Fishing

Klamath County has a lot of great outdoor opportunities, but only one can call itself the best: fishing. The Klamath Basin is home to the best wild native rainbow trout fishing in the Lower 48.

An incredible subspecies of rainbow trout, the Newberri redband (Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii) have called the Klamath Basin home for as long as anglers have been around to catch them. The fishing is so good, in fact, that it draws anglers from all over the world.

There are no shortage of fishing opportunities because Klamath County is huge, so figuring it out on your own can be overwhelming. Read more about the Basin from local fishing author Luke Ovgard or book a guided trip with one of the many capable guides and outfitters.

Upper Klamath Lake & Agency Lake

The lake is at once the best and the most daunting part of the Klamath Basin fishery. You can expect massive redband trout in good numbers if you know what you’re doing. Though fishing is open here year-round, the redband trout found here are highly migratory, and you’re chasing fish that just aren’t in the lake consistently during the summer or winter. Fish move into the lake to feed during the spring and fall, and you can catch a dozen or more fish over 20 inches in a day.

Fish average 23 to 25 inches most years, with 28-inch fish setting the standard for “trophies” and 30-inchers being every angler’s lifetime goal. The lake record was 37 inches long, and weighed more than 25 pounds. Can you break it? Most local guides offer trips in Upper Klamath and Agency Lakes, so you don’t have to fly blind. You can also launch from any of half a dozen boat launches found around the lake — all of which are free.

One of the most popular areas is Rocky Point. Both the Rocky Point Resort and Harriman Springs Resort offer an array of services, including camping, cabins, restaurants, boat moorage and launching, and even canoe and kayak rentals.

Upper Klamath and Agency Lakes are open year-round and allow retention of one fish over 15 inches in length, but catch and release is strongly encouraged as these fish are wild and have infinitely more sport value than food value. You can use flies, lures, or bait in either lake.

Lake of the Woods

Lake of the Woods is located 34 miles west of Klamath Falls via Hwy 140. Though more popular for boaters, swimmers, and sunbathers than anglers, the lake is home to more species of fish than any other lake in the county. In addition to rainbow and brown trout, kokanee (landlocked sockeye salmon), largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, crappie, and bullhead catfish all reside here, as well as several species not really targeted by anglers.

The Lake of the Woods Resort offers tackle and gear, boat rentals, a restaurant and lodging amenities. Should you decide to launch your own boat or fish from shore, all of the access points are privately managed and charge a day-use fee, so bring cash.

Since the water is cold and clear, fed by springs and snowmelt, and there are no native fishes here, there’s no better place to eat your catch. Fishing is open year-round, and ice fishing is even available when conditions permit.

Odell lake

Odell Lake is located in northern Klamath County, about two hours from Klamath Falls. The lake is 300 feet deep in many places and is subject to serious winds. Ideal habitat provides for a healthy kokanee salmon fishery, as well as native and hatchery rainbow trout stocks and native mountain whitefish. These two species fuel its most popular fishery: lake trout. This is one of just four lakes in the state with lakers (the others being Crescent, Cultus, and Fourmile).

With two resorts, great amenities, and the potential to match the 40-pound state record lake trout, it is an ideal place for your family vacation. Check out all the amenities at Odell Lake Lodge & Resort or Shelter Cover Resort — where you can find camping, lodging, a boat launch, coffee, food, fishing gear, and even groceries.

Odell Lake is open April 22 – October 31. Special regulations exist, so consult the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations before making the trip.

Pronghorn Lake Ranch

This 150-acre private, secluded lake is full of trophy-sized rainbow trout, largemouth bass and black crappie. Abundant wildlife for photographers and birders are present, as well. It is located just 40 miles east of Klamath Falls. Overnight sleeping quarters available, as well as a boat ramp. This lake doesn’t allow gas motors, so use a trolling motor, canoe, kayak, pontoon boat or float tube.

Rates are reasonable, and it is fly-only for trout, though you can use conventional gear for bass. To book your day on the water, contact Pronghorn Lake Ranch directly.

Crescent Lake

Crescent Lake is Odell’s little brother. It’s not quite as deep, has fewer amenities, and isn’t nearly as popular, but it offers great fishing. Lake trout, brown trout and kokanee make up the bulk of the catch here, though there are scattered mountain whitefish and some rainbow trout present.

Crescent Lake is located within the Crescent Ranger District, as well as the Deschutes National Forest. The area has many trails for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and areas for off-road vehicles. There is a public boat launch as well as a smaller, rougher private launch at the Crescent Lake Resort. Crescent Lake Resort offers 19 Cabins of all sizes for your comfort and pleasure. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner overlooking beautiful Crescent Lake on the patio and take advantage of the full bar on those balmy summer evenings.

Crescent Lake is open year-round, though it is typically snowed in during part or all of the winter. Special regulations exist, so consult the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations before making the trip.

Miller Lake

Miller Lake is located just 12 miles west of Chemult, Oregon on Miller Lake Road (NF-9772), but it’s a long and bumpy 12 miles most of the year. Access will be snowed-in often enough that you should call the Chemult Ranger Station before you make the trip.

The lake is stocked periodically with brown, brook and rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, making it a favorite fishing spot in Klamath County. There are trophy browns available at Miller Lake, but most rainbows and kokanee are small. It is uniquely suited to targeting trophy browns, as you can fish for trout 24 hours a day here —  a rarity in Oregon — and the best time to target brown trout.

Camping is available at Digit Point Campground. The campground offers a full array of activities including camping, boating, swimming, fishing, and hiking. It’s a great access point to the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness Area for hikers, as well. One more thing, bring bug spray.

