This fairly large reservoir just a 10-minute drive up Row River Road east of Cottage Grove is one of the Willamette Valley’s better bass fishing lakes.
Dorena Lake, as it’s also know, also a spot where you have a reasonable shot at catching enough rainbow trout for dinner any day of the year.
This reservoir was well-planned for recreation and there are excellent facilities for bank and boat anglers.
Facilities include Baker Bay County Park on the southwest side (Shoreview Drive, aka Government Road), Harms Park on the northeast side (Row River Road) and a couple other public parks.
The roads mentioned above follow both sides of the reservoir and offer additional shore access points.
If you typically eat what you catch, know that the Oregon Health Authority has posted a permanent advisory suggesting limited consumption of year-round resident fish caught from this reservoir.
Similar warnings are in place for resident fish taken from the neighboring Cottage Grove Reservoir and the Row and Coast Fork and mainstem Willamette River drainage due to naturally occurring mercury.
Mercury tends to build up most in resident fish, especially older specimens like large bass, which most anglers release anyway to preserve the trophy fishery.
Hatchery-planted trout are relative newcomers to the water and are considered safe to eat. (See the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations linked below for suggested guidelines.)
Dorena has long been a favorite stop among Oregon’s bass tournament schedules, and for non-competitive anglers as well, but it’s a little less so these days because smallmouth bass are very established and have put a dent in the largemouth bass productivity.
There might also be some spotted bass, which have appeared at neighboring Cottage Grove Reservoir.
And while Cottage Grove Reservoir in recent years has been the better of the two reservoirs just south of Eugene, Dorena is very capable of putting out some very large bucketmouths by Oregon standards and continues to deserve a spot on our list of best largemouth lakes in Western Oregon.
As with most bass fisheries, the prime time here is during the spring, when this reservoir is reaching full pool.
That’s about when the big fish move into shallow water both to feed and to spawn.
Bass are distributed around the reservoir, but around April and May many anglers will concentrate efforts on the weed beds at the upper (southern) end of the reservoir, in the areas around where the Row River flows into Dorena, according to local ODFW fish biologist Jeff Ziller, who helped with this article.
After bass vacate the shallows, look for deeper structure, such as submerged points.
Where Dorena at times has played second fiddle to Cottage Grove Reservoir when it comes to lunker largemouth, at times it can be the better choice of the two when it comes to trout fishing.
Both reservoirs are heavily stocked with hatchery rainbows from late winter into mid-spring each year and sometimes again in the early fall.
Moreover, a good number of these fish planted recently have been ODFW’s larger “trophy” rainbow trout, which are raised to a significantly larger size before release. See our stocking schedule below for current plans.
Trout fishing is typically excellent during those two seasons but can be fruitful all year long if you can locate them.
Fishing can hold up fairly well into the winters, which often includes relatively mild days between storms at this low-elevation spot.
Bank anglers will do best for trout soon after hatchery plants.
Shore access adjacent to boat ramps can sometimes be productive right after a plant because this is typically where the fish are dumped, and it can take a little while for them to disperse.
As the water warms, bank anglers might do well to find cooler (often deeper) water to cast into.
Bait fishing is popular from the shoreline, with PowerBait, nightcrawlers and other types of baits.
Boat anglers can score keeper trout here all year long, although the heat of summer (and those months without stocking) certainly will bring a slowdown.
Trolling lures, flies or bait can be effective.
Cool-season trout can be caught right below the surface, but typically trout move deeper in search of cooler water during the summer.
That means you might need a good bit of weight or a down rigger to reach productive fishing and a Ford Fender or set of flashers might help attract strikes. Experiment with depths and offerings.
If you need more information about catching trout, try Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Occasionally, cutthroat trout native to the Row River will make their way into Dorena and can reach good size.
Cutthroats may be kept as part of the trout bag limit, but it might be wise to limit consumption of these life-long residents of the drainage, due to the aforementioned mercury issue in these parts.
Panfish and Catfish Fishing
Dorena Reservoir has mixture of other fish.
Angling for brown bullhead catfish and bluegill can provide quite a bit of easy action with a worm or piece of nightcrawler on a smallish hook.
These species live within easy reach of shore and might be a good option to entertain kids who simply want to catch fish, but releasing at least most of your catch is probably a good plan due to the mercury advisory.
There also are crappie in the reservoir.
2023 Dorena Reservoir Trout Stocking
|Mar. 6 – 10||4,000|
|Mar. 27 – 31||5,670*|
|Apr. 17 – 21||5,670*|
|Oct. 9 – 13||1,270*|
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.
If interested in catching crappie, bluegill and catfish in a water without a consumption warning for these fish, consider fishing Fern Ridge Reservoir west of Eugene.