Snow and ice will make access challenging in the early season for Central Oregon anglers

April 20, 2023
Snow and ice will make access challenging in the early season for Central Oregon anglers

By Mark Morical

A hefty snowpack should make for reliable fishing this year on Central Oregon lakes and streams, but access in the short term will be difficult on many high Cascade lakes.

“There’s twice as much snow as normal up there,” said Chuck Schutte, operations manager for the Deschutes County Road Department. “There are areas on the south part of Cascade Lakes Highway that normally we have a foot or 2, and we’re dealing with 4 feet of snow this year.”

Schutte said this week that the Twin Lakes southwest of Bend are accessible, but ice is an issue. Wickiup Reservoir and Crane Prairie Reservoir, which officially open to fishing on Saturday, are also reachable via roads from the south, but are still at least partially covered in ice and snow.“The latest reports were that Wickiup and Crane Prairie have pretty significant ice coverage,” said Jerry George, the Deschutes Watershed District fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “I think it’ll be a couple of weeks before people are really able to get on those water bodies.”

Those lakes must be accessed from the south until Cascade Lakes Highway fully opens, and Schutte said the road department is aiming to have that open by May 26. That is also the target date to open the road into Paulina and East lakes in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument east of La Pine.

“We’re still shooting for Memorial Day weekend,” Schutte said. “Hopefully we can get it earlier than that, but it’s hard to say.”

When the snow and ice finally do melt, one thing anglers can expect is easier access to boat ramps than the past couple of years, as the big snowpack should make for fuller lakes and reservoirs.


“Last year that was a huge issue at East Lake and Wickiup, and Prineville Reservoir,” George said. “For Prineville, those boat launches should be accessible at least for the first couple months of the (spring) fishing season. We’re hoping the additional snowpack fills up East Lake a little bit higher, because those boat launches got really low and it was hard for people to be able to get into East.”

George said that one winter of a big snowpack will not end the drought situation in Central Oregon, but it is a step in the right direction and helpful for native Deschutes River redband trout that are trying to reach tributaries to spawn.Crane Prairie remains one of the most popular lakes in Oregon to land a sizable redband trout despite a somewhat slow fishing season last year.

“We had really promising numbers of spawning redband trout last year,” George said. “We were hoping it would fish better than it did last year, and it kind of turned on and off and was inconsistent, then we had the closure with the Cedar Creek Fire in that area. We should have good numbers of adult fish still in the system and we’re hopeful for a good year. There’s a lot of fish there, and it’s pretty reliable for people who know how to chironomid fish or how to target fish in the cold-water channels later in the summer.”

With more water in Wickiup Reservoir this spring, anglers should be able to get their boats on the water more easily, but the quality of fishing is another matter. The kokanee fishery in Wickiup is “essentially gone,” according to George, after back-to-back years of the reservoir being almost completely drained for irrigation.

“The kokanee have gone down the (Deschutes) river and been expelled from the lake,” George said.

But the biologist added that brown trout and redband trout numbers continue to be good in Wickiup.

“The trout are hanging on in Wickiup,” George said. “Anglers I’ve talked to (last season) who know how to target those fish have still done pretty well.”One lake where Central Oregon anglers can expect to find good numbers of kokanee is Odell Lake — located southwest of Bend off state Highway 58 — which also opens to fishing on Saturday. George said that anglers were catching kokanee in the 11- to 12-inch range last year and that should continue this season.The Upper Deschutes River from Benham Falls to Little Lava Lake opens to fishing on May 22, as does the Fall River below the falls.

Goerge said that the ODFW performed surveys on the Upper Deschutes about three weeks ago.

“Brown trout and redband numbers were about average,” he said. “We did see quite a few nice-sized 4- to 6-pound brown trout below Wickiup.”

Share this post