Fishing at Dexter Reservoir Near Eugene (2024)

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This easily accessible reservoir is a short drive east of Eugene on Highway 58, offering close-to-home fishing for stocked rainbow trout and several other species of fish.

The reservoir, at the community of Lowell, is formed by Dexter Dam on the Middle Fork Willamette River.

Below the dam is one of the Willamette Valley’s better river sections for hatchery spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead.

But above the dam is this medium-sized reservoir crossed at its midpoint by one of Lane County’s bucolic covered bridges.

Rainbow Trout Fishing

A freshly caught rainbow trout with a lure still in its mouth on a rock at Dexter Lake, where the angler was fishing.
Photo courtesy of Trevor McKeon

We didn’t mention that covered bridge just for scenery, but because it’s a also good landmark for anglers, especially those looking for trout.

The fishing platforms just north of the covered bridge, accessed from Pioneer Street that crosses the lake between the highway and Lowell, offer the best bank fishing for trout anywhere on the reservoir.

The water coming down from Lookout Point Reservoir immediately above Dexter squeezes through artificial narrows, and the modest current found at this spot attracts trout like a magnet.

A simple still-fishing rig with a sliding sinker and something tempting like PowerBait or natural bait should put you into some dinner here when the trout are plentiful, or casting lures such spinners and spoons can also get good results for stocked trout.

For trout, fish Dexter soon after it is stocked with hatchery-reared rainbows, so check the link below to find the schedule.

It usually gets several generous plantings from February into the middle of spring before the hatchery trucks take a break for summer.

Some years the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has planted Dexter again in about September, providing an excellent early fall fishery. Check our stocking schedule below based on ODFW’s latest annual trout stocking plan.

Not only is Dexter generously stocked with impressive numbers of trout, quite a few of those trout recently have been what ODFW terms “trophy” trout, which are raised to significantly larger sizes than the pan-sized legals also planted.

Boat anglers also can do quite well fishing at Dexter, often concentrating their efforts on the downstream (west) side of the bridge for the same reasons mentioned above.

You can launch at both Dexter State Recreation Site near the dam (off Highway 58) or at Lowell State Park off Shoreline Drive just west of Lowell.

For more information on the how-to side of catching trout, read this article: Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.

Note that any salmon caught here can be kept as part of the trout limit.

If interested in nearby trout fishing, Fall Creek and Fall Creek Reservoir also are stocked with trout and the Middle Fork Willamette River has a noteworthy fishery for wild trout, especially for catch-and-release angling farther upstream.

Bass Fishing

A scenic view of the covered bridge at Dexter Reservoir with a kayaker paddling through prime fishing water.
Photo by Eric Apalategui

Dexter Reservoir has quite a good number of bass, and you might catch either smallmouth or largemouth.

The smallmouths tend to average on the small side here, but fair-sized fish can be found, and all smallmouths are dogged fighters.

Look for these fish near rocky cover, which is common here. One good spot is along the dam, reached both by shore and boat. The rocks near the fishing access at the covered bridge also produce smallies.

If you are interested in learning about the region’s smallmouth fisheries, check out Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing in Western Oregon.

There also are largemouth bass in Dexter, and they will be in some of the same areas as the smallmouths, though you might want to look in slightly different parts of the lake if targeting them specifically.

These big-mouthed cousins prefer softer bottoms, weeds, and woody cover over rocky structures.

Try coves and other shallow or weedy areas for the largemouth, which may be harder to find here but can be caught in larger sizes if you do locate fish.

Lane County anglers will find better largemouth bass fishing at Cottage Grove Reservoir, Dorena Reservoir and Fern Ridge Reservoir or on our rundown of Best Largemouth Bass Fishing in Western Oregon.

Fishing for both species of bass picks up in the early spring when larger fish are often in shallow water to spawn.

Bass fishing remains productive through the hot months and into early fall but is slow when the water is cold.

Are There Walleye in Dexter Reservoir?

By recent accounts, yes. Anglers are starting to report some walleye catches. Although occasionally, anglers confuse walleye and pikeminnows.

A fishery for these Midwest favorites has been developing just upstream in the much larger Lookout Point Reservoir, and walleye also have been found in the Middle Fork Willamette River just below Dexter Dam.

It’s possible that extreme flushing of Lookout has added some bug-eyes to Dexter, although Lookout has overall better walleye habitat in a much larger reservoir. Most great walleye fisheries are larger bodies of water.

So, while we can’t (yet?) fully recommend you put effort into walleye fishing at Dexter, if you catch a “funny looking” pikeminnow, it might just be one of the best fish meals you’re going to catch this year.

Northern Pikeminnow

Dexter also, frankly, tends to be well-populated with northern pikeminnows, a fish species most anglers consider a nuisance.

Pikeminnows are hard to keep off a nightcrawler or bass lure, they aren’t known for being good-eating and they make the lake less productive for sport fish.

In fact, the locals encourage people to cull the number of pikeminnows (previously known as squawfish) in the lake by hosting an annual pikeminnow derby during Lowell’s Blackberry Jam Festival in July.

This is a fun time to catch lots of fish and maybe score a prize at a time when trout fishing is in its summer lull.

Are There Kokanee in Dexter Reservoir?

Not that we know of, and not according to ODFW.

However, there might be some juvenile Chinook salmon that are migrating down river. Adult Chinook have been transported above the dams into the Middle Willamette. Know your salmon (Chinook have black mouths and spots), and the rules that apply.

Some anglers have reported catching kokanee in Lookout Point Reservoir above. Other anglers have reported landlocked Chinook there instead of kokanee. Kokanee are landlocked sockeye salmon common in several other Oregon lakes.

Wormy Fish?

Some anglers who fish Dexter relatively often have noted that some fish they catch (typically not newly stocked trout but fish that have been in the lake for a time) there have parasitic worms in the cavities.

These worms won’t hurt you when the fish is cooked thoroughly, but they aren’t the most appetizing thing ever.

We suggest you put any keepers on ice or into an ice-water slurry, which tends to keep the worms in the guts rather than moving into the fish flesh. That way they are easily removed during cleaning.

2024 Dexter Reservoir Trout Stocking

Stocking ScheduleTotal
Feb 26-Mar 12,500
Mar 11-153,000*
Mar 25-293,000*
Apr 1-53,000*
Apr 22-263,000*
Sep 30-Oct 45,060
*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.

Return to the Oregon Trout Fishing page

Find more fishing spots in eastern Lane County

Oregon Resources

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