Significant late-winter snowfall and early-spring rain should make for a promising trout fishing season this year on Central Oregon lakes and rivers.

“I think it’s going to benefit fish, and it’s going to help out water supply,” said Brett Hodgson, a Bend-based fisheries biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Most, if not all, of the reservoirs are going to fill, which is a positive. Overall, we’re pretty excited about the fishing year. There’s a lot of great opportunities out there, both in standing waters and in the area streams.”

Crane Prairie Reservoir, Wickiup Reservoir and Odell Lake — all located southwest of Bend — opened to fishing for the season on April 22 and are all currently accessible, according to Hodgson. All other Central Oregon lakes are open to fishing year-round.

Lava Lake is ice-free and will be accessible starting Thursday, according to Chuck Schutte, operations manager for the Deschutes County Road Department. Until the entire highway is opened later this month, anglers coming from Bend will need to take Forest Service Road 42 from Sunriver then Cascade Lakes Highway north to reach Lava Lake. Schutte said that could be as early as May 24.

“We are actually maybe ahead of schedule with plowing,” Schutte said this week. “All that late snow, there was not much time for people to drive on it, run snowmobiles on it, so it didn’t get packed and turn to ice.”

Schutte added that Forest Road 21 to Paulina and East lakes in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument is completely plowed and clear, but he also noted that the lakes remain frozen and the campgrounds are not ready. He said it might be about two weeks before the gate is opened along the road to reach the lakes by vehicle.

So far this season, the fishing on Wickiup and Crane Prairie has been good, according to Hodgson. He said the kokanee fishing on Wickiup has been much better than anticipated, and that many anglers are reaching their daily bag limit in a short amount of time.

The ODFW reduced the bag limit on kokanee on Wickiup two years ago. Anglers were previously able to keep as many as 30 kokanee per day, now they can keep as many as 10.

After a yearslong drought, Wickiup Reservoir dropped to just 1% full by the end of irrigation season last October, its lowest level in six decades, according to Bulletin reports from last fall.

“I think the bag-limit change helped, and we know that with the drawdown of the reservoir last fall, a significant number of fish left the reservoir into the (Deschutes) river downstream because we did some sampling in October and observed them down there,” Hodgson said. “Our fear was that most everything in the reservoir left. But that does not appear to be the case. Some of the fish likely were able to move into the pools within the river channel in the reservoir and were able to hold on until the reservoir started to fill back up.”

On Crane Prairie, some of the best fishing for big, native redband trout is from May to early June, according to Hodgson. The wild fish are returning back to the reservoir from spawning, and water temperatures are favorable throughout the reservoir, so anglers can find fish everywhere. Later in the summer the fish are concentrated in the river channels.

Hodgson said that ODFW sampling from the last several years indicates that the illegally introduced brown bullhead population in Crane Prairie is expanding, which could negatively affect the trout fishery.

“We’ll be doing some monitoring and experimental trapping in Crane this year to see if trapping might be an effective means of controlling that bullhead population,” Hodgson said. “Bullhead are voracious feeders, and they can really disrupt the food web, which would have an impact on survival and growth of the trout in there.”

Odell Lake, farther southwest off state Highway 58, typically offers productive kokanee fishing early in the season.

“We just had a report from Odell that the water temperature is 42 degrees, and 41 seems to be what turns the kokanee bite on,” Hodgson said this week. “They’re catching kokanee in Odell now. Odell has excellent spring opportunities for kokanee and lake trout.”

At Paulina and East lakes this summer, ODFW interns will be setting nets to remove the illegally introduced tui chub that live in those waters. The results of these ongoing annual efforts have helped the trout and kokanee fisheries there, according to Hodgson.

Farther north, along the Lower Deschutes near Warm Springs, the annual salmonfly hatch should occur in early to mid-May, Hodgson predicted. During the hatch, hungry redband trout feed on 3-inch-long salmonflies that land on the surface of the water to lay their eggs.

It’s just another spring opportunity for anglers in our trout-rich waters.

Said Hodgson: “People from all over the state come to Central Oregon to do their trout fishing.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318, mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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