The Willamette Valley’s Foster Reservoir has a variety of fishing opportunities, the most popular of which is excellent fishing for the many hatchery rainbow trout planted in the impoundment.
Foster Reservoir, also commonly known as Foster Lake, also has bass, yellow perch, bluegill, crappie, bullhead catfish and kokanee.
Foster Lake is located in the Cascade Mountain foothills just east of Sweet Home and within an easy drive from Albany and Eugene.
Foster Lake Trout Fishing
You can catch rainbow trout here any day of the year, with good survival rates in the 1,200-acrea reservoir, which is located on the South Santiam River.
Nevertheless, trout fishing certainly will be best during the stocking seasons.
In recent years, the reservoir has been stocked heavily in the spring and often again in the late summer and fall.
Most of the stocked trout will be typical legal-sized fish, which are pan-sized, but a modest number of larger trophy trout also are included in some plantings.
Also, some of the typical planters manage to survive encounters with anglers in this year-round habitat and grow into the teens, making a nice catch.
It’s not unusual for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to put roughly 40,000 trout here during a calendar year.
While the late summer and fall plantings are smaller than the spring ones, those later stockings will help maintain months of good fishing.
In most reservoirs, fishing pressure is lighter in the fall than in the spring, so that many trout typically would support good fishing for months.
Foster is open year-round and can be productive even in the winter when there’s enough of a break in the weather to make fishing pleasant for people.
You won’t see summertime crowds, but there is definitely a winter fishery here, especially when those nice weather breaks crop up.
Trout anglers here will be successful with the usual tactics.
Bank anglers often still-fish with bait, including natural and artificial baits. Casting lures and flies can also be effective.
If you’d like to learn more about catching trout, start here: Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Note that Oregon regulations allow only fin-clipped trout (hatchery origin) to be retained.
There are both wild resident trout and young wild steelhead in the upper Santiam River system, and these fish with an intact adipose fin must be released when caught in Foster, which they occasionally are.
The wild steelhead are trapped below Foster Dam and trucked upriver so they can use natural spawning areas, and the next generation of smolts often coming into the reservoir on their downstream migrations.
Where to Catch Trout
There is plenty of bank access at the reservoir, with popular spots including near the dam (especially at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park) and along the south shore in spots where the bank is easy to traverse.
The north side also has bank opportunities and often fewer anglers.
Boat anglers can use those same methods successfully, but many boat anglers opt for trolling lures and bait.
Some boaters report good success in the areas around where the creek arms come in.
Check the rules before fishing.
Bass fishing can be quite good here.
Anglers have reported catching many smallmouth bass. Although the vast majority of smallies tend to be little, there are some bigger bass here as well.
Smallmouth bass prefer structure such as rocks near shore and rocky mounds and drop-offs farther out.
Largemouth bass also have been caught here, but their numbers appear to be fairly limited.
These fish, which can grow to larger size, often prefer areas with muddier bottoms and plant and wood structure, and you’ll do better catching them at other western Oregon largemouth fishing lakes and reservoirs.
Bass will bite a wide variety of lures that look like prey species, such as smaller fish and crayfish, or that provoke these species’ aggressive natures to strike out at intruders.
Soft plastics including curly-tailed grubs and worms, swimbaits resembling fish, crank baits resembling fish or crayfish, and spinnerbaits are among the myriad of good options.
There are a variety of panfish in the reservoir.
Yellow perch angling has been successful for many. These tasty fish can run small but can be caught in good numbers if anglers locate a school.
Perch eagerly bite worms and other natural baits.
There also are modest fisheries for sunfish, crappie and bullheads in the lake.
Unlike with the trout and kokanee, there are no limits on the size or number of bass and panfish caught here.
Kokanee are present, but they are not a primary quarry here like they are in nearby Green Peter Reservoir. Most kokanee caught here come while anglers are targeting the trout.
Kokanee, which are land-locked sockeye salmon, are counted among the trout bag at Foster Reservoir.
If land-locked salmon are your first interest, drive just a few miles farther to target Green Peter kokanee.
But if rainbow trout are your thing, Foster often has more than Green Peter and will treat you right.
Foster Reservoir Location and Access
Foster Reservoir is about a half hour’s drive from Interstate 5 at Exit 216 heading east toward Sweet Home on Oregon 228 to Highway 20.
From Albany it’s less than an hour’s drive and a little farther if coming from Eugene. There are supplies and services in Sweet Home.
The reservoir has multiple boat ramps, including at Gedney Creek, Calkins and Sunnyside County Park.
The latter park also has camping and day-use facilities. Sunnyside is on the Middle Santiam River arm on the northeast side of the reservoir.
Sunnyside Pond in the park also is seasonally stocked with trout and has some of the same bass and panfish species as the big reservoir. It’s a nice fishing hole for kids when the fish are biting.