Oregon’s largest county covers more square miles than New Jersey but has fewer than one-thousandth of the Garden State’s population. Fortunately for anglers, Harney County has far more fish than people.
This article is a simple introduction to the best fishing spots in Southeast Oregon’s Harney County, a remote land that makes you work for your fish but offers experiences you won’t forget. For more information, follow some of the links on this page, located in the article, at the bottom of the page and in the blue box. You can also make a quick jump to check out neighboring counties with the links below.
The major fisheries in Harney County fall are regulated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s rules governing its Southeast Zone.
The two incorporated cities in Harney County are neighboring Burns and Hines in the north part of the county. Additional spots of note include Crane, Drewsey, Fields, Frenchglen, Lawen, Narrows, New Princeton, Riley and Wagontire. It contains parts of the Ochoco and Malheur National Forests in the north county, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge around Malheur Lake (closed to fishing) and the impressive Steens Mountains in the south.
Listed alphabetically, here are some of the best fishing spots in Harney County:
More formally the Donner Und Blitzen River, but known as the Blitzen, this Frenchglen-area river can be very good for native redband rainbow trout if you time your trip well. Early summer can be good but conditions can get too warm in the heat of summer. Fall again can be good. There is a modest limit allowed on the mainstem and most tributaries above Bridge Creek (southern end of the refuge), but the Little Blitzen is strictly catch and release. Artificial lures and flies must be used throughout the system. This river in on our list of Best Rivers in the Southeast Zone.
This is a family-friendly fishing spot just a couple miles due east of Burns on Highway 78 (Steens Highway). Trout fishing is best from April into June, when it is stocked several times and often hosts fishing events. There also are largemouth bass and channel catfish in the pond to extend the season. Access is excellent, with plenty of parking, bank trails and an ADA fishing dock. This is a good place to picnic.
This is a 500-acre reservoir about a half hour west of Burns that is known for turning stocked fingerlings into large trout. Legal sized trout also have been stocked, usually around mid-spring. Shore angling with bait or trolling from a boat should bring success. Fishing will be best in spring and could pick up again when cooler weather returns in the fall. Summer can be tough here as the water level drops. The lake sits in a barren landscape just north of Highway 20. Its celebrated productivity place it among the Best Fishing Lakes in Southeast Oregon.
This 50-acre lake in the Ochoco National Forest can be quite good for rainbow trout fishing in the spring and early summer. The very best fishing will be soon after the large annual planting of hatchery-reared fish, likely to occur in May. Hot weather slows fishing and brings a lot of aquatic vegetation. Delintment is in a nice Ponderosa forest setting with camping, day use and boating facilities. Bank access is good. The lake is 47 miles northwest of Burns.
This trout-fishing destination is in an aspen grove high up in the Steens Mountains southeast of Frenchglen. The 20-acre late typically is very well stocked with hatchery rainbow trout before the Fourth of July and also has naturally reproducing brook trout. There is a fishing dock and boat access, and fishing should be very good in the weeks after it’s stocked.
This 150-acre lake northeast of Frenchglen is typically well-stocked with keeper-sized rainbow trout during the spring, and fishing for them is likely to be good through spring and potentially into early summer. The reservoir also can be good for bass. Access is good, including an ADA platform and nice boat launch. (including an ADA platform) s can be good for bass. To get there from Burns south from Burns past Malheur Lake, then east on Krumbo Reservoir Road.
Malheur River, Middle Fork
This is the stream above above Warm Springs Reservoir. It flows south out of Grant County and can be good for native redband rainbow trout in the national forest area in the north part of the county. Fishing is best in spring and early summer. The lowest reach above the reservoir is primarily fished for smallmouth bass. Bait-fishing is only allowed below Otis Creek near Drewsey. This is one of the Best Fishing Rivers in Southeast Oregon.
This remote 200-acre lake sits on the east side of the Steens Mountains is planted with hatchery cutthroat trout that reach 20 inches or more. They must be at least 16 inches to keep, with a two-trout limit and fishing restricted to artificial flies and lures. Fishing is best in the spring and can be difficult in the summer. Mann Lake is one of the Best Fishing Lakes in Southeast Oregon. About 10 miles to the north, Juniper Lake is similarly stocked with hatchery cutthroat trout. Both lakes can be hurt by low-water conditions as the season goes on. They are located along the Fields-Denio Road, roughly an hour and a half’s drive southeast of Burns.
This reservoir located southwest of Burns is fished for both trout and warmwater species. The trout are stocked as fingerlings and sometimes supplemented with legal-sized rainbows from the hatchery, and fishing for them likely to be best before the summer weather sets in. Also present are bass, sunfish and bullhead catfish. At times, carp have practically overrun the place. The last few miles of road can be rough.
Warm Springs Reservoir (shared with Malheur County)
This big reservoir (nearly 4,200 acres when full) is very good for smallmouth bass and also has good numbers of yellow perch and catfish — mostly bullheads but some good-sized channel catfish as well. There also are crappie and sunfish. The reservoir also has a modest fishery for rainbow trout, thanks to the fingerlings planted here. The reservoir can suffer mightily during drought years such as 2014, when the boat ramps were high and dry. Still, it’s good enough during better conditions that it’s on our list of Best Fishing Lakes in Southeast Oregon.
This small reservoir in the Malheur National Forest northwest of Burns is fished primarily for rainbow trout. Watch for a big truckload of legal-sized trout (plus fingerlings) to be planted in mid-spring. Fishing will be best from then until early summer, but fishing can hold up fairly well into summer some years. A fair number of trout survive as holdovers.
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Grant County: To the north, excellent smallmouth bass and trout fishing in the upper John Day River system.
Malheur County: To the east, fantastic warmwater fishing in giant Owyhee Reservoir plus great fisheries in the Snake and Owyhee rivers.
Lake County: To the west, the sometimes-marvelous crappie fishery of the Warner Lakes, the unique Ana Reservoir and its hybrid bass, and lots of mountain trout.
Deschutes County: To the northwest, one of the richest fishing counties in Oregon, with lots of trout, kokanee, largemouth bass and more.
Crook County: To the northwest, great warmwater fisheries in Prineville Reservoir and the trout-filled waters of Crooked River.
More Fishing Resources:
In addition to other sources, the following websites were very helpful while compiling these county fishing pages, and the information there is valuable to all Oregon anglers.
For current regulations, trout stocking, weekly angling reports and more, find links on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fishing Resources Page.
For boating information about these waters, see the Oregon State Marine Board’s launch locator map.