Best Fishing in Oregon
Southwest Zone (Lakes and Reservoirs)
Photo courtesy of Lake Selmac Resort
Source: Fishing in Oregon: The Complete Oregon Fishing Guide (11th Edition) by Madelynne Diness Sheehan
The Southwest Zone includes all waters draining directly to the Pacific Ocean south to the Oregon-California border, and north to and including the Umpqua River drainage. It also includes those portions of the Klamath River drainage in Jackson County.
The following are among the best fishing lakes and reservoirs in the Southwest Zone:
This deep reservoir on the upper Applegate River, sitting just north of the California border, provides good fishing for stocked trout, landlocked chinook, smallmouth and largemouth bass and crappie. It is easily reached by driving south on Highway 238 from Medford or Grants Pass. Trout fishing picks up in spring, when stocking begins for the season. Landlocked chinook are often caught trolling deep, much as anglers target kokanee elsewhere. Largemouth bass are mostly caught in creek arms, including the shallower Squaw Creek on the east side and the submerged timber in Carberry Creek Arm. Carberry also is where crappie are most numerous. Look for smallmouth around riprap and drop-offs.
Following treatment in 2006 for a tui chub infestation, this handsome high-country lake is fully recovered and back to producing the fat rainbow trout that have made it a favorite destination for generations of anglers. The lake, which is east of Roseburg and just north of Crater Lake National Park, grows enormous populations of aquatic insects that quickly turn stocked fingerling trout into steelhead-sized brutes. Fishing has been so good, ODFW raised the daily limit to eight trout. Starting in 2013, the lake will be open year-round and should provide some winter ice-fishing opportunity. Traditionally, peak fishing arrives in May or June after ice-out. Success can dip a little in the hot days of mid- to late summer before picking up again in the fall. Still-fishing with bait, trolling lures and fly fishing all produce excellent catches.
Howard Prairie and Hyatt Reservoirs
These nearby and equally popular reservoirs east of Ashland are productive for large stocked trout and bass. Trolling and bait-fishing are both very popular in both waters, and catches peak in the spring after the lakes open to fishing on the fourth Saturday in April. Smallmouth bass populations have exploded at Howard Prairie, and they are most commonly caught near rocky shoreline structure. Largemouth bass and brown bullheads also are available at Howard Prairie. At Hyatt, largemouth bass have been a big draw but currently are so numerous that they have become stunted. Hyatt also has bluegill, crappie and bullheads.
Lost Creek Reservoir
This large reservoir on the upper Rogue River northeast of Grants Pass and Medford is fished primarily for smallmouth bass and stocked rainbow trout, but the year-round fishery also contains landlocked chinook, bullhead and panfish such as bluegill and crappie, along with recent additions such as yellow perch and spotted bass. Fish the smallmouth along the dam and rocky outcrops, including spots near the resort’s swimming area. They also inhabit the shallows among willows on the southwest shore. The lake also harbors largemouth bass, which have been bolstered by new recruits from Hyatt and Davis lakes. Fish the coves, shoal areas and willows for largemouth. The lake gets planted with tens of thousands of legal and larger rainbow trout each year, producing plenty of trout limits, and there are smaller numbers of self-populating cutthroat and brown trout. Landlocked chinook reach about 16 inches and usually are fished deep, like kokanee.
Selmac, located near Selma southwest of Grants Pass, is most famous for its trophy-sized largemouth bass, but this family favorite also provides good fisheries for a variety of warmwater fish and rainbow trout. Selmac Lake has produced two past state-record largemouth from among its stumps and overhanging brush. The lake is generously stocked with rainbow trout, with the best trout fishing from late winter to early summer. Fishing can be excellent for crappie, bluegill and brown bullhead.
This is one of Oregon’s very best largemouth bass lakes, with high catch rates possible and some larger fish to 8 or 10 pounds. Best bass fishing is May through September, including the spring spawning period, but anglers work the shallow lake’s bass year-round. Brown bullhead, bluegill, crappie and yellow perch round out the warmwater catch and are easy pickings. Stocked rainbow and wild cutthroat trout provide good fisheries as well, along with the occasional steelhead, which may be kept if it’s fin-clipped. Starting in 2010, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reopened a harvest fishery for wild coho salmon based on a moderate quota, similar to established silver salmon fisheries at Siltcoos and Tahkenitch lakes to the north. Look for coho starting in late October and coming through with each rainfall in November and early December.