Fishing at Cape Meares Lake

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Cape Meares Lake, tucked between Tillamook Bay and the Pacific Ocean, is a great place to catch stocked trout in the spring and fall and also has a pretty decent fishery for largemouth bass and the occasional winter steelhead.

Trout fishing season is when the most anglers stop to wet a line at Cape Meares Lake, which is located by taking Bayocean Road at the intersection of Bay Ocean Dike Road, about a 20-minute drive from the city of Tillamook out along the south side of Tillamook Bay.

Trout stocking typically begins just before Spring Break in late March, often with a very large load of fish for the first planting, and then continues with several more stockings through May or early June. Trout fishing will be excellent shortly after each planting and at least fair throughout spring. Typical lake-fishing techniques will work here, including dunking bait or casting spinners and spoons. (More detail: Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.)

Cape Meares also is one of a handful of north coast waters that receives trophy-sized trout raised in the hatchery during September and might just get a small batch of very large steelhead during the winter, if hatcheries have a surplus beyond what they need to spawn a new generation of ocean-going rainbows.

The trophy trout are about 16 inches and fat enough for two or more fish dinners for most people. They aren’t planted in big numbers but put up an excellent battle on light line.

Check out the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s trout stocking schedule linked below to plan your best trout-fishing times. Trout fishing is best within days of a stocking.

If winter steelhead are dropped in, which would happen between December and February, plan to gear up for these fish because they can run up to 8 or 10 pounds or so. Ten-pound test and stronger rods and reels are appropriate. Try casting or slow trolling lures or fishing with bait beneath a bobber to draw strikes from these over-sized and tasty trout. Trout rules apply, including strict limits for jumbo-sized fish.

Steelhead plantings aren’t listed on the annual trout stocking schedule but rather are typically mentioned in ODFW’s weekly recreation reports.

Bass fishing can be fair to good at Cape Meares Lake, which has lots of weedy cover these big predators like. While bass can grow to good size here, there are not tons of them so ODFW has imposed a strict one-bass daily limit, as of this writing. Please consider letting that one bass go as well, to sustain this fishery. There are better eating and more plentiful fish in nearby waters.

Bass start biting in the spring, when they can often be found in shallow water during their spawning period, where they may hit spinnerbaits or other shallow-running lures. They continue to bite through the moderate weather of summer and much of fall, but they might be easier to find in deeper water using crankbaits, soft plastics and other lures.

Note that Cape Meares Lake can get pretty choked with weeds during the late summer, so fishing weedless is a good plan. You also can launch a kayak, float tube or other small craft here, which will help you to reach fishier water beyond the shallow weeds.

There are a few other warm water fish species in Cape Meares Lake, such as modest populations of sunfish and bullhead catfish, but they don’t draw as much angler interest here.

This lake is literally the width of a road from Tillamook Bay, which has some of Oregon’s best fishing and shellfishing, and is a short drive from Netarts Bay, another favorite for clamming and crabbing.

Resources
ODFW trout stocking schedule
ODFW weekly recreation report and regulation updates
ODFW annual fishing regulations
National Weather Service forecasts

Find more fishing spots in Tillamook County