With the recent cold, snowy weather, it certainly does not feel like fishing season is upon us in Central Oregon.
But it is, and eager anglers should have lots of opportunities on lakes and rivers as the season gets underway in earnest in a matter of days, with the opening of three popular high Cascade lakes and a popular stretch of the Lower Deschutes.
Crane Prairie Reservoir, Wickiup Reservoir, Odell Lake and the Lower Deschutes from the northern boundary of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation to Pelton Dam all open for fishing on Sunday.
Crane Prairie and Wickiup are ice-free and accessible, according to Chuck Schutte, operations manager for the Deschutes County Road Department.
Crane Prairie, Wickiup and Odell Lake remain closed until late April each year, the reservoirs to protect their native rainbow trout, Odell Lake to protect its native bull trout, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Most other lakes in Oregon became open to fishing year-round starting in 2016, as part of the ODFW’s simplification of sport fishing regulations.
Schutte said his crews have been hard at work clearing snow and opening sections of roads in anticipation of fishing season. Cascade Lakes Highway is currently open from the Crescent Cutoff north to Deschutes Bridge.
“Everything south of Deschutes Bridge you should be able to get to,” Schutte said this week. “We’ve been plowing that. When we get these snowstorms, we’re sending a plow up there to keep those open.”
Cascade Lakes Highway remains closed from Mount Bachelor to Deschutes Bridge. Forest Service Road 40 from Sunriver to Cascade Lakes Highway is accessible, though it is not plowed and sections of the road remain icy, according to Schutte. He added that his goal is to open the entire Cascade Lakes Highway by mid- to late May.
According to Lava Lake Resort owner Joie Frazee, Lava Lake will be accessible for fishing on April 26, when the gate at Deschutes Bridge will be opened to allow for vehicle access to Lava Lake, a popular rainbow trout fishery just north of Crane Prairie. Frazee said that Lava Lake is ice-free.
On Crane Prairie, the main catches are rainbow and brook trout. Rainbows in Crane Prairie average about 14 to 18 inches long, and many are in the 4- to 10-pound range, according to the ODFW. Anglers can also fish for kokanee and largemouth bass in Crane.
“Our creel data has shown that there are some pretty nice fish in there,” said Erik Moberly, a Bend-based fish biologist for ODFW. “We haven’t really had a lot of warm days. If it doesn’t warm up, I anticipate for it to be fairly slow out there, until we start getting some warmer days. It’s been getting below freezing up there every night, so I don’t think the fish will be very active.”
On Wickiup Reservoir, the hot early-season catch is kokanee. New this year, the daily bag limit for kokanee on Wickiup has been reduced from 30 fish to 10, and the Deschutes River arm will close Aug. 31 — one month earlier than in 2017.
Most anglers jig or troll for kokanee, whose average size in Wickiup is a whopping 18 to 22 inches.
“We would expect kokanee numbers (in Wickiup) to be somewhat similar to last year,” said Brett Hodgson, another Bend-based ODFW fish biologist. “There’s not a high density in Wickiup. They should be quite large, and the fish that are in there will be quality fish.”
Other species that anglers target on Wickiup are brown and rainbow trout.
Hodgson also noted that anglers can expect ample opportunity for lake trout on Odell and Crescent lakes, located southwest of Bend off state Highway 58. Crescent Lake is open year-round, and Hodgson said he heard reports of “monster” lake trout caught there this past winter, including one that was a reported 30 pounds and 38 inches long.
Odell is also a popular kokanee fishery, though Hodgson noted that water temperature typically must reach 54 to 55 degrees before kokanee fishing picks up.
Anglers can also expect kokanee opportunity on Lake Billy Chinook, according to Hodgson. The ODFW added a five-fish bonus bag of kokanee on Lake Billy Chinook this year, so anglers can harvest as many as 10 per day. The lake is also popular for bull trout anglers, and Hodgson said that bull trout fishing has been “excellent” there so far this spring.
The section of the Lower Deschutes that opens Sunday — basically from Maupin to Lake Billy Chinook — should offer good prospects for trout fishing.
“Fish numbers the last few years have been robust and the qualify of fish good,” Hodgson said of the area.
Moberly added that anglers should not forget about Fall River as a viable option to land rainbow and brown trout this time of year. He said he has received many recent reports of good fishing on the stream near Sunriver.
East of La Pine in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Paulina and East lakes are currently inaccessible as the gate remains closed at 10-mile Sno-park, according to Schutte, who added that the lakes are still partially frozen and the boat ramps and campgrounds remain under snow. The gate will be opened sometime in mid- to late May, he said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,