These oddly shaped artificial ponds tucked into woods and meadows in the heart of the Willamette Valley are a real gem for anglers of all abilities.
The seven main ponds hold a wide variety of fish, from seasonally stocked rainbow trout, to battling largemouth bass, to the occasional giant channel catfish.
Access to St. Louis Ponds
The ponds are not too far off Interstate 5 south of Woodburn, a very easy drive from Salem and under an hour away for much of the Portland area.
Not only that, but the ponds are a great venue for kids and other beginning anglers and also are fishable for people who need easily accessible water.
Fishing platforms, docks and wide pullouts along long paved pathways put these ponds in reach of anglers of nearly all abilities.
A significant part of the park is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible, but there also are more primitive paths into the farther ponds for those who are able to get away from the more developed sections.
St. Louis Ponds Fishing Regulations
First off, please note that special harvest regulations and other rules have long been in place at the ponds, so it’s best to always check the current regulations before fishing.
Particularly, at last check there continued to be daily limits for largemouth bass (one), channel catfish (two) and crappie (10).
Also, no boats of any kind are allowed, but the ponds are shaped in such a way that anglers’s casts can reach just about anywhere from the bank.
Hatchery Rainbow Trout
The biggest crowds will come with the trout, which are trucked in a few times each spring and probably again in the fall.
On our most recent check, which we provide as an example, trout stocking was set to begin in February and continue with regular visits until the first of June.
Stocking also was scheduled to resume for the Labor Day Weekend, with a handful of fall plantings planned.
In many cases, ODFW stocks both the typical pan-sized legal rainbows as well as a pretty good number of larger “trophy” trout.
Trout are typically stocked in a select number of ponds, with the most likely to be the pond closest to the main parking lot, which also has very accessible bank access.
Sometimes these plantings support family fishing events that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hosts at the park.
For best odds of catching trout, show up in the days soon after trout are stocked, because fishing fades quickly as trout are caught. Plus, trout don’t fare well in warmer water that arrives after the stocking season.
Definitely check the ODFW’s trout stocking schedule linked below to help time your trips.
The usual trout baits and lures will work here. For more details on how to catch trout, read our article Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips.
We should also note that St. Louis Ponds are one of a handful of Willamette Valley waters that is typically stocked with broodstock rainbow trout.
These huge fish, ranging from 5 to 15 pounds (and sometimes bigger), were part of ODFW’s trout-rearing operations before being released into area ponds to provide a possible thrill of a lifetime.
Most often the brood size rainbows are planted during the cold season in fairly modest numbers. Just as an example, a recent year’s stocking at St. Louis Ponds was 80 brood trout and took place during early January.
Keep tabs on ODFW’s weekly recreation report for news of brood trout, because these plantings aren’t necessarily posted in the annual trout stocking schedule.
If specifically targeting brooder ‘bows, we suggest you at least consider using heavier lines and rods and reels than you might for pan-sized trout. These extra big trout are more the size of salmon and steelhead.
Oh, and don’t forget the rule about only keeping one trout over 20 inches. These brood fish will almost certainly be over that length.
St. Louis Ponds really shine for warmwater fishing, which is best from mid-spring through early fall. For warmwater anglers, there’s something for just about everyone here.
Largemouth bass are a popular target here, where most serious bass anglers practice catch and release.
There are good numbers of smaller bass. You’ll have to work more for the larger ones here than at some of the state’s premier largemouth bass fisheries, but they’re in there.
As a side note, if you’re interested in bass fishing, next read our article Best Largemouth Bass Fishing in Western Oregon for more.
Both black and white crappie varieties are in the ponds.
Crappie often travel in schools while hunting smaller minnows to eat, so if you catch one, there might be more nearby.
Jigs and lures that imitate small fish work best.
As with the bass, we have more on this type of fishing. Please read Best Crappie Fishing in Western Oregon.
Bluegill and Other Sunfish
St. Louis Ponds are full of bluegill.
Many of these common sunfishes are small, but some larger specimens can be caught as well.
Bluegill are readily caught on natural bait such as worms, mealworms and crickets, often suspended beneath a bobber.
Or do what we often do and try dropping the bait at your feet beneath one of the docks because bluegill like to hide in the shade of docks as well as around weeds and other structure.
Bluegill also strike artificial flies and small lures and are especially aggressive in the spring while guarding nests near shore.
The ponds also are home to both redear and green sunfish, which are similar in size and habits to bluegill.
Bullhead and Channel Catfish
Like many waters across Oregon, the ponds are home to bullhead catfish, which run small but are easy and fun to catch for young anglers.
Unlike many waters on the western side of the state, the ponds hold a modest number of channel catfish. These fish can grow to lunker size and are the largest fish found at St. Louis Ponds.
Some of the biggest channel cats caught here have approached 30 pounds. Channel catfish are great fighters and excellent to eat.
For more about where and how to catch catfish, we suggest you also read Best Catfish Fishing in Oregon.
More St. Louis Ponds Information
The ponds are located within a larger 240-acre park jointly operated by ODFW and Marion County Parks. See the county’s webpage for additional details.
The ponds are open to fishing all year, but vehicle access is closed at a gate from Oct. 1 to March 1, when fishing is generally slower anyway. But you can walk in and fish during the road closure.
The park opens an hour before sunrise and closes an hour after sunset.
To get there from Portland, it’s easiest to take the Woodburn exit and head west past the entrance to the outlet malls until you hit Butteville Road, where you’ll turn left.
Drive to the south on Butteville Road through the country and across I-5 to the town of Gervais. Then turn right on St. Louis Road, which goes westward back across I-5.
After St. Louis Road straightens a little west of I-5, look for Tesch Road just before the railroad tracks.
Turn left on this gravel road and follow it down and around the park to the parking area, where there are restrooms and picnic facilities as well. There are a few places anglers pull out and walk in to other ponds.
From Salem driving north, you can take the Brooks exit and turn east toward Highway 99E and then north to Gervais, where you’ll pick up the directions from above.
Or you can take the Brooks exit and turn west across I-5 and then take River Road north to the intersection with St. Louis Road. Turn right (east) and then look for the right turn on Tesch Road just after the railroad tracks.