Union County is in the mountainous heart of Northeast Oregon, home to alpine streams and lakes full of fine trout fishing.
This article simply introduces many of the best fishing spots across Union County. For more details about regional fishing options, check the links you will find in the article below, at the bottom of the page and in the blue box. Fishing explorers also should check out the links to neighboring counties for plenty more spots to wet a line in this corner of Oregon.
Regulations governing sport fishing in this area are mostly under the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Northeast Zone, with the exception of the Powder River drainage located in ODFW’s Southeast Zone.
Incorporated cities in Union County are Cove, Elgin, Imbler, Island City, La Grande, North Powder, Summerville and Union. Parts of the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests, Eagle Cap Wilderness and Blue Mountains are located here. Eastern Oregon State University is in La Grande.
Listed alphabetically, here are the best fishing spots in Union County:
Grande Ronde Lake
This 10-acre lake in the popular Anthony Lakes area is very well stocked with rainbow trout in the early summer and also has a good population of naturally producing brook trout. Fishing can hold up pretty well until the snows return in fall. Access might not be available until June or so during heavy snow years. (See Baker County for nearby Anthony Lake.)
Grande Ronde River (shared with other counties)
Most hatchery steelhead skirt Union County by turning up the Wallowa River at Rondowa on the county line with Wallowa County. You may keep fin-clipped steelhead that stray farther up the Grande Ronde as far as Meadow Creek, but wild steelhead must be released. If you’d like to chase hatchery steelhead in northeastern Oregon, check out this article. Trout fishing is fair in some areas of the Grande Ronde through the county, particularly in the Blue Mountains south of La Grande. To the north, where the river flows through farmland through the Elgin area, the river also hosts a variety of warmwater fish species, including smallmouth bass and others. (Umapine Pond in the upper river drainage southwest of La Grande occasionally is modesty stocked with hatchery trout.)
This 97-acre reservoir high in the Blue Mountains can be an excellent place to catch trout during the summer months, but don’t go up too early because it can be snowed in through spring. It is usually stocked with keeper rainbows in early and mid-summer. There is camping in a forested setting and ADA-accessible bank fishing, plus a ramp for your boat (electric motors only). To get there, pick up Highway 204 north of Elgin or east of Pendleton and drive into the mountains to the community of Tollgate, where you’ll take Forest Service Road to the northeast about 12 miles. Lugar Pond, a tiny water to the south a couple miles off Forest Service Road 63, also has good ADA access and is periodically stocked.
This tributary of the Grande Ronde River in the Palmer Junction area north of Elgin gets the most attention when ODFW opens a hatchery spring chinook fishing season on a quota system. ODFW announces seasons shortly before they open, with salmon fishing often beginning soon after the trout season opener in late May, and the salmon catch rates can be quite high for a few weeks. Salmon fishing has been allowed in the lower few miles of stream, from Moses Creek Lane bridge upstream along Lookingglass Road to Jarboe Creek near the hatchery. All fishing in the creek and its tributaries is restricted to artificial flies and lures to protect bull trout, which must be released unharmed if caught incidentally. Retention is allowed for other trout species under regional bag limit rules.
This 60-acre former rock quarry near La Grande is well-stocked and very accessible to anglers of all abilities. It is planted with fresh trout before the late April opener and again for Free Fishing Weekend. There usually are special fishing events here at both times, and trout fishing will be best in the weeks following a stocking. Crappie and bullhead catfish also are available. Only non-motorized boats are allowed. Get there on Morgan Lake Road heading southwest out of town.
This is a small pond in a wildlife area that is stocked with hatchery rainbow trout several times during the spring. On occasion, surplus hatchery steelhead also will be planted here in the early spring. There also are some bass. Bank fishing access is good. From La Grande, take Highway 203 about five miles to the southeast and then Peach Road north about a mile to the pond. A state wildlife area parking permit is required here.
Pilcher Creek Reservoir
This reservoir about 10 miles west of Interstate 84 at North Powder is popularly fished for rainbow trout stocked as fingerlings. Best catches are in spring and early summer. There also are crappie, which some years provide a good second fishery. Bullhead catfish are present. Camping and boating facilities are available. See nearby Wolf Creek Reservoir.
This is a small former quarry pond located along Highway 82 just a couple miles northeast of Elgin. It is stocked with catchable rainbow trout several times in the spring. Watch for possible fall plantings as well. It’s not beautiful, but this is an easy spot for kids to fish.
Thief Valley Reservoir (shared with Baker County)
This is a good-sized reservoir (nearly 700 acres at full pool) on the Powder River that is stocked with fingerling rainbow trout that quickly grow to keeper sizes. Fishing is best in spring and fall when water temperatures are cool. Fishing can slow in hot summer weather. Trolling in a boat is most effective, but bait fishing from shore or a boat also can bring catches of trout to good size. Ice fishing is popular at Thief Valley with a very good freeze safe enough to get out on the lake. The lake also has some bass, yellow perch and bullhead catfish. It is known for its winds that at times sweep across a barren landscape. Thief Valley is due east of North Powder within reasonable reach to the north from Baker City or to the southeast from La Grande. The Powder River immediately below the reservoir has a short area with public access and at times can be a productive tailwater fishery for rainbow trout.
Wolf Creek Reservoir
This 230-acre reservoir is most popularly fished for trout, especially when the water is still cool in spring and early summer. It is stocked with fingerling rainbow trout and also has a population of crappie. It’s about a 15 minute drive west from Interstate 84 at the Wolf Creek Lane exit located just north of North Powder. Similar sized Pilcher Creek Reservoir is nearby.
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Wallowa County: To the northeast, excellent fisheries include Wallowa Lake’s big trout and kokanee and a giant run of steelhead in the Grande Ronde and Wallowa rivers.
Baker County: To the southeast, excellent access to Brownlee Reservoir and other great warmwater angling along the Snake River, plus some excellent mountain trout fishing.
Grant County: To the southwest, smallmouth bass and trout fishing in the upper John Day River drainage plus plenty of trout-stocked lakes.
Umatilla County: To the northwest, excellent fisheries include the Columbia River’s wide variety of game fish as well as bass and crappie fishing in McKay Reservoir, plus lots of trout.
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.