Favorite Fishing Spots in Wheeler County
Wheeler County, a sparsely populated county in north-central Oregon, is of interest to anglers primarily for its long and excellent section of the great John Day River.
This series of articles serves as an introduction to some of the better fishing spots in each Oregon county. For more information, click the links in this article, at the bottom and in the blue box on this page. The county links at the bottom will take you to information about a wide array of angling options in neighboring counties.
For regulations, look to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Northeast Zone.
Incorporated cities in Wheeler County are Fossil, Mitchell and Spray. The county also is home to parts of the Ochoco and Umatilla National Forests and the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, including the Painted Hills, one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon.
Listed alphabetically, here are the best fishing spots in Wheeler County:
John Day River (shared with multiple counties)
Wheeler County includes a large section of the John Day River, including many, many miles of prime smallmouth bass fishing. For a river that often is flowing through private property and can only be reached by long floats in spots, the county has some of the better bank access along roads and bridges near the communities of Spray, Service Creek, Twickenham and Clarno, all of which have boat access as well. For more on the John Day’s excellent smallmouth fishery, check out our two articles of fishing this river in the spring and summer. The river also is on our list of best smallmouth bass waters in Central and Eastern Oregon. The John Day also has a very good run of steelhead, although most are wild and must be released (with the rare hatchery stray you can keep). Fishing for steelhead is best around mid-fall, before the brutal winter weather really sets in, and can be pretty good again in the late winter. For more about steelhead fisheries in this region, read this article. We include the John Day among our best fishing waters in the western part of the Northeast Zone.
Rowe Creek Reservoir
This small, private reservoir roughly between Fossil and Mitchell is typically stocked in the spring (about May) if the state hatchery has ample trout. Fishing will be best in spring soon after a stocking. In summer, the water is warm, weedy and often low. This 20-acre reservoir is on private property, but public access is permitted close to the bank. You can launch a small boat but heed the 5 mph speed limit. There is no camping here. From the John Day River at Twickenham Bridge, the reservoir is about six miles north via Rowe Creek Road.
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Gilliam County: To the north, access to excellent fishing in the Columbia and John Day rivers.
Morrow County: To the northeast, top-notch walleye and bass fishing in the Columbia River, plus opportunities for trout.
Grant County: To the east, lots of access to the upper John Day River system’s smallmouth bass and trout fishing.
Crook County: To the south, one of Central Oregon’s favorite warmwater fisheries at Prineville Reservoir and the trout-filled Crooked River.
Jefferson County: To the southwest, Lake Billy Chinook’s excellent kokanee and bull trout fishing and a short but celebrated section of the Deschutes River.
Wasco County: To the northwest, the most access to famous trout, steelhead and salmon fishing on the Deschutes River, plus lots of trout and the Columbia River’s variety of fishing.
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.