Clear Lake on the southern flanks of Mount Hood, Oregon’s tallest mountain, offers excellent high-mountain trout fishing beginning in the spring.
There was a natural lake here that was far smaller than its current size, but it was enlarged with a dam in the 1950s to store water for irrigation. Now it’s over 500 acres at full pool.
To avoid confusion, there are actually a fair number of Clear Lakes in Oregon, including several providing good fishing opportunities. For example, also see our article about Fishing at Clear Lake on the Upper McKenzie River for one farther south in the Cascades.
But this article deals strictly with the Clear Lake in the wonderful Mt. Hood National Forest, just off Highway 26 about an hour and a half southeast of Portland. This Clear Lake is just east of the Cascade summit in Wasco County and is regulated within the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Central Zone.
Clear Lake gets a lot of love from ODFW in the form of the regular truckloads of hatchery rainbow trout the agency dumps there each year. Starting in mid-spring and continuing regularly during the early part of the season, the state might typically plant well more than 20,000 trout here in total.
As an added bonus, ODFW often plants a decent number of “trophy” here that are a good deal larger than typical legal trout also stocked in the lake. Not only that, it also frequently unloads some of its monster brood rainbow trout, which are the size of salmon and strong enough to put your lightweight tackle in jeopardy.
Fishing is best here during the early season, when the stocking is most frequent, likely starting up in May.
There also is a naturally reproducing population of Eastern brook trout in the lake, which are tasty if keep and count them toward your daily trout limit of five.
Hatchery trout bite well on still-fished bait, either natural or prepared baits such as PowerBait. They also bite trolled or casted lures such as spinners and spoons. Casting or very slowly trolling artificial flies can be deadly.
The brookies can be caught with many of the same methods, often preferring flies or natural baits.
Read our article about basic trout fishing techniques to brush up on ways to catch these fish.
The lake is open all year, but access may be difficult both late in the summer and early fall due to severe irrigation draw-downs, and again when there is lots of snow on the ground. (The lake’s elevation is 3,700 feet and it gets plenty of snow into early spring.)
Once the stocking begins in May and access is open, expect very good fishing here well into June or early July before it tapers off.
There is seasonal camping and a boat launch at the U.S. Forest Service’s Clear Lake Campground.
The lake is located less than 10 miles southeast of Government Camp via Highway 26. Turn south of Forest Road 2660 and its just a couple miles to the lake. It’s in the national forest just outside the Warm Springs Indian Reservation boundaries.