For Fishing, Bend's A Best Bet
by Summer Braun
Picture this . . . and you'll conjure up images of an angler's paradise . . . more than 100 scenic lakes, a host of clear streams and sparkling reservoirs dotting the ruggedly beautiful country surrounding Bend, Oregon.
And it's no fish story that the waters around the Bend area offer some of the finest fishing anywhere. It's astonishing that the area doesn't attract more anglers from the considerable number who flood through. You'd think they would, according to locals, "settle down in schools."
The variety of fish in the area is nearly as great as the number of places available to reel them in. During the spring, choices range from Chinook salmon or brown trout in the Deschutes River; in the early season, brook, rainbow and brown trout are plentiful in most lakes and streams; and for "fly fishing only action" there's black bass in Prineville Reservoir and kokanee and even some Atlantic Salmon in lakes. The Mateolius River looks good too.
Summer anglers aren't left high and dry. Steelhead run up the Deschutes from the Columbia River July through November and, while action slows in the heat of summer, if you see cool water by either heading into the mountains towards Eugene or fish deep early or late in the day, you'll do well. Fall fishing is even better as the water cools and fish feed before winter sets in. Winter anglers have ice fishing in Cascade lakes and solid, but often soggy, steelheading.
Do prepare early. Local outlets can run out of daily or 10-day permits, so it's wise to call or write the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 506 S. W. Mill, Portland, OR 97208. A guide makes sense if you're trying either a new method, like flyfishing, or a new water.
Located directly east of Bend, Prineville reservoir provides a solid mix of largemouth bass and trout fishing in a typical "two story" impoundment on whose shores rockhounds can find agates and thundereggs. Kids and smart adults can find solid panfish action here too.
Spring is the prime time for bass -- use trout finish plugs, purple or motor oil colored plastic worms and spinners/spinnerbaits. Check cover, stumps and early weed beds. Hair frogs suit the fly flingers.
Seek trout near live inlet streams or springs and, when the surface water heats past 60 degrees, try dawn visits when trout savage bait on top. Once the water warms into the 70's you'll need to go deeper with flashers and worms. There's a solid ramp, decent water skiing and often enough wind for boating.
Wickiup & Crane Prairie Reservoirs & Elk Lake
From Bend, it's an easy loop drive up past Bachelor Butte and Sparkes Lake south past Elk, Lava and Little Lava Lakes and then south to Cultus Lake, Crane Prarie and Wickiup Reservoirs. All offer better than usual trout fishing but, as usual with higher elevation lakes, it's either "hot, or it's not." Drive, check for surface action with binoculars, try a few casts and if nothing happens move on.
Crescent & Odell Lakes
Located off Highway 58, this lake trolls up summer lake trout at 100 to 160 feet if you use big plugs. However, if you want to catch "big macs" in the four to six pound range from bank or boat with lures, try to make the "ice out" to April" action early and fish shoals that warm earlier than deeper water.
Check out Odell Lake trout too. It's just west of Crescent Lake off the shortcut from Highway 79 to Highway 58 between Gilchrist and Crescent
"Simply superb" is the way one local angler described his favorite stretch of water above Lake Chinook where superb pools lurk under the shadows of Three Finger Jack Mountain. Shop for tackle, and information, in Sister near the junction of Highway 20 and 126.
Flowing over 200 miles from the Cascades to the Columbia, the Deschute's summer steelhead runs offer action from July to November. However, many locals claim the brown trout action is even more spectacular. Steelheaders congregate below Pelton and Round Butte Dam and you can do reasonably well from shore with the usual tackle and techniques if you know exactly where, and how, to fish. Otherwise, consider a guided drift boat day. If you must solo, look for local license plates and guide boats.
Browns offer some dandy action on the Deschutes. Small plugs or large flies do the job when action peaks in the fall. It's not unusual to hook big salmon here too.
Publisher's note: To see what's where topographic maps help. While you can buy individual "quads" for limited areas you might consider the new, and up to date CD-ROMs that might cover 200 or more quads. These let you examine large areas in great detail to turn up new spots to fish, and they allow you to then print only the areas you want. Even better they work with GPS systems as well
The Best Of The Rest
These are, of course, only a sample of the waters near Bend. Some of the best fishing lurks in small creeks and isolated Cascade Range lakes a short hike from pavement. Backwater sloughs along rivers and, to the south, the trout wonders of the Williamson make Bend the fastest growing city in central Oregon.
Oregon Tourism Division
Oregon Guides & Packers Association, Box 10841, Eugene, OR 97440 (503)683-9552