Editor’s Note: As the result of a court case related to salmon passage, Lookout Point Reservoir has been drawn down to a puddle of its usual self in late 2023. There is no boat access, and walking down the bank to fish from shore is likely treacherous and just as likely wouldn’t be worth it due to muddy water as so much of the silty bottom is exposed. We’ll have to see how things look during the first half of 2024 after it has a chance to refill to whatever extent this year’s rainfall allows.
This large and very visible reservoir on the Middle Fork Willamette River, also known as Lookout Point Reservoir, has largely been a drive-past spot for most anglers, especially those looking for easy trout fishing.
This Eugene-area reservoir has been left off the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s trout stocking schedules for, well, ever.
But the truth is, Lookout Point Lake has become Oregon’s best walleye fishery anywhere south of the Columbia River, and this giant impoundment also can produce really chunky, hard-fighting smallmouth bass that bass fishing tournaments each year.
Add in some wild trout from the river, some big if sometimes elusive crappie, catch-and-release salmon, and a mishmash of other fish, and you might want to think twice about heading up the road and instead launching your boat and giving fishing at this reservoir a fair chance.
The reservoir is over 4,300 acres at full pool and stretches for 14 miles just north of Oregon Highway 58, a popular route between the Eugene-Springfield area and Central Oregon.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the various fishing opportunities you’ll find at Lookout Point so you won’t be the last angler around to catch onto this growing fishery.
Walleye Fishing at Lookout Point
Anglers are pulling more walleye out of Lookout Point every year. We would be willing to bet that increased success is due both to an expanding population of these Midwest native species as well as growing interest and skill among anglers chasing them.
Walleye have been present in Lookout Point for at least a decade, and probably a fair bit longer, quietly increasing their numbers while anglers slowly caught on.
Scientists in 2013 found them already well-established in Lookout Point while studying predatory fish (such as northern pikeminnows) in this reservoir.
They did similar testing in Foster Reservoir, although without finding walleye in that South Santiam River impoundment.
These are spots where biologists are trying to recover spring Chinook salmon in the Willamette Valley but have extra challenges in the form of predatory fish species that like to eat young salmon.
The report of their findings showed they caught 29 walleye at Lookout Point during fish sampling, among other native and non-native fish. I wouldn’t be surprised if similar sampling today would net a fair bit more walleye.
These days, most of the walleye coming out of the reservoir in coolers are ideal eater-sized fish measuring in the teens, but some larger fish are caught and more big ones should be hooked as the current classes of mid-size fish mature.
Anglers who have a strong interest in maintaining the walleye population here might consider releasing the bigger walleye over 20 inches, especially the big females that contribute eggs to the system. Or, if you’re of the opinion there are too many nonnative fish in this reservoir, enjoy those big fillets at your next fish fry.
Whatever your opinion on walleyes being in the upper Willamette River system is, there’s little denying that these jumbo cousins of yellow perch are extremely tasty fish if you are partial to white, flaky fish fillets.
Look for effort for walleye to pick up in the late winter and early spring as these fish go into spawning mode.
The east end of the reservoir, where the Middle Fork Willamette provides a bit of current, is a likely spot to find congregating walleye during the early season.
Anglers also report that much of the northern bank, although much of the reservoir has fairly steep drop-offs, with some of the slight cove areas dropping more moderately in depths.
If it’s been a good precipitation year and the reservoir fills (or is close to it), try fishing right along the willow trees that have grown up along the reservoir’s edge in several spots.
This shoreline vegetation should be most fishable in early to mid-summer in those years when there’s enough water to reach it. Figure on that happening roughly from late spring to early summer, when flood storage concerns are mostly past and before summer drawdowns drop it again.
How to Catch Lookout Point Walleye
Many of the same tactics that walleye anglers use in the Midwest, as well as those deployed in the Columbia River for some decades now, will work similarly well at Lookout Point. We also have a good resource guide for people learning walleye fishing techniques and tips anywhere.
Many seasoned walleye anglers stick to trolling.
