LAVA LAKE —
In June the fishing is typically so good at Lava Lake that the only thing the anglers have to complain about is the parking.
Such was the case last Thursday as John Garrison pulled his boat into the small parking area near the boat ramp at the lake. Luckily, he found somebody who was leaving and was able to park his truck in that spot after launching his boat.
“There’s one boat ramp in the middle of the campground,” Garrison said. “And people are kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. The parking lot is terrible.”
Still, Garrison — a fishing guide for 30-plus years in Central Oregon — has had no problem with the fishing this season at Lava Lake. A group of clients landed a total of 41 fish between them on a single day earlier in the week.
“There’s just a lot of fish in it, and not a lot of predators,” Garrison said. “The only predator is the eagle or osprey, and they don’t get that much. So there’s just a lot of fish. They grow fast in there. No competition, no trash fish, which really makes it good.”
Lava Lake is located about 40 miles southwest of Bend, high in the Cascade mountains. Aside from its fishing, the lake is well-known for its scenery, as Mount Bachelor, South Sister and Broken Top surround the pure blue lake in the Deschutes National Forest.
The spring-fed lake covers about half a square mile and is 30 feet at its deepest. Rainbow trout are stocked there each year, and fishing tends to peak in the early summer and again in the fall.
Most bait anglers prefer the deeper water at the northeast part of the lake, and they often still-fish with PowerBait or worms. Fly anglers typically use chironomids, callibaetis and leeches. The fish are usually right on the bottom at Lava Lake.
In Central Oregon, anglers often go to Crane Prairie Reservoir for trophy rainbow trout or to Wickiup Reservoir for monster browns.
At Lava Lake, it’s all about the numbers. Sure, big fish can be found at Lava, but the angling experience is less about the size of the fish and more about the seemingly nonstop action.
“It’s very consistent,” Garrison said. “If I’ve got people who want to fish a half day and they have kids, it’s easy … go to Lava Lake and catch fish. If you have people that want big fish and a full day, we won’t go to Lava. We’ll got to East Lake, Paulina Lake, or Crane Prairie.”
Garrison, owner of Garrison’s Guide Service in Sunriver, powered his 22-foot pontoon away from the dock at Lava Lake last Thursday and snow-covered South Sister and Bachelor came into view as we made our way toward the east shore.
He anchored in water that was about 30 feet deep, and his fish finder showed lots of fish at the bottom of the lake. A dozen boats stretched out to the middle of the lake, but we had enough room to cast our lines — rigged with garlic PowerBait — both toward the shore and away from the shore.
Just 10 minutes into the fishing, one of the rods bent deeply. I pulled it out of the rod holder, set the hook, and started to reel. To the boat came a beautifully spotted 15-inch rainbow trout.
The fishing was steady for the next three hours or so, as we caught and released 15 rainbow trout in the 14- to 16-inch range. Boats around us were having some success, too, as hooked rainbows splashed in and out of the water.
“They’re nice fish,” Garrison said. “They’re not real small, so they’re nice eaters.”
We elected to release all our fish, but anglers are allowed to keep five fish in the daily bag limit on Lava Lake.
We watched as one boat moved from near us to farther out toward the middle of the lake. Garrison frowned. According to him, the fishing is pretty much the same on Lava Lake no matter where you are. Fly anglers, though, prefer the northern reaches of the lake where there is more bug life near the weeds.
“You know what they ain’t doing right now?” Garrison said, noting the boat that was moving. “They ain’t fishing. If you’re moving, you’re not fishing.”
An eagle circled above us for a while, followed shortly thereafter by an osprey.
As the cool, clear morning turned into a hot afternoon, Garrison brought in the anchor, fired up the engine, and drove us back to the crowded boat ramp.
Garrison noted that Lava might be one of the few lakes in Central Oregon with typically more bait anglers than fly anglers.
“But there’s some fly fishermen,” he said. “One yelled at me the other day.
“It all has to do with parking.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,