Cottage Grove Reservoir Fishing (2024 Update)

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This mid-sized reservoir, formed by impounding the Coast Fork Willamette River due south of the town of Cottage Grove, might be the best trophy largemouth bass spot in the Willamette Valley and ranks among the best largemouth lakes in Western Oregon.

The reservoir also offers some good fishing for rainbow trout and fair angling for panfish and catfish.

To reach the reservoir from Cottage Grove, take London Road (South 6th Street) south of town. From I-5, Exit 172, it’s about 10 miles.

Worth noting, the Oregon Health Authority has issued an advisory for this reservoir, neighboring Dorena Reservoir and the Coast Fork drainage due to naturally occurring mercury that builds up in resident fish, especially long-lived fish such as trophy bass.

Both from a fishery standpoint and for your health, the best plan is to release bass.

The trout, planted from a hatchery, would not be expected to build up high levels of mercury unless they survive for a long time.

A boat will come in handy here, especially for serious bassers, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.

You can launch at Lakeside Park near the dam or Wilson Creek Park on the east bank toward the upper end of the reservoir, off Cottage Grove Reservoir Road.

The roads rimming the lake and multiple parks and campgrounds offer as much bank access as you’ll need.

Bass Fishing

Cottage Grove Reservoir, in recent years, at times outshines the larger Dorena for largemouth bass, as evidenced in part by its popularity among bass tournament anglers.

The best time to catch bass here is in the spring when the lunkers often move into the weedy shallows both to feed and to spawn. There, they can be very aggressive toward a variety of lures fished in and around the weeds.

Try swimbaits, soft jigs, crankbaits, and other lures that imitate common forage, such as smaller fish and crayfish.

Spinnerbaits can often get a quick reaction strike, and even buzz baits and surface poppers can, at times, fool these aggressive fish.

Work the shoreline areas, including several coves and lots of cover in the upper reservoir, toward the mouth of the Middle Fork.

Bass fishing gets tougher once the fish start moving back into deeper water, where they spend much of the summer and on into the cold months. Try fishing off of points and other underwater cover with jigs and other deep-running lures.

Unfortunately for largemouth aficionados, spotted bass were illegally planted here and are a bit like smallmouth bass in that they tend to take over a body of water and reduce the overall productivity for growing trophy largemouth bass.

These fish are native to areas east of the Mississippi River, but spotted bass are well established in California.

There may also be some smallmouth bass in here, as there definitely are in Dorena.

Want to catch more bass? Read our simple guide to bass fishing methods that work.

Trout Fishing

Hatchery rainbow trout are stocked here in really good numbers, often over 12,000 per year.

These fish arrive starting in the late winter and continue coming into the middle of spring each year.

The stocking trucks may return in the early fall with another nice dose of trout that can provide quite good fall and winter angling when some anglers have put away their trout gear for the year. Even if Cottage Grove isn’t re-stocked in the fall, check out Dorena Reservoir.

Watch for a nice window in the weather, and you can have a pretty good day of trout fishing in the “off” season.

Also, ODFW has been planting good numbers of larger “trophy” trout in the reservoir, which are a bonus for anglers and perhaps more likely to survive the lake’s gluttonous largemouth bass.

These trout are the favorite target of catch-and-keep anglers at Cottage Grove Reservoir, in part because trout are just popular and perhaps also because these hatchery-reared fish wouldn’t have been in the lake long enough to have the buildup of mercury found in resident fish.

See our schedule below for the current year’s trout-stocking schedule based on ODFW’s annual plan.

While fishing is best in during the stocking season and can be quite good for bank anglers at that time, the reservoir has the potential to put out fair to good trout angling most of the year.

When the weather warms, you’ll want to concentrate on the deeper water, where the trout will go to escape the heat.

Boaters will have a definite advantage here at reaching the old river channel and other deep areas, but bank anglers might be able to scrape up some nice fish casting bait into deeper water, such as near the dam.

There also is a modest population of native cutthroat trout that move in and out of the reservoir and the upper Middle Fork Willamette.

Cutthroat trout can be kept as part of the normal trout bag limit, but as lifelong residents of the drainage, they may be prone to having a higher mercury concentration than the stockers.

Check out this article for typical trout-fishing tactics: Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.

Panfish and Catfish

Nice crappie held in front of a bleached out stump at Cottage Grove Reservoir, which offers fishing for a variety of trout, bass and panfish.
Photo courtesy of Trevor McKeon

Cottage Grove Reservoir has a typical collection of warmwater fish, especially bluegill and brown bullhead catfish.

Bluegill are often found in very shallow water from spring and throughout the warm months.

A simple worm on a small hook fished under a bobber will usually attract a bite from any nearby bluegill, which are often around weed beds and other near-shore structures.

Bluegill fishing is fun and easy for kids and anglers of all skill levels, including accomplished fly anglers.

Bullhead catfish get a bum rap at times but can be tasty if caught in fairly cool and clean waters like in Cottage Grove Reservoir.

Our basic catfish fishing tips include using natural baits such as worms, pieces of fish or shrimp, or a piece of chicken liver right on the bottom. Follow that link for more ideas.

All types of catfish are more active at night, but when there are bullheads in abundance, they seem to bite whenever you really need to feel the pull of a fish.

While these fish are fun and easy to catch, especially for beginning anglers, note the health concerns about eating too much of these types of resident fish as well as bass.

You’ll find the latest advisory posted in the annual Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations.

2024 Cottage Grove Reservoir Trout Stocking

Stocking ScheduleTotal
Feb 26-Mar 13,750
Mar 11-154,500*
Apr 1-52,000
Apr 15-193,750*
*These stocking dates are trophy-sized rainbows.
Stocked fish are legal-sized rainbow trout unless otherwise noted. Stocking schedules are subject to change for a variety of reasons. The ODFW Weekly Fishing Report linked under Oregon Resources below may provide updated information.

Find more fishing spots in Lane County

Oregon Resources

ODFW Weekly Fishing Report
ODFW Trout Stocking Schedule
Oregon Fishing Regulations
National Weather Service

Return to Oregon Trout Fishing page

Find more fishing spots in eastern Lane County