One of the simplest and most effective trolling tactics is using a simple worm harness rig, either with a simple hook and nightcrawler or rigged with blades and other attractors. You can tie your own or buy them pre-made.
Walleye also love to eat smaller fish, so trolling with a crankbait, swimbait or even a jig head with a twisty or split tail can also be very effective.
Anglers also will cast and retrieve crankbaits, swimbaits, and various soft plastic or hair jigs for walleye. Jig hooks can be tipped with a piece of nightcrawler or other bait for added attraction.
Jigging or casting is particularly effective if you have a very good idea where the walleye are holding, like if you’ve pinpointed a rocky point, hump, or submerged trees that tend to produce bites for you on a regular basis. Or if you can see fish on your electronics.
Whatever you do, remember that walleye tend to hold on or very close to the bottom. The depth will vary, with fish often holding shallower in the cooler spring and fall weather, and deeper in the summer heat or bitter cold.
It’s best to experiment a bit with depth, but once you have it dialed in with a fish or two in the box, fish the bottom contours in about that same depth because chances are that’s a good depth.
More so than even other fish, you’ll have the most success catching walleye in low-light conditions. Those glassy “wall-eyes” of theirs are extremely sensitive to light, and walleyes are far more active feeders from evenings through early mornings.
Lookout Point anglers repeatedly report that the last couple hours of available light in the evening are often filled with action, while mid-day fishing can be super slow.
Fishing from dinner to dark is ideal. Some anglers will stick it out several hours after dark and keep doing well. Just make sure you’re equipped to handle the dark.
Besides a better bite, an advantage to fishing in the last hours of the day is that Lookout Point is often very windy during the heat of the day. That wind can be persistent, but on an average summer day, it’ll lay down by about 6 or 7 p.m.
If you can’t fish in the evenings, consider getting up early and being on the water before sun up.
You certainly can catch walleye under a bright sun, but do expect somewhat slower action. I’d also tend to fish in deeper and darker water. At mid-day, a bit of chop on the water’s surface might actually help you out. Or look for those cloudy days.
Lookout Point Bass Fishing
Believe it or not, Lookout Point Lake can be a fantastic smallmouth bass fishing lake.
Why else would several bass clubs host fishing tournaments on the lake? These anglers come in for weigh-in with fat handfuls of bass in their live wells.
Lookout Point provides the perfect smallmouth bass habitat because smallies love nothing better than hanging out around rocks and chasing down crayfish and smaller fish. This reservoir has plenty of all that.
I’d describe Lookout Point as one of the newest smallmouth bass hot spots in Oregon. When that study of predatory fish mentioned in the walleye section above took place in 2013, the researchers caught more than 70 largemouth bass and a grand total of zero smallmouths.
But times, they have changed. Smallmouth bass populations have exploded both in Lookout Point and in Dexter Reservoir just downriver.
Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tips
Casting lures is the most common tactic for catching smallies, especially the bigger ones.
Soft plastics, swimbaits, and crankbaits that imitate crayfish or forage fish are almost always a go-to for smallmouth bass.
Other small lures such as jigs and spinners will also get you into smallmouth bass, though smaller lures may result in catching smaller fish. But they’ll also catch more crappie or other panfish along the way.
If I’m not throwing a soft plastic or small crank, I like a Rooster Tail in brownish or reddish hues. I try to retrieve it just above the rocks on the bottom so it looks something like a crawdad skittering backward away from the soon-to-be bass in hot pursuit.
Smallmouths are easily caught on bait such as nightcrawlers. This is one of the easiest approaches for novice anglers, but remember that fish hooked on live bait are far more likely to swallow your hook and die as a result of their injuries.
Freshwater bass have a mixed reputation as table fare. It depends on who you ask. There are certainly some anglers whose hungry minds quickly go to fish tacos when bass are in the water, but others who always release bass while often keeping panfish and walleye.
Where smallmouths don’t have a mixed reputation is in the fighting department. Pound for pound, these brownish bass are about as strong as freshwater fish get. Fish them with fairly light gear, and you’re in for some fun battles.
