Editor’s Note: The 2020 wildfire season impacted this location for an uncertain period. Check carefully before planning a fishing trip.
This small reservoir a few miles up the McKenzie River from the community of Leaburg is one of the surest places in the Eugene-Springfield area to catch trout during the spring and summer.
Leaburg Lake is open all year but fishing is by far the best when it’s being planted with hatchery-raised rainbow trout, typically from the second half of April through summer until just before the Labor Day weekend.
Most of the fish are pan-sized legals, but some larger fish also are periodically planted here.
The stocking schedule is planned to correspond with the period when bait-fishing is allowed, so check the annual regulations for the date if you want to sling bait.
Bait fishing is the most popular tactic here, with doughs like Berkley PowerBait as well as natural baits effective.
Try bait fishing off the bottom, using a sliding sinker above a swivel, which serves as a stopper for the weight. The sliding sinker allows the fish to take out some line without spooking.
Casting lures such as spinners and spoons and fly fishing also can be successful here.
For more how-to information to get you started, read our article Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
Access to Leaburg Lake is excellent. To get there, just drive east from Springfield on the McKenzie Highway (126). It’s only 30 minutes from Interstate 5.
When you arrive, one of the best places to head to is Waterboard Park. Cross the dam from the Highway 126 and it’s just upstream from the dam. Park and walk to nearby spots
The water is plenty deep along the south side of the reservoir near and around the bend and the fish are active in there, according to Jeff Ziller, ODFW fish biologist for this area.
Ziller said another good place is just upstream at the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) landing, closer to where the McKenzie flows in.
Anglers also scramble down from the highway, which hugs the the north bank, but it’s harder to reach safely, not as pleasant with the highway traffic, and the fishing typically isn’t any better, Ziller said.
Note that while this reservoir is managed for catch-and-keep trout fishing, that’s not all that’s in there. Wild trout will drop in from the McKenzie River and they must be released unharmed if caught. Among the occasional visitors are heavily protected bull trout.
Note that hatchery trout here have a clipped and healed adipose fin (the fleshy fin located on the top side of the fish in front of the tail) while this fin is intact on all naturally produced trout.
What you can keep here are fin-clipped hatchery steelhead as well as larger (over 24 inches) wild steelhead.
This is mostly likely to occur during the summer months, but honestly it’s a fairly rare occurrence in the reservoir, more of a long shot bonus than something to focus on.
If you’re interested in learning where you have a far better chance at these big fish, read Summer Steelhead Fishing in the Willamette Valley.
The McKenzie itself also is heavily stocked during the same season in a middle reach of the river that includes both sides of Leaburg Lake. For details: McKenzie River Fishing.
Note also that the Leaburg Canal (and its tributaries) are open only for catch-and-release trout fishing.
Unlike Leaburg Lake and nearby sections of the McKenzie, bait fishing is forbidden in these waters. See the latest sport fishing regulations for a description of closed areas at the powerhouse tailrace and near Leaburg Dam.