Eel Lake gets somewhat overshadowed by the larger and better known Tenmile Lakes nearby, but this natural coastal lake offers a similar roster of gamefish without quite the bustle.
Eel Lake, which is 355 acres and located along Highway 101 less than 10 miles south of Reedsport, has good bass and crappie fishing during the warm seasons and reliable trout fishing for much of the year.
The U-shaped lake with its two large arms also is home to William M. Tugman State Park, which offers camping, day use and a nice boat launch.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports both largemouth and smallmouth bass in Eel Lake, and angler reports back that up. There is excellent bass cover with plenty of overhanging trees and submerged trees along its shores and good drop-off areas for these predators to lurk and strike your lures.
The two arms have lots of tiny coves and shallow areas that provide excellent feeding grounds for bass, especially largemouth bass, which sometimes grow to decent size here. Bass also are often caught in deeper areas off points and near shoreline cover.
At times crappie fishing can be quite good here as well, although crappie everywhere tend to run in cycles of more or fewer fish in different age classes. They are likely to stage around structure such as sunken branches. Jigs work well for these.
Crappie bite best in the spring and summer. In the spring, you might find them up near shore to spawn and feed. Crappie tend to move into a bit deeper water during other parts of the year.
Anglers also report catching plenty of bluegill here, especially near the bank. Some sources report a population of yellow perch.
Trout fishing can be quite good here, especially in the deeper waters closest to Tugman State Park, at the bottom of the “U.”
Recent ODFW stocking schedules show good numbers of rainbow trout being planted here, mostly in the early to mid-spring time frame. Spring is prime for catching the most trout, but you can pick up these fish anytime of the year. In fact, during breaks in the weather, anglers even pick up a decent number during the winter months.
Bank anglers often catch trout with bait such as nightcrawlers and PowerBait. Boaters use bait but often turn to trolling lures (often tipped with bait) to catch trout in good numbers.
For more suggestions on how to catch trout, read our Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Besides the rainbows, the lake is a natural home to coastal cutthroat trout that you can keep as part of your trout limit.
Like other coastal lakes, Eel Lake is home to coho salmon. The adults pass through in the late fall on the way to spawning grounds in tributary streams, but fishing for these large salmon is not legal in this lake as it is in Tenmile Lakes.
Also, young coho salmon rear in the lake. These silvery fish resemble kokanee, but there are no kokanee here and the small salmon must be released unharmed.
Bank anglers have some good options at Tugman on the south end of the lake, including a nice fishing dock that is accessible to people with disabilities.
Bass, trout, crappie and bluegill are all fairly regularly caught from the dock and bank, but boaters will have a distinct advantage when it comes to reaching more prime fishing spots.
The lake is less than a half hour’s drive north from Coos Bay and minutes south of Winchester Bay. This area abounds with fishing and other recreation opportunities, including the fantastic Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.