If you’re like me, you think ice fishing when the temperature hovers in the mid-20s and spikes at 33 degrees. And then you quickly check the long-range forecast for a 70-degree miracle. Don’t waste your time. I did that already.
Ice fishing? Yes, it’s on. Best bets are Diamond Lake and Chickahominy Reservoir, but for those with a snow machine and an auger, there are dozens of opportunities. Send me a note and let me know how you do. I’m looking to the future when the highways thaw out, pointing the Ford southeast into the desert or north and east.
Most of our best trout fishing lakes and reservoirs are open year-round. Remember that opening day of trout season tradition? It’s a thing of the past. Now you can go fishing when you feel like it or when the ice thaws, whichever comes first. Here are some of the best ice-out trout fishing destinations for March and April.
West of Tygh Valley, Pine Hollow Reservoir is a 240-acre irrigation impoundment set in mixed pines and oak trees.
Less than an hour’s drive from The Dalles, it is a popular summer fishery, but can be pretty quiet early in the spring. And that’s when this fishery kicks off.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks legal trout and big brood stock rainbows here, starting the third week of March if ice allows. When the ice first begins to thaw, the fishing should be excellent. A boat is a good idea for this lake, although there is good bank angling at the east shore boat ramp and on the east shore. My favorite trolling pattern touches at the buoys in front of the resort.
Nearby, and west of Wamic, Rock Creek Reservoir shows off best early in the season when the ODFW stocks approximately 12,000 legal rainbows between early March and the end of May. Plan it for the third week of March and beyond. This is a good spot for bank angling, but a car-topper boat is a definite advantage. Bait is allowed and bank anglers do best when using jar baits with a sliding sinker and a long leader. This is not a place to use a light leader. The ODFW often plants brood stock trout that can run up to 30 inches long.
Near the town of Summer Lake, 60-acre Ana Reservoir is one that does not ice over, but the best timing is going to be that third week of March when ODFW typically plants 3,000 legal rainbows. Best place to start is at the boat ramp and along the dam. Bank fishing is good here. Fly anglers will want a boat.
Looking ahead to the first week of April, Krumbo Reservoir is far and away the best thing going when ODFW will plant the first legal rainbows of the year. Krumbo, a shallow desert lake on the west side of the Steens, is 150 acres and fishes best in spring and fall. Because the lake is so food-rich, the trout can winter over and 20-inchers are common. Bank anglers can do well here, although bank access is tricky, scrambling over lava rocks. A better bet is to bring a float tube or a small boat.
Between Sumpter and Baker City, 2,235-acre Phillips Reservoir is a formerly great rainbow trout fishery that was overrun by yellow perch and has since been rehabilitated with the help of the tiger muskie. That is all you need to know.
But since you want more, I’ll give it to you. Phillips is a better-than-good ice-fishing destination. Perch can be easy to catch through the ice and are every bit as good to eat as walleye. And the perch, because there are fewer of them now, are bigger.
Look for Phillips Reservoir to be stocked with legal rainbows the first week of April. There is some bank access, but trolling is a real treat on this lake. An angler should plan to troll for rainbows and spend time targeting tiger muskie, which is a catch-and-release fishery. On a steady diet of 6-inch perch and 10-inch rainbows, these fish grow to 4 feet long and weigh as much as 30 pounds. I hooked one once and lost it when it plowed through the weeds next to the boat, jumped as high as my shoulder and broke my line. Use a steel leader and a 6-inch swim bait or large spinner bait to target tiger muskies.
This third month in our Julian calendar is named for Mars, the mythical Greek god of war. March is a fitting name for a month reputed to go in or out like a lion. For the trout fisherman, at the end of a long, cold winter, it’s a month to plan to do battle with rainbow trout.
— Gary Lewis is the host of Frontier Unlimited TV and author of Fishing Central Oregon, Fishing Mount Hood Country, Hunting Oregon and other titles. Contact Gary at www.GaryLewisOutdoors.com