The Northeast Zone includes all waters draining into the Columbia River east of the Deschutes River and all waters draining into the Snake River system up to Hells Canyon Dam. This zone does not include any portion of the mainstem Columbia and Snake rivers.
The following are among the best fishing waters that drain to the Snake River on the eastern end of the Northeast Zone:
This beautiful stream with good fishing for wild trout and catch and release fishing for wild steelhead flows into the upper Grande Ronde River just east of La Grande. The river is open to steelheading in the section below the Highway 203 Bridge that is upstream of Catherine Creek State Park, southeast of Union. Only fin-clipped steelhead – and occasional strays from the Grande Ronde system – may be retained. The upper stream can have good fishing for small wild rainbows, but it’s also spawning ground for spring chinook and has a population of bull trout, both of which are off-limits and must be released if caught incidentally.
Grande Ronde River (lower)
The 117-mile section below the confluence of the Wallowa River, which includes a Wild and Scenic stretch, is the most popular and productive area. It is fished most often for steelhead but offers other species. The river flows into Washington state northeast of Troy before entering the Snake River. All steelhead here are technically summer fish, but the season doesn’t open until September, when they start arriving in the lower river. The season continues through April 15 of the following year. October and November are usually the peak in the Oregon section, although steelhead can be caught whenever a break in the winter weather occurs. Late winter and early spring fishing can be good, especially higher up in the system if spring runoff isn’t too high. The lower river is also fished for trout, but unclipped fish must be released. In fact, the fin-clipped “trout” are actually hatchery steelhead that failed to migrate to the ocean and may be harvested below Rondowa. Protected bull trout are present. Smallmouth bass are in the river near Troy, with the best fishing in summer.
This high-gradient tributary of the Snake River in far northeastern Oregon offers fishing for summer steelhead (hatchery and wild runs), fin-clipped hatchery chinook, wild rainbow trout and even a catch-and-release option to chase bull trout. The river is open to harvest of fin-clipped steelhead up to Big Sheep Creek from Sept. 1 through April 15 of the following year. Harvest opportunities are opened for fin-clipped chinook salmon when the runs justify it, which has been a regular occurrence in recent years. Look for spring chinook to start arriving in May or early June, with fishing into early July. Wild rainbows and all bull trout must be released; only trout with clipped fins may be retained. Whitefish of good size are plentiful in the river above Big Sheep Creek.
The largest natural lake in northeastern Oregon sits just south of Joseph (near Enterprise), at the foot of the Wallowa Mountains. This is a popular family lake but also holds really big fish. The world record kokanee was landed here in 2010, and some of its lake trout (mackinaw) have come close to the state record mark of 40.5 pounds (from Odell Lake in central Oregon). As if that weren’t enough, the rainbow trout fishing is consistently good. The kokanee typically bite best from late spring through early summer. The fishing for these landlocked salmon is very cyclical. The 2009 and 2010 seasons were remarkable for giant fish that more closely resembled their ocean-going sockeye kin. Most people troll or jig for kokanee. Though difficult to find and hook, Wallowa Lake’s mackinaw have been caught well over 30 pounds. Rainbow trout are regularly stocked during summer and fall. Unlike kokanee and lake trout, which run deep in the summer, the rainbows tend to stick in shallow water close to shore, where they can be fished both from bank and boat.
Wallowa Mountains High Lakes
The Eagle Cap Wilderness has many nice fishing lakes at high elevations that hold brook and rainbow waiting for anglers willing and able to hike. Some of the alpine lakes in this area known for larger trout are Aneroid, Prospect and Unit lakes reached by trail south of Wallowa Lake and Frances and Hobo lakes reached by trail south of the Lostine Guard Station. These lakes are snowed in much of the year and are primarily fished in the summer. Fishing can be especially good in late summer and early fall (about September), and the mosquitoes are gone after the first frost.
This is a popular and accessible stream that produces trout and summer steelhead. It heads in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, feeds Wallowa Lake and flows to its confluence with the Grande Ronde River northeast of Elgin. Steelhead take awhile to reach the Wallowa River and generally are caught from mid-February to mid-April as high up as Trout Creek. Fishing is often good at the mouth of Spring Creek and in Big Canyon. Trout fishing is good spring through fall, with the best conditions in September and October. Most of the trout are rainbows, but brook trout are in the Enterprise and Joseph areas. Bull trout must be released. Fin-clipped rainbow trout (actually hatchery steelhead that fail to migrate) are the only rainbows that may be kept from the mouth up to Rock Creek, between the towns of Minam and Wallowa.
This beautiful stream just below the Washington state line offers catch-and-release fishing for bull trout and wild steelhead. There also are harvest opportunities for wild trout and the occasional hatchery steelhead stray that takes a wrong turn where the Wenaha enters the Grande Ronde River at Troy. Bull trout must be released but can be fished in the mainstem (not the forks). Fin-clipped steelhead may be retained in the lower six miles (below Crooked Creek) from September through mid-April. Trout angling is excellent from mid-summer through fall. Wild rainbows are commonly caught from 10 to 15 inches and run up to 20. Bull trout can get really large.