Snowshoes and a ladle will join rods and reels as important props for anglers ushering in the spring trout-fishing season Saturday at Diamond Lake.
Close to a half-million rainbow trout are locked under about four inches of ice and 20 inches of snow, with just a few pockets of open water available near the mouths of Short and Silent creeks.
With the thin ice, snowshoes will help disperse an angler's weight while ice-fishing for rainbows, and the ladle will help strain ice and slush from the hole while waiting for the next bite.
And wear a life jacket, just in case.
"This isn't ice fishing back in Minnesota where there's eight, 10 or 24 inches of clear ice beneath you," says Rick Rockholt from the Diamond Lake Resort. "It's probably five inches, and it's probably not the strongest ice in the world. We're telling people they can ice fish, but be careful."
Those who want more conventional angling experiences will head to Howard Prairie or Hyatt lakes, where the waters are ice-free and ready for worm-drowners trying for trout from boats or banks.
The Rogue and its tributaries upstream of Lost Creek Lake will open for fishing the week of Memorial Day.
Also opening, but with fare less fanfare, is the Jenny Creek system east of Ashland and the Ashland Creek forks upstream of Reeder Dam near Ashland.
Visitors to Howard Prairie can expect air temperatures in the low 50s Saturday, then a chance of rain Saturday night and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. The snow level is forecast to drop later Sunday from 5,600 feet to 4,900 feet —but still above Howard Prairie, which rests at about 4,600 feet above sea level.
At Howard Prairie, the Easter eggs of choice will be the single salmon variety, perhaps floated off the bottom with a marshmallow. Worms and various-colored dough baits will also be popular, because the cool spring April water makes still-fishing with bait better than trolling.
Regardless of the venue, most opening weekend angling success is found in water 8-15 feet deep. The trout are nearer the shores and more active in shallow water than they are in summer, so it's best to follow the fish.
Along with a fully operational Howard Prairie Resort, the lake sports a series of recreational sites operated by Jackson County.
The county facilities opened for the season Thursday, with boat ramps now operational at Grizzly Peak, Willow Point, Klum Landing and at the resort.
The standard trout limit remains five trout a day with an 8-inch minimum, but only one can eclipse 20 inches.
That will change May 1 at Diamond Lake, where the sheer biomass of trout has enticed Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists to jack up the limit to eight trout a day, but still just one over 20 inches.
The new limit will remain in place through Oct. 27.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.