In the spring, smallmouth bass move into shallower areas to build nests and spawn. They are particularly aggressive when packing on the groceries before the ordeal of spawning or while still guarding nests against intruders like (imitation) small fish raiders.
In the summertime, smallmouths will keep holding in cover but will tend to move deeper than 10 feet and often down to 20 feet or more.
Their holding depths will vary even during a single day, with more frequent forays into shallower water to hunt for crayfish and minnows at first and last light.
In the fall months, smallmouths like other species sense the cold weather coming and will tend to feed more aggressively until the water gets really cold. Fall fish may be more aggressively biting in water similar to where you found them in the spring.
Wintertime fishing for smallmouth bass is tough, to be honest. If you try, use a slow tactic like a barely twitched jig or bait and expect a more subtle bite than you would in warmer water.
Often, a bass in cold water will just sort of suck your lure into its mouth for a moment. It will spit it out if it’s not what the fish expected. Keep a tight line to your lure and set the hook on any extra weight you feel.
Even before the smallmouth bass and walleye really gained a foothold here, someone dumped largemouth bass into Lookout Point Reservoir.
Largemouths have provided a moderate fishery at the lake for quite a few years, though these days they appear to be present in lesser numbers than the smallies. If targeting smallmouths, you are still likely to come up with the occasional largemouth.
Largemouth bass have the potential to grow larger than smallmouth bass, both here and elsewhere. Some tournament anglers in various locations will key in on smaller populations of largemouths in an effort to juice up their bag at the weigh-in.
When targeting largemouth bass in predominantly smallmouth water, the best approach is typically to fish the shallower coves with softer bottoms. At Lookout, these areas are less common but easy to spot.
There are smallish, shallow coves where smaller tributary streams flow into the reservoir, as well as some flats in the upper reservoir (east end) where the Middle Fork Willamette flows in.
If you can find any sort of woody or weedy cover, so much the better when it comes to largemouths.
Like smallmouths, largemouth bass will move into shallower water for their spring spawn but may hold deeper in the summer. They also will hunt in those areas in low-light conditions into summer and fall, especially near dawn and dusk.
You can upsize your lures for largemouths and on occasion get them to smash a topwater lure, such as a frog, popper, or buzzbait.
Catch More Bass
If you’d like to boost your bass-busting abilities, check out our simple guide to bass fishing, which includes plenty of lure suggestions and fishing tactics.
Lookout Point Trout Fishing
As we mentioned in the intro, all those ODFW hatchery trucks delivering trout to reservoirs and streams around the Willamette Valley drive right on by Lookout Point.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t trout here.
Above the reservoir, in particular, the Middle Fork Willamette River is an excellent native trout fishery for native rainbows along with some beautiful cutthroat trout. It’s not as well known as the McKenzie River, but if you fly fish the moving waters in Lane County much, you already know about it.
That all said, those wild rainbows and cutthroats will move in and out of Lookout Point on feeding runs. Some will stay much of the year and then head upstream in the early season to spawn in the river.
Anglers have always caught a smattering of trout in Lookout Point, but without stocking, it’s never been a numbers game here. What you might catch are some real dandies.
Trolling typical trout lures such as small spinners and spoons, without or without attractors such as lake trolls or flashers, is a good way to cover lots of water. Trolling with bait such as a nightcrawler also is effective, but we suggest avoiding this approach when planning to release your catch.
Your odds of catching trout at Lookout Point are considerably better than finding a needle in a haystack, but we don’t recommend you come here if what you want is an easy limit for your trout dinner. (Do that on the stockers down at Dexter Reservoir in the spring.)
Check the zone regulations for reservoirs, which aren’t as strict in terms of harvests and bait use as the stream regulations. As of this update to this article, there aren’t any exceptions to the rules applying to Lookout Point, but you should always go to ODFW for the current regulations.
Catch More Trout
Learn more about catching rainbows, cutthroat and their kin in our simple trout fishing how-to guide.
We also have guides to the best rainbow trout lakes in Oregon, a rundown of where to catch stocked trout lakes in the Willamette Valley, and the best fly fishing rivers in Oregon.
