Brown trout aren’t native to Oregon, but they sure have made themselves at home.
Oregon produces some of the largest browns on the West Coast. The biggest on record is the 28-pound, 5-ounce monster caught in Paulina Lake in 2002. It’s listed as the Oregon state record, but there are tales of larger fish caught and released or lost in battle.
This article briefly shares some of Oregon’s best spots for trophy brown trout, listed alphabetically. The following six lakes and reservoirs could produce brown trout over 20 pounds in any given year, and any of them might just yield a brown trout in the 30-pound range one of these days.
This is a large central Oregon lake off Highway 58 (southeast of Eugene) that is known for trophies of several species, most notably brown trout and lake trout (mackinaw). You’ll also find good-sized kokanee and some rainbow trout.
Crescent Lake is the go-to spot for trophy brown trout anglers who want to chase big fish from late fall to early spring, when many other good brown trout lakes are closed or inaccessible. Crescent doesn’t close and a boat ramp at the resort is plowed regularly and open all year, except perhaps for short periods of nasty weather.
East Lake is one of two similar lakes that share Newberry Crater south of Bend. It is now managed for trophy brown trout.
This high-elevation lake technically opens for fishing on the fourth Saturday in April, but the road often is blocked at that time. Anglers who can get to the lake often start fishing for browns as soon as there are clear spots in the ice near several springs. Once the ice is gone, trolling reigns.
For detailed information about this fishery, read:
East Lake Brown Trout Fishing Tips
More: East Lake Fishing.
If you want a candidate for best brown trout lake west of the summit of the Cascade Mountains, Lemolo would almost certainly be the top vote-getter.
In 2011, a young angler caught and released a brown measuring 36 inches, which a taxidermist estimated would weigh 31 pounds … three pounds better than the current state record. The angler released that fish unharmed and also has hooked and lost another big brown in 2012 that was also a possible record.
Lemolo Lake is located in the upper North Umpqua River drainage, northeast of Roseburg and about 10 miles downstream (to the north) from popular Diamond Lake, a rainbow trout fishing hot spot. Although it’s in Oregon’s Southwest Zone, as the crow flies it’s not far from either Miller (Southeast Zone) or Crescent (Central Zone) lakes.
Lemolo also is stocked with good numbers of rainbow trout and has a modest kokanee fishery. The browns feed on tui chubs and smaller game fish.
More: Lemolo Lake Fishing.
If you buy them enough drinks, trophy brown trout chasers might reveal that Miller Lake, east of the small town of Chemult (off Highway 97 about an hour south of Bend), is among the likeliest of spots to produce a state record.
Roger Smith, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist based in Klamath Falls, says Miller not only has big brown trout, it has lots of big brown trout compared to most lakes. It’s easily the best brown trout lake in Oregon’s Southeast Zone.
Miller is a high-elevation lake, and it therefore often isn’t accessible to boat-pulling vehicles until well into June (occasionally into early July). On the flip side, Miller offers a fairly unique night-time fishery in a state where most trout fishing is banned in the dark. Brown trout will eat during the day but tend to be more nocturnal.
Miller also has good summer and early fall fishing for stocked rainbow trout and a big population of very small kokanee that anglers mostly ignore, but that the browns don’t. (Hint, hint on the lure selections.)
For detailed information about this fishery, read:
Miller Lake Brown Trout Fishing Tips
It’s hard to argue with success: Paulina Lake yielded the state record brown trout in 2002. That was a giant 28-pound, 5-ounce fish that proves that some of the western U.S.’s largest brown trout come from the middle of Oregon.
This popular destination shares Newberry Crater with East Lake. It is a high-elevation lake that usually is still iced over when fishing officially opens in late April. But good brown trout fishing can be had even as the ice-off is occurring, and big fish are caught through summer and into fall, when fishing closes after Oct. 31.
Paulina also has popular fisheries for rainbow trout and kokanee, and it too is infested with tui chubs that brown trout also eat along with the smaller sport fish.
More: Paulina Lake Fishing.
This is a very large reservoir on the upper Deschutes River in central Oregon, located southwest of Bend, and it has produced brown trout that have pressed and perhaps even surpassed the Oregon record.
Wickiup, which also has plentiful kokanee, largemouth bass and other fish, is wide and mostly shallow. Its bottom is studded with stumps from trees logged off before the dam was finished, so the reservoir eats plenty of tackle. Old creek beds form channels of deeper and cooler water., if catches had been recorded properly.
In the fall, when the kokanee head up the Deschutes arm to spawn, you’ll often find large brown trout accompanying them.