Winter steelhead season may be winding down but there are many fine opportunities to trout fish in Oregon Coastal lakes in the late winter and early spring. Some lakes offer wild trout, some only hatchery fish, and some offer both.
I’m fresh off three days fly fishing nearby coastal lakes and have this report.
Town Lake: just stocked, plenty of trout, but a disappointment this spring so far — the hatchery trout are very small and though numerous, show the signs of poor water conditions in the hatchery last summer. Still, this is a great place to launch small prams, kayaks, and float tubes near Pacific City and there are plenty of trout here.
Hebo Lake. Currently, this is my recommendation over my usual favorite lake. As of this week, the gate to the lake is still locked, but it is freshly stocked with nice chunky trout that are eager to take all manner of flies, especially a #12 gold ribbed Hare’s Ear under a tiny strike indicator. Jack Harrell and I took a short walk (150 yards) from the locked gate in to the lake last week and proceeded to have fun like kids catching and releasing trout at a fast pace. When I was less than ten years old, I would fish six or eight hours, casting Mepps or Super Duper lures, hoping to catch a stocked trout. Those were days when I often did not catch anything for my effort, or would catch but one trout a day. I NEVER – EVER experienced fast paced catching like I now know is possible. Other people fishing lures and power bait caught fish too, but the small nymph under a strike indicator was by far the most effective.
Hebo Lake is very small and there are several fishing platforms and semi-open areas where one may roll cast and reach the hatchery trout. A float tube or raft would put you in range of every trout in the lake. This is a nice place close by where you may take a young angler fishing with reasonable expectation of catching fish – or a couple of old guys can remember what it was like to be a kid, but this time actually catch trout instead of just wishing. The hatchery trout in HEBO LAKE seemed larger and in better condition than the trout in the Town Lake, and this is why I’m recommending this option at present.
Devils Lake. Located right in the suburbs of Lincoln City, this is a larger lake and a long shot but offers the very real potential of hooking large trout and wild trout. All un-clipped fish must be released, but my reliable sources assure me that regulars on this lake catch wild and hatchery trout between 14 inches to over 20 inches. You may catch cutthroat, coho salmon, steelhead, and hatchery rainbow in this lake. I fished here one day for about four hours and only caught one 11 inch cutthroat, but friends have caught many species of larger size this time of year. Apparently, the fishery will extend at least into July, with the months of April through June being prime time. Fish olive and black buggers on the strip. Trail buggers behind the boat as you row or drift with the wind (avoid very windy days). Fish chironomids just off the bottom on strike indicators. Fish Gold Ribbed Hare’s ears. Strip scuds. Fish Spruce flies and sculpin patterns. Move around and explore to find the fish and you will be rewarded. That’s my plan.
These are but three examples of trout fishing opportunities on the coast. This is a fishery pursued by a dedicated few, and the potential is huge for the avid trout angler fishing nymphs, streamers, and even dry flies as the spring progresses.
Tackle recommendations. If you already fish the lakes from docks, boats, or float tubes, you know what to fish. If this is new fishing to you, I would recommend any trout rod, reel and line. Floating lines are required when fishing strike indicators, and full slow sinking lines are the best option when fishing buggers and sculpin patterns. The #12-#8 bugger in olive, black, or brown are superior flies. The Gold Ribber Hare’s Ear is a winner for stepping and fishing under an indicator. Select the smallest indicator for this fishing. When the water is 8 ft deep, fish your flies at 5-7 ft depths.
Tactics. Pick a place to fish. Fish. If you get no grabs of take downs in five or ten minutes, move on. Troll your flies on sinking lines. When you hook a fish or get a bite, give the area more serious attention. The schools of trout in these lakes are often concentrated and there is no point fishing where the trout are thin or absent.
If the steelhead are not your game, or if you’re burnt out swinging and looking for a chance to actually catch fish, coastal lakes trout are waiting for your knock at the door.
My best to you all, and have fun whenever you fish or tie flies.
Jay Nicholas March 2016