Crane Prairie Reservoir is part of Cabela's million-dollar fish contest

May 10, 2012
Crane Prairie Reservoir is part of Cabela's million-dollar fish contest

By Mark Morical / The Bulletin

Published: May 10. 2012 4:00AM PST

Crane Prairie Reservoir is tempting anglers with something much more alluring than the rotund rainbow trout for which the lake is famous.

Now, one of those fish could be worth $1 million.

Crane Prairie has been selected as one of three Oregon lakes in the “Wanna Go Fishing for Millions?” contest organized by outdoor outfitter Cabela’s in cooperation with fish and wildlife agencies from 19 states.

Lane County’s Dexter and Blue River reservoirs, both of which also have large populations of rainbow trout, are the other two Oregon water bodies included in the event.

The contest started this past Saturday and continues through July 8. To be eligible for prizes, participants must register online at BEFORE they catch a tagged fish.

Each of the contest reservoirs has been stocked with eight to 15 trout tagged with small but distinct markers called “spaghetti” tags. The lucky registered anglers who catch those fish can claim their prizes by entering the six-digit tag number and other information on the Cabela’s website. They must photograph their fish with an eligible tag showing and still attached before removing the tag, according to the official contest rules.

Bend-based ODFW fish biologist Brett Hodgson said 14 of the 1,060 tagged fish in the contest were stocked into Crane Prairie by ODFW staff in mid-April. The fish are “cranebows,” hatchery trout that originated from wild trout in Crane Prairie, and measure in length from 16 to 20 inches.

So, is the million-dollar fish swimming around in Crane Prairie?

“No one knows,” Hodgson said. “I don’t even know if Cabela’s knows. It’s possible. That would be pretty exciting if it was.”

This marks the second consecutive year that Oregon has participated in the “Wanna Go Fishing for Millions?” contest. Last year, tagged fish were placed in Henry Hagg Lake west of Portland and Detroit Lake east of Salem. According to the ODFW, more than 7,000 Oregon anglers participated in the contest and 17 anglers caught a tagged fish.

Other prizes for anglers who land tagged fish include boats, sunglasses, fishing tackle, rods and reels.

Hodgson said he was contacted by the ODFW headquarters in Salem to see if he had any ideas for a Central Oregon lake fit for the contest. Crane Prairie, he said, was an easy choice.

“It receives a lot of use, and it’s available and utilized by anglers employing all different gear types,” Hodgson said. “Not just fly-fishing or just bait fishing. It’s well used by all types of anglers, so it provides an opportunity for a broad spectrum of the angling public.

“And during that time of year, early May to early July, Crane has been fishing very well the last few years. Catch rates are high. There’s a good likelihood someone will catch a tagged fish.”

Spaghetti tags are frequently used by fish biologists and are easy to spot on a fish, protruding prominently from the fish’s back.

“They’re what we use to mark our fish when we do mark/recapture to get a population estimate,” Hodgson said of the tags. “You can’t miss it.”

Along with Crane Prairie, the Blue River and Dexter reservoirs offer decent chances for catching rainbow trout.

Blue River Reservoir, located in the McKenzie River Valley east of Springfield, offers a lot of bank access in a picturesque setting.

Dexter Reservoir, about 20 miles southeast of Eugene along state Highway 58, provides access to good angling via a large fishing platform and a causeway that bisects the lake, according to the ODFW.

“It’s a great place to fish from, and to catch fish,” said Jeff Ziller, an ODFW fish biologist in Springfield. “Who knows, maybe even a million-dollar fish.”

The chances of catching the million-dollar fish are small — those who catch one of the 1,060 tagged fish have about a .0009 percent probability of it being the million-dollar tag. But organizers hope the contest will simply encourage more folks to go fishing.

“That’s an objective for both Cabela’s and ODFW,” Hodgson said, “to get people out fishing.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

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An aerial view of a body of water.