Note: At last check, ODFW had discontinued stocking at Walter Wirth Lake due to a large encampment of homeless people at the park. Please consider this situation and check for updates before fishing here.
These two Salem ponds are popular not just with the usual spring trout-fishing crowd but also are among the best places to catch hatchery rainbows during the fall and winter months, thanks to a long planting season by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The ponds tend to be stocked pretty regularly on the same schedule during the cool months. The first trout are dumped in during October most years and the truck makes semi-regular stops here into the following May.
Walter Wirth in particular is a great spot to take the kids fishing whenever a break in school lines up with a break in the weather.
Not only do these waters get pan-sized stockers but also regularly get a quite good number larger trout.
The ponds also can occasionally be stocked with brood rainbows that have finished their services at the hatcheries and planted to give anglers the chance at a rod-testing thrill. These fish frequently tip the scales at 10 pounds or more.
While the plantings of normal-sized fish are listed on ODFW’s annual stocking schedule, the additions of brood trout is more often announced with a press release on the ODFW website and listed in the weekly recreation report.
We’ve seen the brood trout stocking happen most often from late fall to mid-winter, depending on hatchery operations that year. (For example, the last time we noted a stocking of brood trout it was early January.)
See the bottom of this article for helpful links. Also note the ODFW regulation that allows retention of just one trout over 20 inches, which will apply to many brood trout.
Berkley PowerBait fished off the bottom or under a bobber is the go-to choice around here if you’re aiming for a limit, as is the case almost anywhere planted with keeper-sized hatchery trout. Power Eggs also have their fans.
One angler told the Statesman Journal’s Henry Miller that he switches to fishing with Acme’s Little Cleo or Kastmaster lures when ODFW stocks the brooders.
Both ponds are open year-round and have more modest fisheries for bass and panfish species, especially Walter Wirth.
Walter Wirth Lake Fishing
At 20 acres, this is the larger of the two stocked ponds in Salem and also gets the lion’s share of hatchery trout, often in batches of about 2,000 fish, give or take a few hundred.
In fact, Walter Wirth can get some 25,000 or more trout over the course of a calendar year; that’s as many fish as many of the region’s must larger reservoirs receive annually, but spread out over time and in a more easily fished location.
Walter Wirth also is in the nicer setting of the two, sitting within Cascades Gateway City Park just on on the west side of Interstate 5 but reached from Turner Road Southeast. Use the access road just south of Walmart.
Bank access at the lake is very easy to come by, including availability of an accessible fishing platform appropriate for anglers with disabilities.
The deeper northern half of the lake is likely to be better for trout, especially in warmer weather, and has wide-open casting.
You can also launch a small craft at Walter Wirth, under human power or an electric motor (no gas motors allowed). A float tube or pontoon would work great.
Slowly trolling flies or lures should result in good catches here when the trout are in.
Walter Wirth also has a fair fishery for warmwater species, with populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, brown bullhead and white crappie.
Anglers also have reported catching large channel catfish here. (For more about this type of fishing, read our popular Best Catfish Fishing in Oregon.)
The shallower southern end of the lake would be worth exploring for some of these species, especially in the spring when bass and bluegill tend to be aggressively guarding their nests.
Note that the other pond in Cascades Gateway City Park is Bluegill Lake, to the north of Walter Wirth on the other side of Mill Creek.
Trout are not stocked in Bluegill Lake, so it doesn’t get the same angler traffic, but you can try your luck for the namesake sunfish and other typical warmwater species found in Willamette Valley ponds.
Trout also are not stocked in Mill Creek, which currently is open seasonally for catch and release fishing with artificial lures and flies (check the regulations link below for details before fishing any water).
Walling Pond Fishing
This private pond, a former gravel pit, is available to public fishing and stocked on the same schedule as Walter Wirth, but often with about a fifth the number of trout.
Still, it’s a small water and fishing can be excellent soon after a planting, although the angling success will drop off quickly as the bulk of the fish are caught within a week or two.
Walling Pond, about 8 acres in size, offers bank fishing only from pond-side trails. There are no restrooms here.
While trout are the main show here, the pond also has some largemouth bass and bullhead catfish that might offer a bit of action in the summer, when trout success will be slim to none (probably the latter).
Walling Pond is located in an industrial area at the intersection of McGilchrist Street Southeast and 16th Street Southeast.
From Mission Street, take 22nd Street southward and then turn west on McGilchrist. There is a parking lot on 16th about a block north of McGilchrist, providing good access to the pond’s west side.