Miller Lake is open year-round, though it is typically snowed in all winter. Some adventurous folks snowmobile in. Special regulations exist, so consult the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations before making the trip.

Sprague River

The longest Klamath Basin river entirely within Oregon’s borders has the potential to be the toughest and the most rewarding fishery. It’s not as popular as the Williamson because it is a river that requires much more skill to fish. On top of that, the nearly 100 miles has very little public access, so if you’re just visiting Klamath Falls, this is not the place for you. Instead, we recommend a guided trip.

The Sprague requires an incredible time commitment, but if you put in the time, there are monsters around.

The Upper Sprague River and the North and South Fork contain brook and brown trout as well as native redbands. The Middle Sprague near the town of Sprague River also has a quiet fishery for largemouth bass and yellow perch — both of which can be harvested with no limit on number or size.

Sprague River is open April 22 – October 31 and allows retention of two fish over 15 inches in length with not more than one of those over 20 inches, but catch and release is strongly encouraged as these fish are wild and have infinitely more sport value than food value. Special regulations exist, so consult the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations before making the trip.

Willamson River

“The Williamson is considered by many to be the best trophy rainbow stream in the Western United States,” says flyfisherman Michael Fong. Though it is heavily pressured and can be a tough fishery mid-summer, the Williamson lives up to its reputation as a destination trout fishery. There are three basic sections of the river: Upper, Middle, and Lower Williamson.

Fish the Upper Williamson and its tributaries if you’re after a lot of small- or medium-sized fish. This stretch is especially conducive to fly fishing and casting small lures.

Fish the Middle Williamson during the spring, summer and fall if you’re after a challenge. This stretch receives the most pressure, but during key hatches, the fly fishing is great, and fishing with large lures that simulate native tui chub or blue chub is great any time.

Fish the Lower Williamson if you have a boat. Trolling lures or wet flies can work well here, as well as casting to the weed edges. Early and late in the season, this area can be especially productive, but access is limited.

Key access points include the Williamson River Campground, Collier State Park and downriver, near Chiloquin, OR. You can also launch from or camp at the ever-popular Water Wheel Campground.

The Williamson is limited to artificial flies and lures only, is catch-and-release only for wild native redband trout and is open May 22 through October 31, save the Upper Williamson, which opens a month earlier on April 22. You can retain invasive brook and brown trout, but outside the upper river and its tributaries, both of those species are relatively rare.

Wood River

The Wood River is nearly as popular as the Williamson, but is a much more difficult fishery. These slow, clear and cold spring waters hold large numbers of healthy invasive brown and brook trout, as well as native redband trout and a growing population of native bull trout. The Wood River is ideal for dry fly fishing with its endless cut banks and grassy turns — especially late in the summer.

All of this world-class fishing rests in the shadow of Crater Lake’s glory, sprawling meadowlands and mixed forests. You just might see a herd of elk in the most remote and wild fishery that still allows for easy access you’ll ever find.

The Wood River Day Use Area offers four picnic sites as well as a place to retrieve rafts, canoes, kayaks, or drift boats launched upriver at Jackson F. Kimball State Park. The area offers fully accessible trails, fishing platforms and restrooms, but bring your own drinking water. Picnicking, fishing and wildlife viewing are popular activities. There is no fee for use of either area, and tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Wood River is limited to artificial flies and lures only, is catch-and-release only for wild native redband trout and is open April 22 through October 31. You can retain invasive brook and brown trout, and browns are the most common fish in most of the river.

Klamath River

A Federally-designated “wild and scenic river”, the Klamath River cuts through steep canyons and offers some of the best high-volume trout fishing you may ever see. Though there are monsters here, the average fish ranges from 14 to 18 inches and is thicker than the average Basin fish. Whereas 21 inches marks a three-pound fish in most of the Basin, 18 inches is usually the three-pound mark for Klamath redband trout.

Access is plentiful though anything but easy. This is not a place for those in poor shape or young children considering the rapid changes in elevation, steep, poorly-maintained roads and trails, sharp rocks, snakes, yellow jackets and potential for bears and cougars. That said, if you can make it down here, expect to catch more wild native trout in a day than anywhere else on earth — save maybe Alaska.  We recommend a guided trip for your first time out.

Pay close attention to flows via the United States Geological Survey which will show up-to-the-minute flows. The river is unsafe to fish at more than 2000 cubic feet per second (CFS), so unless you’ve memorized the river, don’t risk it.

The Klamath River has a unique season and is open year-round save for June 15 – September 30, when it closes to limit stress-induced mortality. Catch and release is encouraged, though you can keep one fish over 15 inches per day if you want to carry it out on the miles-long hike out.

Link River

A federally-designated “wild and scenic river”, the Link River connects Klamath Lake to Lake Ewauna, one of the most overlooked gems in the Klamath Basin. Many other rivers provide great fly fishing opportunities, but fly fishing the Link is darn-near impossible due to lack of wading access and thick foliage along the length of the river.

Pay close attention to flows via the United States Geological Survey which will show up-to-the-minute flows. The river is unsafe to fish at more than 1500 cubic feet per second (CFS), so unless you’ve memorized the river, don’t risk it.

Use heavier salmon or steelhead gear here, or you won’t have a prayer of landing trout in the ripping current.

Link River is open year-round and allows retention of one fish over 15 inches in length, but catch and release is strongly encouraged as these fish are wild and have infinitely more sport value than food value. You can use flies, lures, or bait in Link River.

So you want to visit Klamath County?

This guide will show you why Klamath is the perfect spot for your vacation!