It’s hard to argue with Odell Lake’s place atop Oregon’s short list of great mackinaw fisheries, because it’s hard to argue with the 40½-pound state record lake trout that came out of Odell’s great depths.
In the state, perhaps only nearby Crescent Lake and northeastern Oregon’s Wallowa Lake have a realistic shot at producing a bigger laker.
The reason Odell is such a great mackinaw lake is that it has everything they like: depths to some 300 feet; structure such as points and underwater humps; and tons and tons of food, especially in the form of seemingly endless schools of kokanee.
Lake trout are a transplant (as are the kokanee) to this huge natural lake near Willamette Pass, about an hour and a half’s drive from either Eugene in the Willamette Valley or the Central Oregon city of Bend.
Odell Lake opens to fishing in late April and closes after October 31.
The mackinaw limit is strict at Odell: Only one lake trout at least 24 inches long may be retained per day. (This length limit has been lowered from the previous 30-inch minimum.)
The lake trout count as part of a five-trout bag limit that also may include rainbow trout. Resident bull trout, a protected native species, must be released unharmed.
In addition to the trout limit, anglers may keep 25 kokanee in addition to the daily trout limit, and any number or size whitefish.
There are marked fishing closure areas near the mouth of Trapper Creek and the outlet of Odell Creek. Additionally, all of the lake’s tributary streams are closed to all angling.
Windy Weather Presents Challenges
Wind funnels through nearby Willamette Pass and across the expansive surface of Odell Lake, often leading to a pretty good chop by the afternoon. The winds chase cautious boaters back to camps and resorts early some days, and larger boats seem more common at Odell than other lakes.
For later fishing, try the West Bay area off Burley Bluff, where the fast-rising landscape provides a natural wind barrier.
Also, be aware that Odell Lake is bordered by Highway 58 on one side and railroad tracks on the other, which can disrupt the otherwise idyllic setting.
A pair of ear plugs is handy when catching winks.
When to Catch Mackinaw
Odell’s lake trout can be caught anytime the lake is open.
Mackinaw fishing often peaks in spring, with May through mid-June a prime time when the fish aren’t as deep as they will be during the mid-summer season.
Later on, you’ll likely need downriggers if you’re trolling and have to hunt harder, although the fish are willing biters throughout the season.
Always keep in mind that mackinaw primarily feed on kokanee at Odell, so if you can locate plenty of food, you most likely can find big lake trout on the prowl.
Where to Fish for Mackinaw
Lake trout range throughout Odell Lake, much of which is 150 feet or deeper, which makes big macks harder to find.
A fish finder is helpful, not just for pinpoint fish but for looking at structures they key on.
Often lake trout will be found off points or around underwater humps, including areas where kokanee tend to concentrate.
Among these spots at Odell Lake are off Burley Bluff on the west end, Princess Creek Campground on the northwest, Chinquapin Point at Sunset Cove Campground, Gull Point on the southeastern side, the Railroad Slide on the south shoreline, and several others.
How to Catch Mackinaw
Lake trout like large meals; therefore, lake trout like lures that look like large meals.
Troll depths between 65 and 95 feet early in the season, through about mid-June. Later, you may have to go deeper, and a downrigger is going to be your best bet.
The late guide Mike Jones told us years ago that he trolled a variety of plugs at Odell Lake, as one day they prefer one style that works best at a slow speed and another day they like something else trolled faster.
Two of his favorite mackinaw plugs were the Yo-Zuri’s Crystal Minnow in the magnum suspending style, usually in the 6.5-inch size.
The 5-inch Silver Horde and the similar Luhr Jensen’s J-Plug also have been popular and, ike the Yo-Zuri, fish well at medium speeds (2 to 2.5 knots).
The Silver Horde, including the larger Alaskan series, also fish well at faster speeds, even up to 5 knots.
Worden’s FlatFish are a good option when a slower troll (1 to 1.5 knots) seems to entice more fish. Jones liked the M-2 SP (4¼ inches) or T-50 (5 inches), usually wrapped with a fillet of bait, such as a piece of kokanee belly.
Favorite color patterns for FlatFish are the white body with red head, the metallic silver with blue scale or the fire tiger, and similar colors work well with other styles of plugs.
Another plug in Jones’ box included Yakima Bait’s deep-diving Sea Tiger, one of the most-realistic plugs for this type of fishing.
The smaller two sizes are best for lake trout, Jones said.
These plugs will dive 30 feet or more with a long line out, which early in the year might be deep enough to reach mackinaws without a downrigger or leaded line. Some anglers also like to flat-line troll with the Yo-Zuri.
Jones also found that Hot Spot Lures’ Apexes in sizes 5.5 and 6.5 catch plenty of mackinaw.
With faster-trolled lures, Jones usually fished without an attractor, although he sometimes ran them behind a KoneZone Trolling Flasher.
However, he liked to use one of Shasta Tackle Co.’s larger Sling Blades ahead of that company’s Matrix Kazi Minnow or a squid, because the attractor gives these lures a better action.
Jones recommended putting scent on lures. He preferred Pro-Cure’s anchovy flavor for mackinaw.
For line, Jones preferred either a 20-pound TUF-Line or 10-pound test in TUF-Line’s DuraCast. He used 30-pound-test leader for mackinaw, especially P-Line’s Fluorocarbon line.
In addition, many Odell Lake mackinaw are taken on jigs – but most often by anglers fishing for kokanee rather than targeting the lake trout. See the Odell Lake kokanee fishing article for jig-fishing tips.
If All Else Fails
Try a kokanee lure. During a couple of days years back, Jones and his boat passengers landed three straight lake trout trolling for kokanee with Father Murphy’s Kokanee Bugs, a favorite lure for the smaller landlocked salmon.
Even if the mackinaws don’t hit it, you’ll likely get some action from the kokanee.
The late Mike Jones was a veteran fishing guide who spent many seasons helping customers catch trout and kokanee at Odell Lake. For guided trip information, contact Shelter Cove Resort & Marina on the west end or Odell Lake Lodge & Resort on the east end of the lake.