Laurance Lake is a smallish reservoir located in the Mt. Hood National Forest just north of Oregon’s tallest peak.
This is a pretty place, about 15 minutes up into the forest from the Hood River Valley’s bucolic Parkdale area and easily reached from the Portland area by way of Hood River.
Laurance offers excellent spring trout fishing, with the primary target being hatchery rainbow trout stocked here during the early season. The lake opens to fishing on the fourth Saturday in April and is generally stocked for the opener and again in May. (At last check, this reservoir was incorrectly spelled “Lawrence” in ODFW’s trout stocking schedules.)
Fishing success tapers off into the hot summer months as anglers catch out a good number of the rainbows and irrigation draws the reservoir down.
The reservoir was built on the Clear Branch, a tributary that starts high on the mountain and feeds into the Hood River watershed.
The reservoir also is home to wild trout including cutthroat and heavily protected bull trout, both of which are native in the Hood River system and use the lake and tributary streams (the tributaries are closed to fishing). You must release any wild trout you catch, including cutthroat and bull trout; these fish will have an intact adipose fin located on the top of the fish just in front of the tail, while hatchery trout will have a removed (and healed) adipose.
To help protect the native trout here, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requires anglers to fish only with artificial lures and bait, so don’t bring the nightcrawler and PowerBait here. Lure- and fly-caught fish are far more likely to be hooked at the lips and survive release.
The regulations make Laurance an attractive place for fly anglers to hone their skills on willing trout.
Conventional anglers can cast lures or use a fly under a bubble. You can use a small boat or float tube here, but gas motors aren’t allowed. Slowly trolling flies or lures can be irresistible to trout.
See our Basic Trout Fishing Techniques article for some info on trout-fishing methods (not applying the bait tips at Laurance).
The other species of fish you’ll likely find here are illegally introduced smallmouth bass, which tend to run small at this altitude. Those you can keep bass caught here in any size or number as they make life harder on the trout.
Smallmouth are good fighters and will hit plenty of artificial lures, including spinners, crankbaits and even flies. (Molded soft plastic lures work great on smallmouth but are considered baits under ODFW rules and therefore cannot be used legally at Laurance.)
There is walk-in U.S. Forest Service camping here at Kinnikinnick Campground and also a small day-use fee.
Laurance is a little more than a half hour from Hood River and about an hour and a half from Portland. Take Highway 35 south from Hood River to Parkdale and then use Oregon 281/Cooper Spur Road, Evans Creek Drive and Laurance Lake Drive to reach the lake. From the south, use Highway 26 to Highway 35 and pick up the other roads from the Parkdale area.
Another popular fishing lake on this side of Mount Hood is Lost Lake, farther west.