Lookout Point Crappie Fishing
Crappies have been in Lookout Point Lake for quite some time, most likely longer than walleye and smallmouth bass.
Crappies have always been a relatively small fishery here, but these scrappy and tasty panfish can be caught in fair numbers and good sizes.
Anglers fishing for bass or walleye with medium-sized jigs sometimes pick up some large crappie as part of a mixed bag.
If you are deliberately targeting crappie, look first to submerged trees and branches, if you can find them. This will be easier to do by sight when (and if) the water levels are up in spring and early summer.
If the water is up around the shoreline willows in the spring or early summer, that’s a good starting point.
If you can’t find that sort of cover visible from the surface, and there’s honestly not much once the water level falls away from the wooded banks, a fish finder could serve you well.
Look for underwater stumps, and rock piles and other potential structures in the lake, which was logged before it was filled. Even better, your electronics may mark fish holding around those types of structures. They might be crappies, or they might be bass or walleye.
Crappie jigs are excellent lures, as they imitate small minnows that bigger crappie feed on. Small spoons, spinners, and even micro-sized crankbaits will all trigger a crappie strike as well, as will live baits such as worms and mealworms.
While you might have fished for crappie with live minnows under a cork somewhere else, remember that live fish are not legal to use as bait in freshwater anywhere in Oregon.
Also, crappies are a schooling fish, so once you find one, work that same area and the vicinity until you are no longer getting bites. Then look for similar areas or types of structures for your next fishing spot.
Catch More Crappie
Learn how to catch more of these tasty panfish with our simple guide to crappie fishing and also find the lakes and big rivers with the best fishing for crappie in Oregon.
Biologists are working to reintroduce Chinook salmon to the Middle Fork Willamette River above Lookout Point Reservoir. They also are stocked upriver in Hills Creek Reservoir.
Younger salmon hatching out in the river find their way into Lookout Point every year. They are particularly common in the spring before some will find their way through the dam on their attempt to head to the ocean.
At this writing, there is no exception that allows anglers to keep unclipped salmon in Lookout Point.
Most anglers don’t target landlocked salmon here, but they are a fairly common bycatch for anglers chasing the reservoir’s other species. If you catch one, gently release it unharmed.
Some veteran anglers also report catching kokanee here, but most official sources don’t cite these landlocked sockeye salmon within the fish population. We’d highly recommend fishing Green Peter Reservoir or Detroit Lake in the Willamette Valley or heading east over the mountains to Odell Lake if this is your fish of choice.
What Fish Are in Lookout Point Reservoir?
The game fish species in Lookout Point Lake include the walleye, smallmouth and largemouth bass, rainbow and cutthroat trout, and Chinook salmon we’ve already mentioned. The reservoir also is home to plenty of native northern pikeminnows and nonnative bullhead catfish, as well as some non-game fish species.
Planning Your Trip
Lookout Point is located just east of Dexter Reservoir and the community of Lowell. It’s 28 miles from Eugene to the most popular boat launch, which takes about 40 minutes or less. It’s a bit over two hours driving down from Portland to reach the lake, or a little over one hour from Highway 97 in Central Oregon.
Boat and Bank Access
There is a nice paved boat launch at Signal Point, on the north shore at about the reservoir’s midpoint. It’s located off W. Boundary Road.
There’s another boat ramp near the north end of Lowell Dam, which forms the reservoir, but it will be high and dry sooner than the Signal Point ramp as water levels fall.
There also is a launch at the Black Canyon Day Use Area, but this is more often a takeout for anglers floating the river above the reservoir. It tends to be outside the reservoir except in the highest of water conditions.
Bank access is available on both sides of the reservoir, including at the previously mentioned boat launches. Also, look for pullouts along Highway 58 along the south side and less busy access spots along W. Boundary Road on the north side.
Camping and Accommodations
There is the Black Canyon Campground just above the reservoir as well as several other campgrounds in the Willamette National Forest.
Motels, supplies, and services are available in nearby Eugene-Springfield and to a lesser degree in Lowell, Pleasant Hill, and upriver at Oakridge.