Henry Hagg Lake is a family friendly reservoir in Scoggins Valley Park in the foothills fairly near Portland. It is popular with water skiers, bicyclists, picnickers and, especially, anglers.
Hagg is best known for its popular rainbow trout fishery,
propelled by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s stocking program, which in recent years has included not only quantities of catchable ‘bows but also excess hatchery brood trout that often top 10 pounds and have on occasion tipped scales around 20 pounds.
Hagg, reached by heading west from Highway 47 between Forest Grove and Gaston, also has a few native cutthroat trout from its Coast Range tributaries and a thriving warmwater fishery that includes smallmouth and largemouth bass, yellow perch, bluegill, crappie and bullhead catfish. The reservoir produced current state records for both smallmouth and bullheads.
Rules to Fish By
The fishing season at Hagg Lake is atypical – not year-round but opening early on the first Saturday of March and extending through the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The park is managed by Washington County.
The upper half of the lake is subject to a no-wake zone that makes fishing more enjoyable on hot summer days when power boats arrive en masse.
The trout limit here is a typical five per day, with a minimum length of 8 inches for keepers and with no more than one over 20 inches. Note that Hagg Lake has special daily limits for bass (1) and crappie (20), but no limits on bullhead or other panfish.
Timing Your Trip – Don’t Miss the Opener
Trout fishing is good from the get-go at Hagg Lake, which is heavily stocked early in the year and throughout spring. ODFW also has been known to stock huge brood trout in the late for the opener, so there often are some steelhead-sized fish along with plenty of pan-sized trout.
“It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard,” Klaumann said of the excellent fishing for huge trout. “You have to experience it yourself.”
Hagg is capable of producing decent trout catches all season for anglers who learn the lake, but trout fishing certainly slows during the heat of summer and picks up again when the water cools in fall. Also, the state recently has planted large numbers of keeper-sized hatchery trout during the fall, making for outstanding catches at a time when there are relatively few anglers on the water. Many of these fish are likely to survive for the next year's fishery.
Where to Catch Them – Stay Shallow and Near Shore Early
To go after the brooders in the early weeks of the season, stick to shallow water. Even bank anglers often cast too deep, cautioned Klaumann, who figures the finny new arrivals are still accustomed to life in shallow hatchery ponds.
Much of the shoreline is accessible, and the hot spots tend to vary according to stocking schedules and fish circulation patterns. Popular access points are available near both boat ramps, both ends of the dam, picnic areas and a disabled-access fishing pier near Boat Ramp C on the northwest side of the lake.
During the heat of summer and early fall, especially as the water is drawn down, trout tend to seek out deeper water – especially under a bright sun. At this time of year, look for rainbows near the dam, where there is some shore access to deeper water, and also in the old creek channel near the center of the lake, which requires a boat.
Once autumn temperatures start to drop, trout will again be available closer to the surface – especially those new stockers.
One final location tip: When it’s windy, the fish seem to get pushed to the area around Boat Ramp A on the southeast end of the lake.
How to Catch Them – Still Fishing and Trolling
Bait fishing rules at Hagg Lake during the spring and is effective all season.
Of course, Berkley PowerBait is as popular and effective in catching stocked rainbows here as anywhere. Klaumann said the garlic-flavored PowerBait has been a recent top producer. Generally, she said green and yellow colored doughs seem to out-fish others. Corn, cheese fromage, nightcrawler, salmon egg and the ever-present rainbow and chartreuse colors all catch plenty of fish. The Captain America version seems to work well later in the season.
Other really popular baits in recent years have been Berkley Power Eggs, YUM paste in the trout krill scent and Pautzke’s Green Label Balls O’ Fire salmon eggs. Finally, a favorite of some Hagg Lake still-fishing regulars is known locally as the “Fisherman’s Delight,” created by threading a plain white marshmallow to the top of
the shank of your hook for buoyancy, followed by a single Pautzke’s egg and finished off with a small chunk of nightcrawler on the tip.
Most bait can be fished just off the bottom, using a sliding sinker above a swivel. Tie on 36 inches of leader, using 6- to 8-pound test early in the season, when the brood trout are most numerous. Some veteran anglers switch to 4-pound or even 2-pound test later in the year as fishing gets tougher.
For soft baits, use size 12 or 14 dough hooks (treble hooks with a spring on the shank to better hold bait) or a plain treble hook in size 14 or 16. For plain eggs or the Fisherman’s Delight, a size 6 or 8 egg hook will do the trick.
Trollers also do well at Hagg, and this approach at times will out-perform still-fishing, especially from June through September when many of the fish are tougher to reach from shore.
In the early spring, trollers also catch big brooders by trolling a lure such as Acme Tackle’s Kastmaster or Worden’s Rooster Tail and Mack’s Wedding Ring spinners. You can troll these lures by themselves when the fish are near the surface but many anglers pull them on 36 inches of leader behind a set of Ford Fender flashers. Try a piece of nightcrawler or a couple kernels of white shoepeg corn on the hook.
Early in the season or well into fall, troll lures near the top, with little or no weight.
When it’s sunny and hot out, especially from August into early October, concentrate your trolling in the deeper areas of the lake closer to the dam and in the creek channel running up near the center of the reservoir. Holdover trout in the 6- to 8-pound range can be pulled from the depths as the reservoir is drawn down to its fall lows, along with frequent pan-sized fish, Klaumann said.
Trolling in a counter-clockwise pattern often is most effective, she added.
If All Else Fails
When the fish get finicky, Klaumann has a unique solution: Carry a peeled clove of garlic in your pocket and rub it around on your fingers regularly during your fishing day.
“It takes away that human scent,” she said, which can be the difference between a successful outing and getting skunked.
Cherri Klaumann and her husband have owned Lake Stop Grocery since 1974. Located on Old Highway 47 on the way to the reservoir, the store carries bait and tackle for all species of Hagg Lake fish, in addition to food, beverages and other supplies.