Howard Prairie Lake, a roughly 2,000-acre reservoir in the Southern Oregon Cascade Mountains, historically is a great place to land rainbow trout and perhaps some largemouth bass.
To be fair, this reservoir has suffered some pretty poor fishing the last few years due to extremely low water conditions, and we’d recommend holding off a bit until drought conditions ease up a bit as there are lakes in the region with more water.
When there’s enough water, trout fishing is best here in the spring and early summer.
Typically, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife plants some 15,000 legal trout here during the months of April and May. The agency also has planted fingerling trout in the fall that grow to legal size for the next season.
Try fishing deeper when the surviving trout move into cooler, deeper water during the hot summer months.
If you don’t have a boat, especially during low water conditions, focus your shore fishing near steep-banked areas at the dam on the southeast end and also near Fawn Island by fishing off the mainland bank on the northeast side. The maximum depth of the lake is 80 feet.
Howard Prairie has a good largemouth bass population as well, with modest-sized and some larger fish found around islands, points and in the coves.
Look for cover and structure as bass are typically ambush feeders that lie in wait for prey such as smaller fish and crayfish. Use lures that look like these critters.
Howard Prairie is a good enough bass lake that occasional bass tournaments are planned here, although it can be cyclical.
Howard Prairie also is home to a fair population of brown bullhead catfish. While these aren’t nearly as popular among sport anglers as trout and bass, they can be easy to catch using bait fished along the bottom and might just keep the kids occupied for a while.
There is good access for both bank and boat anglers. Non-boaters have multiple places to fish at several parks, including accessible fishing.
The lake is open year-round, but winter access can be more limited.
It sometimes freezes during winter, but beware that the ice is often not safe to walk on. Proceed with caution only if you are sure the ice is safe. Soft ice can limit open water access at times during the cold season, and some of the roads may be closed, necessitating a little hiking to reach your fishing spot.
Jackson County provides plenty of recreational opportunities on the popular lake. There are boat launches at Howard Prairie Lake Resort on the northwest shore, and the Willow Point and Klum Landing county campgrounds on the south end of the lake.
The resort also has boat rentals, moorage and supplies. Campers will find additional spots in several other county campgrounds near the lake, including Asperkaha, Sugar Pine and Grizzly.
Howard Prairie is just 24 miles east of Ashland and less than an hour’s drive from Medford or Klamath Falls.
It’s just south of Dead Indian Memorial Road, accessed by Hyatt Prairie Road, Keno Access Road and Howard Prairie Dam Road. From the south traveling on Highway 66, turn north on Hyatt Prairie Road, which first leads to nearby Hyatt Lake, which offers similar fishing opportunities.