For trout fishing, the Alton Baker Canoe Canal in the heart of Eugene is the epitome of convenient and consistent.
Sure, there are other waters that get more trout stocked in them during the course of the year (including the McKenzie River).
But few bodies of water located right in the heart of the Willamette Valley are stocked as regularly as this meandering waterway through Alton Baker Park, a crown jewel of a park stretching from Springfield down to Eugene.
As for convenience, the canoe canal is located right between the Willamette River and Autzen Stadium, an easy walk or bike ride from the University of Oregon campus and a quick drive from anywhere in Eugene and Springfield.
The two-mile canal is essentially a side channel of the cool Willamette River, which brings trout-friendly cool mountain water to the low-elevation Willamette Valley.
It sounds simple, but the best game plan for trout fishing in the Alton Baker Canoe Canal is to fish when there are trout there. Check the link below to access the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department’s trout stocking schedule.
The canal typically has been stocked for much of the year, often every week from late winter into spring, then every few weeks clear into December.
(Note: You might be sorry if you try to drive anywhere close to Autzen Stadium on the days the Ducks are playing football at home.)
There is quite often a family fishing event scheduled at Alton Baker, often in mid-spring, and ODFW may dump an extra large load of fish into the canal that week.
This is a good event to attend with youngsters or others still learning to fish, because you’ll get a bit of help from ODFW and volunteers, but if you don’t want the help, the event itself will be extra crowded.
The canal is stocked at several of its best access points and the fish that aren’t caught immediately will begin to wander for much of its length.
That said, the largest numbers of trout are stocked in the wide areas at the lower end of the park, just off Day Island Road (exit off Country Club Road).
There is lots of parking and tons of bank access here. There also will be lots of other anglers and other people there.
For those wanting to branch out, ODFW fish biologist Jeff Ziller suggested trying the pond (sometimes known as the radio tower pond) near the canal’s midpoint, just south of the BMX track and Leo Harris Parkway.
The pond area has a decent number of trout stocked. For best results here, fish where the water enters this small pond and the canal just above the pond near the bridge.
Another spot Ziller offered is right below the drop structure located immediately downstream from Interstate 5.
This man-made waterfall stirs up some current, and these hatchery reared cookie-cutter fish must find a little bit of their wild rainbow mojo here.
As with stocked trout everywhere, you will see lots of fish caught on a simple still-fishing rig, either fished below a bobber or often off the bottom.
For the latter, a sliding sinker above a swivel (to stop it from sliding into the bait) is the preferred method.
Berkley PowerBait is the favorite, but these trout also will hit a variety of natural baits including nightcrawlers and salmon eggs as well as commercially prepared trout baits.
Casting lures such as spinners and spoons also can draw solid strikes from aggressive rainbows, and if there’s room fly fishing could be an option as well.
If you want more detail on the how-to part of trout fishing, check out this article: Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Bank access is excellent near parking areas, bridges and trails. Or fish from a canoe or other self-propelled small craft.
More Fishing at the Canal
Trout are really the main show here, and the only fish plentiful enough to truly spend a lot of time targeting for much of the year, Ziller said.
That said, occasionally one of the Willamette River’s big steelhead will make a turn into the canal for reasons unknown. It doesn’t happen that you hook one very often, but fishing for steelhead is legal in the canal.
It should be noted that if it’s really steelhead you’re after, you’ll have better luck fishing in the Willamette nearby or one of the other excellent Willamette Valley summer steelhead fishing rivers.
The canal also is home to a modest population of warmwater fish, such as fair numbers of sunfish and some decent-sized largemouth bass.
Look for these species in off- or low-current areas where the water has a chance to warm a bit. For example, the still water parts of the Radio Tower Pond might be worth a try.
Again, there are better spots in the area to fish for these species. Check the eastern Lane County link below to explore your options.