Odell Lake’s reputation rides on having Oregon’s biggest lake trout (mackinaw) and some of the state’s best kokanee fishing. So it’s not surprising that anglers tend to overlook its rainbow trout – not surprising, but maybe ill-advised.
Odell has a healthy and self-sustaining population of rainbows that regularly reach the 3- and 4-pound range and have been caught up to 6 pounds, so little pressure that they readily strike bait, lures and flies. Many anglers don’t know the rainbows are there in good numbers or don’t know how easy it is to catch them.
“They get fished a little bit, but they don’t get fished very much,” Jones said.
Odell Lake, which is over 6 miles long, sits off Highway 58 just east of Willamette Pass, roughly midway between Eugene and either Bend or Klamath Falls and slightly over a 3-hour drive from the Portland area.
By the Book – Odell Lake Angling Regulations
Odell Lake is open from the fourth Saturday in April through Oct. 31.
The daily limit for rainbows is five of at least 8 inches apiece, with only one longer than 20 inches. Lake trout, which are included in the trout limit, must be at least 30 inches and only one may be kept per day. Bull trout must be released unharmed.
In addition to the trout limit, anglers may keep 25 kokanee and there are no limits on whitefish.
All of the tributaries and the lake itself within 200 feet of Trapper Creek are closed to all angling to protect bull trout.
Know Before You Go – Fish Early and Late
Odell is notoriously windy, but it typically starts calm in the morning and sometimes settles again late in the day. The West Bay area is most protected and often can be fished successfully all day.
The lake is bordered by Highway 58 on one side and busy railroad tracks along the other.
Timing Your Trip – Summer and Fall are Best
Fishing for rainbows gets really good starting about the first of July and continues to be productive until the lake closes to fishing at the end of October.
Fish Finder – Stick to the Shoreline
While lake trout patrol Odell’s depths, where the huge schools of kokanee hang out, the rainbows work the buggy shorelines. For these trout, stick close to the rocky banks, working the slender shoulders before the lake dives to depths commonly over 200 feet.
With a boat, cast your bait or lures close to shore wherever you find a bit of shallower water. Another option in calm conditions is a float tube.
The West Bay is probably the best place to chase rainbows because it has plentiful shoreline rainbow habitat and is sheltered enough that it remains fishable even during most afternoons. Another favorite spot for catching rainbows is in the cove behind Chinquapin Point, located at the Sunset Cove Campground on the lake’s northeastern shore.
On foot, steep terrain and private property limits bank access. One option is Shelter Cove Resort’s bank area and docks, and just beyond the resort’s boat ramp along the railroad tracks, but it’s difficult climbing to reach shore-fishing spots. The public campgrounds have some limited shore-fishing spots.
Secrets to Success – Nightcrawlers and Casting Lures
Odell Lake’s rainbows see little pressure, and they don’t seem to be as particular as more heavily pursued trout elsewhere.
Jones said one of the easiest ways to fool them is with a nightcrawler on a No. 6 bait-holder hook, fished 5 to 6 feet below a float near the shoreline.
However, he finds that slowly trolling a whole nightcrawler can bring fast action. Thread all but the last inch of the ‘crawler up a single No. 6 hook and onto the leader. (Jones uses a 6-pound P-Line Fluorocarbon leader for this type of fishing.) Using no weight or attractor, he uses his electric trolling motor to silently pull nightcrawlers through shallower water just off the shoreline. This tactic also will catch some of the lake’s bigger whitefish, which rival the rainbows for size.
Lure anglers also will do well chasing Odell’s rainbows. Jones says many trout anglers like to cast and retrieve lures such as the Panther Martin, Blue Fox Vibrax or Rooster Tail spinners. You can toss these off the shoreline, where available, but Jones said success rates are higher casting toward the bank and retrieving back to a boat.
Fly anglers also enjoy Odell’s rainbows, which feast off the lake’s rich insect hatches that include abundant midges and mayflies. Work dry imitations very early and late on calm water.
Wet patterns that catch rainbows here include woolly buggers, small muddler minnows and various smaller streamers.
If All Else Fails
Jones often will tie his own two-hook harness rig, a bit like walleye anglers use but with shorter line between the hooks. He’ll often use a No. 2 hook up front, followed with a No. 4 hook trailing. He trolls this slowly along shore, as he would with a single-hook rig.
Mike Jones lives in northeastern Oregon but spends the fishing season at Odell Lake, which he started fishing in 1964 and has been guiding on and off since the early 1980s. Customers can book fishing trips for mackinaw and rainbow trout and kokanee through Shelter Cove Resort & Marina on the west end of the lake.