boaters do well on this section of the river. The best fishing is in the stretch from Peoria upstream to Harrisburg.
Fish the McKenzie River year-round from the mouth up to Hayden Bridge for its rainbow and cutthroat fishing. Native trout must be released. In April, caddis fly patterns, march brown mayflies, and blue-winged olives will produce for fly rodders.
Catchable rainbows will be stocked in April and May into 1,200-acre Foster Reservoir. Boat access is good from three different points. Bank anglers will find good fishing near the dam, in the South Fork arm, and on the north shore. When the weather warms, a trout-fishing trip can be combined with a little angling for bass and bluegill.
In April and May, Dorena Reservoir, Fern Ridge Reservoir, E. E. Wilson Pond, Junction City Pond, Dexter Reservoir and Cottage Grove Reservoir will be stocked with catchable rainbows.
CENTRAL OREGON The big news from Central Oregon in 2003 was drought and fire. Hardest hit were the Metolius watershed and the Davis Lake regions. Though the scenery in the Metolius watershed was charred, damage to fisheries was probably minimal. There is some short-term risk of erosion and run-off filling the streams, but the long-term danger is minimal. Bull trout numbers in the Metolius are higher now than they have been in years.
Because of low water flows over the last several years, redband rainbow trout are depressed around the region, according to Steve Marx, with the ODFW in Bend. For best prospects, fish the natural lakes.
Paulina and East lakes are still the places to go if you want really big brown trout. Those big browns thrive on numerous kokanee and chubs. For hatchery rainbows, fish the shallows and weed beds. Both lakes will be planted with catchable rainbows throughout spring and summer.
Head to Lava Lake for rainbows with attitude. South Twin receives heavy stocks of legal-sized and trophy-class fish, spring and summer. Crane Prairie should offer good angling for big rainbows and brook trout. Use chironomid patterns and an indicator, fished deep and slow.
For lake trout (mackinaw), fish Odell Lake. In the spring, you can find the big fish chasing their prey in shallow water. In the summer, lake trout are deepwater fish. You will find them at depths of 120 to 160 feet through July and August. The fish will move up and down in the water column on a daily basis, feeding on kokanee. But during the summer, you need to go deep to find them. Nearby, Crescent and Cultus lakes also offer big mackinaw.
Crooked River anglers will find good numbers of trout (4,000 per river mile) in the 8-mile stretch below Bowman Dam. The productive, food-rich tailwater will turn out good-sized trout for spring fishermen.
A seldom-fished tributary of the Deschutes is the White River. Tumble nymphs and drift leech patterns for good fishing in the cloudy water.
Allen Creek Reservoir in the Ochocos is another good bet for later in the spring. For 6- to 12-inch rainbows, take the 1 1/2-mile hike into the northwest corner of Big Summit Prairie.
In north-central Oregon fish Kingsley, Pine Hollow and Rock Creek reservoirs. Good trout fishing can be found in these waters from April through October. Steve Pribyl with the ODFW, said these lakes are stocked early and hard. Trout will be in the water by spring break. Regular stocking will continue through June.
If you want to escape the crowds, head to the backcountry in the summer and fall. Recent net surveys have found fish in the 19-inch range. Last summer, the ODFW stocked 405 backcountry waters from the California border to the Columbia River. Grab a map, some mosquito repellent and your rod, and then hit the trail.
SOUTHEAST You can't beat Upper Klamath and Agency lakes for big rainbows. The lakes' average depth is 8 feet, with a few spots going as deep as 25 feet. Brass spoons, brown spinners and plugs are good bets. If using minnow imitations, try chub, perch or rainbow patterns. Boaters should troll on a long line parallel to the shore. Rainbows in these waters can grow to over 10 pounds. Angling is open year-round with a bag limit of one trout per day.
In June, for 50 to 100 takes on big dry flies in a single day's fishing, head to the Upper Klamath River during the salmonfly hatch. Try the stretch below the John C. Boyle Dam. Trout in this section of the river run 11 to 17 inches. Salmonflies and golden stones are the largest stream insects you are likely to encounter in the West. Match them with dry patterns like the Sofa Pillow, Improved Golden Stone and Morrisfoam Salmonfly.
In the summer and fall, hit the Williamson and the Wood for large Klamath rainbows seeking the cool waters of the river.
Head to Miller Lake, west of Chemult, for planted rainbows and big browns. The best fishing for brown trout will be from spring to early June, when the predators prowl the shallows. Cast from shore, or motor along the shallows, casting to the beach.
The Ana River runs near the town of Summer Lake in Lake County. Some of the best fishing is early in the spring as waters are warming. To get away from other anglers, fish the Chewaucan for wild rainbows and remnant hatchery fish.
Hatchery rainbows will be stocked in 150-acre Krumbo Reservoir in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. As the weather war
ms, be sure to sample Krumbo's largemouth bass fishing.
Mann Lake can be cold and windy early in the year, but the fishing can be hot. Troll leech patterns, or green and black wet flies from a float tube, or try casting from shore. ODFW plants cutthroats every other year.
NORTHEAST If you're going to fish northeast Oregon, be sure to sample Wallowa Lake. Anglers can catch kokanee, mackinaw, stocked rainbows and bull trout. The latter must be released unharmed.
For the opportunity to boat a 10- to 20-pounder, try the mackinaw. With a depth finder, spot the big ones feeding on kokanee or resting on the bottom and set your downrigger to reach them trolling a Flatfish, Kwikfish or Hoochie. Try rigging your lures with whole night crawlers trailing off the back. Boat rentals are available at Wallowa Lake State Park.
Over 20 miles south and east of Heppner, you can find a little jewel called Penland Lake. The trout can grow big in the shallow water. Bank fishing with bait is productive. Use a sliding sinker with a marshmallow and worm. Flyfishermen do well when wading the shallows or trolling from a small boat or raft. Use a floating line and un-weighted nymphs.
In the Wallowa Valley, several ponds are stocked with catchable rainbows in the spring. Try Marr Pond in Enterprise, Victor Pond west of Wallowa and Wallowa Wildlife Pond for good fishing through June.
On the lower Grande Ronde, the best fishing can be had later in the season as water drops. Floating the river is a good way to find the best spots. Walking in or riding a mountain bike can help your reach remote waters.
In August and September, as snow melts in the high country, plan to fish Aneroid, Frances, Hobo, Prospect or Ice lakes. Want to catch 100 fish a day? You can do it on some of these wilderness lakes. The short growing season has brook trout feeding like mad to put on weight for winter. For the best action, use small dry flies, nymphs and terrestrials.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife protects native trout, steelhead and salmon. On hatchery fish, ODFW staff and volunteers remove the adipose (the small fatty fin located between dorsal fin and tail) to help anglers distinguish wild and hatchery fish.
For the latest information on Oregon fishing, including regulations and trout stocking schedules, check www.dfw.state.or.us or call (503) 872-5263.
Editor's Note: For a signed copy of Gary Lewis' book, Freshwater Fishing Oregon & Washington, send $22.95 (includes shipping/handling) to Gary Lewis Outdoors, P.O. Box 1364, Bend, OR 97709; www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com.
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