Paulina Lake has produced Oregon’s record German brown trout and routinely gives up excellent catches of large kokanee and rainbow trout.
The natural lake shares the Newberry Crater, an extinct volcano in Central Oregon, with the similar-sized East Lake, which has the same three primary gamefish.
Located a little more than an hour southeast of Bend, Paulina a deep and good-sized lake at more than 1,500 acres.
This is truly the high country, sitting at over 6,300 feet in elevation. Winter doesn’t typically loosen its grip until well into spring (and even early summer during the harshest years), often blocking the roads to typical vehicles.
The lake is open to fishing year-round, but early access to the lake around the time of ice-out, when fishing can be good for the trophies, is typically left for those with the ability and gumption to make a cross-country trek.
There is a gate at the snow park on Forest Service Road 21 (aka Paulina-East Lake Road) that is typically closed during the winter season, so snowmobiles or snowshoes are a good bet at those times of the year.
Paulina Lake Brown Trout Fishing
Ronald Lane caught a 28-pound, 5-ounce monster at Paulina Lake in 2002 to claim the state record.
Paulina continues to be one of a handful of Oregon lakes capable of growing a brown trout that could one day eclipse that record. (Here’s where you’ll find Oregon’s trophy brown trout lakes.)
Brown trout feed mostly on other fish, and the big ones like a big meal.
Lane used an A.C. Plug to fool his, and various crank baits that look like smaller trout, kokanee and chubs are a decent way to go.
Spinners including Rooster Tails also account for good catches.
Brown trout feed most voraciously at night.
Fishing is legal here beginning an hour before sunrise until an hour after sunset, so plan to fish in the lowest light early and late for your best odds at a catching a monster brown.
Paulina Lake Kokanee Fishing
Kokanee also tend to run larger here than in most Oregon waters.
In fact, one of these land-locked sockeye salmon previously held a state record before Wallowa Lake had a rash of jumbo-sized kokanee catches that eclipsed state and world records several years back.
Paulina Lake is considered one of Oregon’s best kokanee lakes.
The kokanee respond well to trolled lures and sometimes to jigs.
Kokanee are mostly a boat fishery, and a fish finder will serve you well in looking for schools.
The lake is up to 250 feet deep and kokanee will often be in fairly deep water, especially during the warm summer months.
Paulina Lake Rainbow Trout Fishing
The other big fishery here is for rainbow trout, which are planted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in good numbers during the summer.
Fishing is often best for them following the plants in June and July.
Late summer often sees a lull in trout fishing, but things generally pick up again as cooler weather arrives in the early fall and fish naturally try to fatten up before the harsh winter ahead.
Typical methods including plunking with bait, trolling lures or bait, and casting or slow-trolling flies will all catch trout here. Read up on basic trout-fishing techniques here.
There also are wild rainbow trout in Paulina and East lakes, but you must release these unharmed.
Paulina Lake Fishing Regulations
The wild fish have an intact adipose fin (top of fish just in front of the tail). Those fins are removed and heal over on the hatchery reared fish planted here.
Both trout species and the kokanee all count toward your five-fish limit, and only one of those can be more than 20 inches long.
Browns of that size are not uncommon in the lake, and rainbows and kokanee can reach that length in these rich waters.
Carefully read regional and specific fishing regulations for Paulina Lake and really anywhere you go before actually casting. We link you to those at the bottom of this article.
Paulina Lake Camping
Paulina Lake Lodge offers cabin rentals, boat rentals and moorage, a store with fishing tackle and other essentials and a restaurant among its amenities.
Paulina Lake is located about 15 miles east of Highway 97 at La Pine, the closest town. Figure driving a little more than an hour from Bend.