ASHLAND — This year's fishing season marks a turning point for Hyatt Lake and the anglers who have enjoyed this big-trout factory at the top of the Dead Indian Plateau.
The vast majority of the trout now swimming beneath the ice on this partially frozen lake were part of fall fingerling stockings the past two years in an attempt to recreate trout success at nearby Howard Prairie Lake.
The fall fingerling are expected to be better at escaping predation from illegally stocked largemouth bass that have so overrun the lake that they've even stunted their own growth rates.
The lake should sport its best complement in years of trout 8 to 16 inches long, plus some larger holdovers from past plants of legal-sized trout, says Dan VanDyke, Rogue District fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Partaking of that new abundance could begin April 28 with the opening of trout season, but getting what's under the water there will hinge largely on what's on top of it.
This past week the lake has remained mired under snow and ice, with the ice breaking around the edges. A warm front forecast for next week could melt and break up the ice enough that open water would be available for opening day.
Though Hyatt Lake anglers are used to an iced-over lake on opening weekend, they might not recognize some other amenities.
The Mountain Resort at Hyatt Lake is open for its final season after losing its lease with the federal government.
The resort's boat ramp is now blocked off, but the area is open for parking for those who wish to bank-fish from that location, says resort general manager Bill Duke.
The store, restaurant and cabins will be open throughout the season, Duke says. "Just because they blocked the boat ramp off doesn't mean we're not open."
The Bureau of Land Management plans to revamp two ramps at its campground on the lake's southern end beginning shortly after the Fourth of July, says Nick Schade, BLM's outdoor recreation planner.
The ramp work will be staggered so at least one ramp will be open there at all times, Schade says.
Boat access is important, because fishing PowerBait from anchored boats or trolling along the old creek channel that runs the length of the lake are tactics favored by Hyatt Lake disciples.
The lake has fallen out of favor during the past decade after the largemouth explosion forced ODFW to abandoned its stocking of fingerling that historically grew large thanks to the lake's vast insect population.
ODFW stocked legal-sized trout to keep the trout fishery viable until the fall fingerling program began in 2010 with the release of 80,000 rainbows. That was followed up with 41,000 fingerlings last year, VanDyke says.
Trolling Triple Teasers or Wedding Ring lures (often spiked with half a night crawler) slowly off weed lines in the spring and fall is popular for trout.
What remains of the lake's largemouth population provides great still-fishing opportunities for families because the largemouth will bite any lure thrown their way — especially if it's red.
The lake's ice started to break up this last week and boat access already is available at the Wildcat ramp on the lake's north end, Duke says. With warm weather forecast for next week, Duke expects the lake to be accessible to fishers for the opener.
"All we need is a good wind, and it'll all be gone," Duke says.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.