Best Fishing in Oregon
East Lake Rainbow Trout
Source: David Jones
East Lake has been putting out some great brown trout, is a consistent kokanee producer and is one of just two lakes in Central Oregon planted with Atlantic salmon. With all that going on, it could be easy to overlook the lake’s healthy number of rainbow trout, which are hatchery-bred and grow to good size in East Lake’s bug-rich environment.
East Lake shares the scenic Newberry Crater with Paulina Lake, centerpieces in a national monument worth the drive for the volcanic scenery as well as renowned fishing in both lakes. East Lake is about an hour southeast of Bend, reached by turning east off Highway 97 between Sunriver and La Pine.
By the Book – East Lake Angling Regulations
East Lake, in ODFW’s Cenral Zone, is now open all year, but snow and ice will limit access for much of the year.
The daily limit is five trout or salmon combined. The minimum length is 8 inches; only one trout over 20 inches may be retained (16-inch maximum for brown trout). Rainbow trout must be fin-clipped (release wild rainbows).
Know Before You Go
This is a high-mountain lake, sitting at almost 6,400 feet, and snow is a real possibility for much of the season. Outfit yourself and your vehicle accordingly.
Also, due to naturally occurring mercury, the state advises anglers to avoid eating larger brown trout and to limit other fish consumption to levels recommended in the annual Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.
Generally, these types of contaminants build up more in fish that live in the lake longer, so pan-sized trout and kokanee are likely to have the safest levels of mercury.
Timing Your Trip – Watch for Ice-Out
In exceptionally mild years, the ice atop East Lake can melt by the opener in late April, but ice-out is far more common sometime around mid- to late May. Trout fishing is especially good just as the ice is coming off the lake, and fishing for trout is best through about mid-July and picks up again in the fall.
Fish Finder – Shore Angling Options Plentiful Early
Nearly the entire shoreline is fishable during the first month after the surface ice melts – before the lake’s rich weed beds grow up.
Boat anglers will have a clear advantage after the weeds grow up and the water warms, driving many rainbows into depths of 40 to 50 feet of water. A good place for boaters to find productive still-fishing water is in the cove at the northwest corner of the lake.
Angling close to shore improves again after Labor Day, as the weeds die off.
Secrets to Success – Bait and Trolling Tactics at East Lake
Bait is especially effective in the opening and closing weeks of the season, when shore fishing also is easiest but when snow storms can strike with some regularity.
Most still-fishing is by floating either Berkley PowerBait (rainbow or chartreuse colors should do the trick) or a nightcrawler buoyed by a small marshmallow. If using the latter, try either a plain grocery store variety, to which you can add scent, or buy a prepared version, such as Mike’s Glo Mallows (Atlas) in green or orange and scented with anise, shrimp or garlic.
Sometime in June, many rainbow anglers will turn to trolling.
One popular method is to slowly pull a wobbling plug such as a Worden’s FlatFish in sizes F-5 and F-6 or a Luhr Jensen Hot Shot in sizes 060 and 070 on a long line. Popular color patterns are frog, black and silver, and blue and silver.
Trolling with attractors such as Doc Shelton-type blades or small dodgers also is popular. Follow the attractor with a Worden’s Wedding Ring Spinner, with the hook sporting a piece of nightcrawler, or even just a plain nightcrawler with no lure.
During the early weeks after ice-out, trollers will find most rainbows within 10 feet of the surface. They usually will remain no more than about 20 feet down through June before retreating to colder water, when trolling anglers will use weight or a downrigger to reach them.
(Find some more detail about trout angling methods in this article: Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.)
If All Else Fails
East Lake tends to be mostly a boat show once the weeds grow up, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Look for clear pockets between carpets of vegetation and try casting into openings with a small blob of PowerBait or a nightcrawler.
Some promising year-round spots are available at the Cinder Hill Campground and along the bank to the west, toward the rock cliffs. Also, from the East Lake Campground, try walking toward the white slide to scout for less weedy areas.
See our lake overview at East Lake Fishing.
David Jones is a former owner of East Lake Resort. The resort offers cabins and an RV park, boat rentals, coffee hut and a store carrying fishing and general supplies.
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