Lake Selmac isn’t huge, but this Southern Oregon reservoir is an impressive producer of lunker largemouth bass, stocked rainbow trout and plenty of panfish.
Located 24 miles southwest of Grants Pass, and often cited as the largest lake in Josephine County, Lake Selmac (or often Selmac Lake) is one of the favorite fishing and camping spots in this area. The majority of the lake is under 10 feet deep.
The big bass here are known to like big meals, so some anglers prefer large swimbaits, crankbaits and plastics.
Some of the bass are large enough to eat hatchery rainbow trout, so matching that “hatch” might work for you.
Of course, use any largemouth bass technique that will land you fish. Topwater fishing can be a blast when the water is warm and the fish are active, especially in low-light conditions during the summer months.
Lake Selmac produced a total of three state record largemouth bass, including one in 1991 weighing nearly 11-1/2 pounds. (The state’s current record is over 12 pounds for a bass caught in a farm pond.)
Anglers report that it still can put out double-digit bass and may one day reclaim the top spot for big bucket mouths. Selmac is on our list of Best Largemouth Bass Fishing in Western Oregon.
Bear in mind that ODFW manages Selmac for trophy bass with a one-bass daily limit. It also doesn’t host the big bass tournaments seen on Tenmile, Siltcoos and other major bass-fishing destinations in the state.
Most anglers practice catch-and-release fishing for the big bass, while the other species here are excellent eating.
Another reason to snap a photo and let it go is that big bass more than other species accumulate larger quantities of naturally occurring mercury, which can pose health risks if eaten in larger quantities.
See ODFW’s statewide bass consumption guidelines in the annual sport fishing regulations booklet or online for details.
Where to Catch
Likely holding cover for bass includes stumps, dikes, overhanging trees, piers and aquatic vegetation.
There’s lots of shallower water and manmade dikes sticking into the southern part of the reservoir, offering a variety of promising holding water.
Trout fishing here can be quite good, especially during the late winter and spring months, when the reservoir is generously stocked with hatchery rainbows.
As an example, in a recent year the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife planned to dump some 24,000 trout into the lake.
Most of those are pan-sized legal trout and planted between February and May, although ODFW also has been known to stock a modest number of trophy-sized trout in the fall.
Still-fishing with bait and trolling lures or lure-bait combinations account for a large number of the trout catches here. Trout will be widespread during the cool-water months.
For more about trout-catching methods, read: Basic Trout Fishing Tips and Techniques.
By the hot summer season, trout fishing slows quite a bit. If you try then, the survivors are likely to be huddling in the deeper and cooler water close to the dam on the north side of the lake, so focus your efforts there when the water warms.
Crappie, Bluegill and Catfish
Finally, Selmac is a good producer of panfish and catfish. The panfish include crappie to decent size and plenty of bluegill. There also are enough bullhead catfish to keep wiggling your pole.
Crappie are a schooling fish and often like to hold around docks, sunken branches and other structures in the water.
A small jig is a good bet for catching them because the jig looks like a small minnow, which is this fish’s favorite meal.
Bluegill and catfish like natural baits.
Like bass, bluegill will often be surprisingly close to shore. Try a bobber about 18 inches above your bait and cast near weeds and other cover.
A small worm, redworm or mealworm is a good bet to catch these scrappy fighters. Bluegill also will strike flies or small lures and put up a surprisingly good fight for their small package.
Brown bullhead catfish are primarily bottom feeders and also bite best at night and in lower-light conditions, when they sometimes come closer to shore. Try casting in different locations, including open flats, until you start getting bites.
Besides worms, catfish also like cut-baits such as pieces of fish or prawns and also readily bite prepared dough baits or “stink baits.”
Yellow perch have reportedly been put into the lake illegally. Perch tend to bite well on natural baits and crappie jigs, especially if the jigs hooks are tipped with a little natural bait or something like a Berkley Crappie Nibble.
Access and Location
Lake Selmac has excellent fishing access from both bank and boats. Aquatic vegetation may limit some bank fishing opportunities late in the warm season.
Lake Selmac County Park on the reservoir’s south side has a variety of camping options, a boat ramp, dock and other amenities.
The private Smoke on the Water resort (formerly Lake Selmac Resort) on the north side also has camping and a small store for supplies.
There are a handful of other places to camp nearby. Rental boats and moorage are available at Selmac.
You can bring your boat with a motor here, but leave the Jet Skis and water skiing equipment at home. There is a 5 mph speed limit on the entire lake.
From Interstate 5 at Grants Pass via Highway 199 toward the community of Selma, it’s about a half-hour drive. The reservoir is located less than an hour from the Oregon Caves.