Central Oregon has bounty of winter fishing opportunities

Bob Saw, of Powell Butte, fishes on a run in the Crooked River east of Bend.AP/The Bulletin, Ryan Brennecke

The stream was so packed with anglers I could scarcely find my own rock to stand on.

Dozens of fishermen lined the banks of the Crooked River south of Prineville on an unseasonably warm fall day to try their hand at landing some native redband trout or whitefish.

The Crooked is always a popular fishing destination in Central Oregon, but this time of year it becomes even more so.

When many lakes and river sections close to fishing at the end of October, anglers' options dwindle. The Crooked River, which remains open year-round, is well-known as a reliable place to catch sizable wild trout. The use of bait is prohibited, but the Crooked below Bowman Dam — about a 40-minute drive from Bend — is an ideal place to fly-fish.

Population surveys conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife indicate an increase in the number of redband trout per mile on the Crooked, according to Erik Moberly, assistant district fish biologist for the ODFW in Bend.

"The anglers have stated that the fishing has been fair to good in the Crooked," Moberly says. "From what I've heard, fishing seems to be pretty stable."

Recently on the Crooked River, with air temperatures reaching 70 degrees, scores of fish could be seen and heard rising to the surface of the water at Big Bend Campground, just below Bowman Dam.

In a couple of hours, I landed two plump redband trout and two whitefish. Dozens of other anglers seemed to be having success as well. Although fish were rising to dry flies, fishing below the surface with nymphs seemed to be the most effective technique.

In addition to the Crooked, other Central Oregon rivers remain open to fishing year-round. The Middle Deschutes, from Bend to Lake Billy Chinook, holds opportunity but becomes a challenge when the water flows increase as river diversion for irrigation ceases.

"You do have to pay attention to what's going on (with the flows)," Moberly says. "There's definitely some flow fluctuations that are going to happen here over the next couple of weeks with the drawdown of Mirror Pond (in Bend) and the repairs and inspection of the Newport Avenue Dam. But that's just the next couple weeks, and in the wintertime it'll be back to normal."

Moberly noted that some of the best places to fish on the Middle Deschutes include Foley Waters and Steelhead Falls, both located near Crooked River Ranch. The Upper Deschutes, upstream of Benham Falls, is closed for the winter.

Other area rivers that offer wintertime trout fishing include the Fall River, just south of Sunriver, and the Metolius River, just northwest of Sisters. The Metolius River upstream of Allingham Bridge closed to fishing Oct. 31.

The majority of the high Cascade lakes in Central Oregon close to fishing on Halloween — but not all of them. Crescent, Cultus, Davis and North Twin lakes are a few water bodies in the high country that remain open to angling when accessible. Anglers might have only a couple of weeks before those lakes get snowed in and become inaccessible.

"The thing with that is, the weather might be colder and it's changing, but the angling pressure can be a lot lighter in the late fall," Moberly says. "People are gearing up for fishing — without the people. You can have some of the greatest fishing in late fall when people are thinking about other things."

Other Central Oregon lakes that remain open to angling year-round and are often snow-free in the winter include Prineville and Ochoco reservoirs near Prineville and Haystack Reservoir near Culver. During warmer fall and winter days, fishing can pick up on these water bodies.

"A lot of people fish out there, especially when it gets a little warmer," Moberly says of Prineville and Ochoco reservoirs. "But when it's really cold, it can make it really difficult to catch fish. It really just depends on the weather that we're having. Any warm days that provide a small hatch or a rise in the water temperature, the fish react to that. One or two degrees of a temperature increase, and those fish can get a little active, a little snappy."


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