The southwest area follows Interstate 5 from Drain south to the Oregon-California border and includes the communities of Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland. In this area, anglers can fish the famed lower Umpqua River, which offers one of the finest smallmouth bass fisheries in the country. Outstanding warmwater fishing for bass and panfish can also be found in the area's many lakes and reservoirs including Cooper Creek, Galesville and Emigrant Rreservoirs, and Selmac Lake. Smaller ponds near Sutherlin, Grants Pass and Medford including those at ODFW's Denman Wildlife Area are also good bets, particularly for families or young anglers.
Photo by Rick Swart
The warmer southern Oregon climate makes these waters more productive for a variety of fish including: Largemouth Bass | Smallmouth Bass | Bullheads | Black Crappie | White Crappie | Bluegill | Pumpkinseed | Yellow Perch | Green Sunfish | Warmouth | Channel Catfish
Located only 5 miles south of Ashland and less than 20 miles from Medford, Emigrant Reservoir is a convenient destination for anglers in southern Oregon. The nearly 900 acre Bureau of Reclamation reservoir located on Emigrant Creek supports a variety of fish including largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie, yellow perch, brown bullhead catfish and rainbow trout. Other recreational opportunities such as picnicking, camping, swimming and boating also make it an excellent destination for visiting families. The western side of the reservoir, the Hill Creek arm, and the upper Emigrant Creek arm offer good bank access, but the best fishing will be from a boat. An earthen boat ramp is available at Songer Wayside. Emigrant Lake County Park has two concrete ramps and developed amenities, including facilities for disabled anglers.
Among the variety of fish available, Emigrant might be best known for its smallmouth bass. Smallmouth can be found throughout the reservoir, but in the spring when bass move into the shallows to spawn they are most often caught along the shoreline areas and in the reservoir arms. As the water warms, larger smallmouth will be caught in deeper water along drop-offs, or at the northern end of the reservoir near and along the rock face of Emigrant Dam. Use light or medium spinning tackle rigged with 8- to 12-pound test line to cast spinners, jigs, or other lures that imitate bass prey such as small fish and crayfish.
During the spring and summer, anglers after largemouth bass should focus on the shallow areas of the reservoir arms where submerged willows and aquatic weeds provide good cover. Largemouth can be aggressive during spring spawning so a variety of lures will work including spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs and plastic baits. Later in the season, continue to fish shallow water in the morning and evening, but move to areas in and along deeper water during mid-day.
Anglers will find good crappie fishing in the shallow areas of the Hill Creek and Emigrant Creek arms. Crappie anglers should try using a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig combined with an oval slip bobber fished with light spinning tackle and 4- to 6-pound test line. Start with a lighter weight jig then shift to heavier weights if necessary, and have a variety of colors available. Change the distance between the slip bobber and jig will change the fishing depth. Experiment with different depths until you find fish. Fish the jig from 6 inches below the surface down to 6 inches off the bottom. In the spring, you’ll likely find crappie in about 3-15 feet of water, and in the summer down to 20-30 feet where they will school around rock piles. Keep close watch on the bobber as a bite can be anything from a small twitch to a sideways movement. When you see this, give your rod a quick but short jerk to set the hook. Crappie fishing will be best in the spring when water levels are higher and fish are in the cover close to shore.
For young anglers, Emigrant offers great fishing for bluegill and yellow perch. Bluegill can be easy to catch in the shoreline areas among submerged weeds and other vegetation. The standard set-up is a small hook baited with a worm or other panfish bait and suspended 12-18 inches below a bobber -- not only is this effective but it helps keep the hook from getting snagged. Light spinning or spin casting tackle rigged with 4-pound test line is easy to use. While bluegill fishing will be best when the water is warm, yellow perch can be caught throughout the year. When fishing for perch, use bait fished on or near the bottom around submerged weeds, rocks, logs, and stumps.
Emigrant also has a good fishery for brown bullhead catfish. Catfish fishing is best during the evening and at night when the catfish move into the shallows to feed, but they can be caught during the day a short distance off shore in deeper holes, troughs, or submerged stream bottoms. Baits with a strong odor often work well for catfish.
During the warm months of the year, anglers can expect to share Emigrant Reservoir with other recreational users and may want to fish during the quieter periods of morning and evening. The reservoir is also used to store water for irrigation and water levels during the summer can change leaving some areas high and dry until the following spring. Check for current conditions before heading out.
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