Fishing in Oregon’s Klamath Basin – Williamson, Wood Rivers, Upper Klamath Lake and More

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Source: Fishing in Oregon: The Complete Oregon Fishing Guide (11th Edition) by Madelynne Diness Sheehan

Also see:
Best Fishing in Oregon’s Southeast Zone (Lakes and Reservoirs)
Best Fishing in Oregon’s Southeast Zone (Rivers)

The Southeast Zone includes all tributaries (including impoundments) of the Snake River system above Hells Canyon Dam; the Silvies River drainage in Grant County; all waters in the Malheur and Lake counties; all waters in Harney County except the drainage of the South Fork of the John Day River; and all waters of the Klamath River Basin in Klamath and Lake counties. )

The Klamath River Basin is where all streams and their tributaries drain toward Upper Klamath Lake or the Klamath River.) This zone does not include any portion of the mainstem Snake River.

The following are among the best fishing waters in the Klamath Basin (Klamath Falls area) of the Southeast Zone:

Agency Lake

This is a large northern pool of Upper Klamath Lake system (see below), separated by a narrow channel. Like its larger sibling, Agency holds some of Oregon and the U.S.’s largest redband rainbow trout. Fishing is usually best in the spring, especially near the mouths of Wood River and Sevenmile Creek.

Fishing slows by July, when many fish have moved into the Wood or sought out cooler water elsewhere. Yellow perch and brown bullhead catfish can be caught in the lake, especially at the north end.

The Wood River has a nice population of brown trout as well as redsides, so it’s possible one could be caught in Agency, particularly within the river’s plume.

Klamath River

The Klamath flows just 38 miles in Oregon before crossing the border into California, but this upper stretch offers a great challenge for some very big rainbow trout. The most productive stretch is the six miles between Keno Dam and J.C. Boyle Reservoir.

This is heavy water, so wade carefully, but it also contains many trout to 20 inches. This section is closed from mid-June to early October, due to high water temperatures. Trout are abundant but run smaller in a five-mile stretch from Boyle Reservoir to Boyle Power House.

Below the Power House, the fish again run larger but water conditions fluctuate greatly due to releases from the power plant. Late evenings and early mornings often offer the best flows for fishing here.

Sprague River

This long stream, which joins the Williamson River near Chiloquin, is most noted for its rainbow and brown trout fishing. The lower river has many rainbows to 3 pounds or larger as well as good-sized browns.

The forks above Bly contain rainbow, brown, brook and bull trout. The bulls must be released unharmed. The best trout fishing is in the late spring and early summer. Largemouth bass are in the Sprague River Valley reach between the towns of Sprague River and Beatty and bite best in summer.

More: Fishing the Sprague and Sycan Rivers

Sycan River

This tributary of the Sprague River can producing very good fishing, especially for redband rainbow and brook trout during good water years. The 20 miles of stream above Sycan Marsh have plentiful brookies as well as rainbows and protected bull trout.

The 30 miles from the Marsh down to where the Sycan joins the Sprague at Beatty flows through rugged country with only sporadic access. This section is lightly fished, but that’s where the brown trout are. Fish it in shte spring, before water flow drops and temperatures rise.

Look for the best access from Torrent Spring down to the mouth.

Upper Klamath Lake

This usually is Oregon’s largest lake (except when Malheur eclipses it in wet years). It stretches almost 25 miles and it’s shallow, rich waters are home to some of the largest redband rainbow trout in North America, with fish to 20 pounds or better.

Bank and boat angling is popular from fall through spring at the southern end near Klamath Falls and in the Link River. But much of the lake gets too warm for trout in the summer, when they retreat to the north end’s cooler water at river inlets, springs and Pelican Bay – or head up into tributary streams such as the Williamson River.

Trolling, bait casting and fly fishing are all effective here. A long channel joins Upper Klamath Lake to Agency Lake on the north, which is fed by the Wood River, and these lakes and river systems are all part of an interconnected fishery.

More: Fly Fishing for Big Native Rainbows on Upper Klamath Lake

Williamson River

This river north of Klamath Falls boasts one of Oregon’s best opportunities to catch very large wild rainbow trout in moving water, when the big redbands move up from Upper Klamath Lake.

The best concentration of larger fish is in the river from late June through fall. They tend to be located in the stretch below Kirk Canyon Falls by late summer and fall, when fishing often peaks for big fish. Anglers must use artificial lures and flies, and fly fishing is challenging but popular.

Above the falls, the river flows through the huge Klamath Marsh. Farther upstream, the Williamson is a spring-fed stream with more typical-sized wild rainbow and brook trout.

The Williamson flows through a lot of private ranch land, but campgrounds, public forests and road crossings provide some access to good water, including popular spots below the falls, in Chiloquin and elsewhere.

There are brook trout in the upper river and some brown trout around as well, but the latter are more numerous in the Wood and Sprague rivers.

More: Fishing the Williamson River

More: Best Fly Fishing Rivers in Oregon

Wood River

This spring-fed, crystal clear trout stream in the Fort Klamath area flows into Agency Lake, which itself is connected to the larger Upper Klamath Lake – all together a fishery that produces some of the biggest native rainbow trout in the United States.

It is smaller than the nearby Williamson, has better brown trout angling and has a lot of great water and consistent flows appealing to fly anglers. Large rainbow trout usually move into the Wood in June and stay until fall. The best angling for the biggest rainbows is often in September and October.

In August and September, when the grasshoppers are out and the stream is clear, dry fly fishing for browns is good. Finding spots to fish from the bank can be tough, but the Wood River Day Use Area offers both bank fishing and a launch. Small boats and canoes offer the best access.

More: Fishing the Wood River

Find fishing spots in all 36 Oregon counties

Oregon Resources

ODFW Weekly Fishing Report
ODFW Trout Stocking Schedule
Oregon Fishing Regulations
National Weather Service

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