More people in Oregon fish for trout than for any other kind of fish. Anglers can experience a lifetime of varied and rewarding adventures fishing for trout in Oregon’s shaded coastal streams, alpine lakes, urban ponds and high desert rivers.
Our video series - How to Fish for Trout in Oregon - will show you everything you need to know to get started.
A general Oregon fishing license is all that’s required to fish for trout. Youth 12-17 years old need a juvenile angling license and kids under 12 fish for free.
Trout are widely distributed and can be found in almost any water body that provides:
Trout habitats are often divided into lakes and ponds (still waters) or rivers and streams (moving waters). Fish location, behavior and fishing tactics will vary depending on whether you’re fishing in still waters or moving waters.
In still waters trout are on the move, “cruising” the water looking for food. At the same time, trout don’t want to get too far away from cover that offers protection from predators. Some likely places to look for trout in lakes and ponds include:
The best time of year to trout fish in lower elevation lakes is in the spring and fall when the water is cooler and the trout are more active. This also is when most lakes are stocked. In the warm summer months, anglers can look for trout in cooler, deeper waters, or in high mountain lakes that remain cool year-round. In warmer parts of the state, such as the Willamette Valley or along the coast, trout fishing in lakes or ponds can be good well into the winter months – for anglers hardy enough to brave cold and wet weather.
In moving waters, trout tend to hold in one spot and wait for the water current to bring food to them. A primary food source for these fish is aquatic insects adrift in the current. In addition to looking for food and protection from predators, trout in moving waters are also looking for a place to rest from the current. So some likely places to look for trout in rivers and streams include:
Most rivers and streams fish best in the spring and fall when water temperatures are cooler. Few rivers and streams are stocked, so you’ll likely be fishing for naturally reproducing or wild fish. As the water gets warmer, look for trout in faster riffles where the water gets re-oxygenated as it tumbles over rocks. Some rivers, especially in central Oregon, are open for trout year-round. Fishing can be good in the winter months – for hardy anglers willing to brave the cold and snow – but look for trout in slow, calm waters where they don’t have to fight the current.
The list of necessary trout fishing gear and equipment can be very simple. A rod and reel, and a small selection of lures, bait hooks, bobbers and artificial bait is enough to go fishing just about anywhere you might find trout. A good shopping list to get started might include:
Fly-fishing is another popular way to fish for trout. It requires more specialized equipment and tools, but a good starter outfit could include:
There are lots (and lots) of ways to fish for trout, but three of the easiest ways to fish for trout in lakes are:
In moving water it is the current, instead of your retrieve, that will affect how your lure moves in the water. Some good trout fishing techniques for moving waters include:
Wherever you go, be sure to check the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations for the daily bag limits, bait restrictions or other fishing guidelines for the specific lake, river or stream you’ll be fishing.
Each year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks over 7 million trout in lakes, ponds and reservoirs throughout the state. These hatchery fish are raised and stocked for anglers to take home and enjoy on the grill or in the frying pan or oven.
However, most trout in rivers and streams are wild fish that reproduce naturally. Some anglers prefer to release these fish so they can be caught again, or perhaps reproduce. In a handful of rivers and lakes, catch-and-release fishing is required. If you’re going to release the fish you catch, here are some tips for doing it safely:
Rainbow trout are the most widely stocked and distributed trout in Oregon. They occur naturally in many rivers and streams and are stocked in ponds and lakes. They are highly variable in color, often silvery, with a light pink to red stripe along each side. They can reach up to 30 inches in length. Rainbow trout prefer cold, clear water and are most often found in water 45-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Their diet consists of minnows, crayfish, insects, and other small aquatic life, making them susceptible to a well-presented spinner, flatfish or fly.
Redband rainbow trout is a subspecies of rainbow trout indigenous to central Oregon and adapted to the arid conditions east of the Cascades. Redband trout inhabit cool streams and rivers, as well as some lakes, and they can grow up to 18 inches long.
Cutthroat trout get their name from the red-orange slashes on the underside of the lower jaw. The most common variety available to most anglers is the coastal cutthroat found in many streams and beaver ponds in coastal drainages. Trout that remain in the stream year-round may not get any bigger than 8 or 9 inches long but reward the angler with an aggressive bite and enthusiastic fight. The sea-run strain that travels to saltwater to feed may reach an impressive 17 inches.
Brown trout, introduced in the U.S. in 1883, have a reputation for being wily and elusive. While they prefer cold spring-fed rivers and streams, and lakes with cold water inlets, brown trout also can be more tolerant of warmer streams and lakes. These trout can range in size from 11 inches long in small streams up to 30 inches in larger rivers and lakes. While brown trout have a varied diet, anglers targeting large brown trout often use spinners or flies that mimic minnows.
Brook trout are an introduced fish species that were first stocked in the early 1900s. While technically not a trout (they are a member of the char family), their life history, ecology and habitat are similar to brown and rainbow trout. Brook trout are widely distributed from high mountain lakes to headwater tributaries. They are the most prevalent game fish in both wilderness and non-wilderness high lakes. In small streams and high lakes brook trout are typically small – 5 to 7 inches long. In larger streams and rivers they can reach more than 25 inches. Because insect larvae and nymphs make up a large part of their diet, they are a favorite target of fly-fishers who use flies mimicking these insects. However, these aggressive biters will also go after a variety of other baits and lures.
Header photo by Roger Smith
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