Crescent Lake Mackinaw (Lake Trout)
Central Oregon has one of the nation’s best collection of kokanee lakes in the United States, and these land-locked sockeye salmon are a spring and summer favorite among anglers for their spunky fight on light tackle and, even more, their wonderful taste.
Crescent Lake doesn’t grow the most kokanee in Central Oregon – that title would most likely go to nearby Odell Lake or, in boom years, to the north at Lake Billy Chinook – but it does grow some of the biggest kokes in the region.
By the Book – Crescent Lake Angling Regulations
Crescent is open all year.
The daily limit includes any combination of five kokanee or trout (at least 8 inches in length), and only one may be over 20 inches (30-inch minimum for mackinaw).
Know Before You Go – Winter Access Can be Tricky
Most kokanee fishing is done in the warmer months, but someone who wants to chase them year-round may need to launch at Hoodoo’s Crescent Lake Lodge & Resort, thanks to regular snow-plowing. The public ramps close for the winter season but at least one is usually open again by late April.
Timing Your Trip – Spring and Summer Fishing
Most anglers chase kokanee between about April and August on Crescent. The fish can be especially aggressive in August, just before the large class starts to take on spawning colors.
The best fishing starts when fishing is legal an hour before sunrise and through the early morning, especially under a bright sun. The next best time to fish is from about 5 p.m. until fishing closes an hour after sunset.
Fish Finder – West End Early
In April and May, when the water temperature is still in the 30s or lower 40s, many of the kokanee tend to congregate toward the west end of the lake. Once the water warms, they spread out a bit more.
Good spots to search for kokanee in the very late spring and throughout the summer include off the Boy Scout camp in the southeast, Contorta Point on the south side and out in the center of the lake suspended over very deep water. In late summer, also try off Simax Beach on the east side.
Although the lake’s deepest point is near 300 feet, for most of the year anglers will be successful fishing between the surface and about 80 feet down. A fish finder is very valuable in locating kokanee schools. Without one, your best chance is probably following the lead of anglers who are catching fish.
Secrets to Success – Jig in Spring, Troll in Summer
Jigging is the most popular fishing method in the spring, and is usually done between the surface and 40 feet deep, although some jig anglers work in deeper water when they find fish there.
Many anglers sit atop a school (sometimes at anchor) and work the jig vertically. If the fish are jumping or showing on your fish finder at shallower depths, it can be very effective to cast out and let the jig sink to 20 or 30 feet. Then work the jig back toward you, popping it up and letting it flutter back down along the way.
Kroll isn’t too particular about his jig brands – Luhr Jensen Nordics and Buzz Bombs have always worked for him. He likes bright colors like the flame oranges and always tips the hooks with white shoe-peg corn and scents the lure with Pro-Cure’s Kokanee Special blend.
Starting in late May or early June, and going well into August, trollers account for much of the kokanee catch at Crescent.
Many anglers still use the old-standby Luhr Jensen Ford Fenders and other attractors, and add enough weight to get down to the fish. Kroll prefers to use a downrigger so he can get to the fish with light tackle.
One of Kroll’s favorite lure types for kokanee is Hot Spot Lures’ Apex, which comes in 1- and 1½-inch sizes for trout and kokanee. While many anglers run the Kokanee Killer model rigged with two hooks, Kroll prefers the Trout Killer’s single hook.
For low-light conditions, Kroll’s favorites are glow colors in bright hues such as hot pink and flame orange. Once the sun is on the water, he often switches to more muted patterns, such as watermelon and blue-chrome.
He likes the way the Apexes run behind a Shasta Tackle Sling Blade dodger, with only 14- to 18-inch leaders for Crescent.
Other good trolling lures include Wedding Ring-style beaded spinners (usually with glow beads), small spoons such as Dick Nites and Needlefish, and small hootchies. Use similar colors as you would with the Apex lures.
As he does with metal jigs, Kroll tips the hook on a trolling lure with two or three pieces of white shoe-peg corn and adds scent.
Trolling speeds can vary. Depending on tackle used, some fishermen prefer a faster troll while Kroll usually runs between 0.7 and 1.2 miles per hour.
Whatever your preference, remember to change it up at times because kokanee seem to respond to different speeds on any given outing. One good way to test their current preference is by trolling in an S-turn pattern. If fish are striking more on the lure on the inside of a turn, they are most likely keying on a slower speed. If they are hitting more on the outside of the turn, they want a faster lure.
If All Else Fails
In low-light conditions, right before you drop your glow lure into the water, use a camera flash on it at close range. This will temporarily give it an extra glow that will attract more fish.
Also, once the sun is out, try trolling in a north-south direction. Kroll believes the angle of the sun puts more flash on the lure in that direction.
Former guide Steve Kroll worked on both Crescent and Odell lakes for more than 20 years, guiding for kokanee, lake trout and other species. He lives in Sunriver and currently fishes Central Oregon’s many lakes for fun.