Adjacent to Oregon Route 351, Wallowa Lake is perfect for a scenic weekend getaway — especially if you enjoy camping and fishing. Anglers will be hard-pressed to find a lake as productive as this one. Home to stocked and wild trout of various sub-species, this beautiful ribbon lake has produced some record-size mackinaw and kokanee salmon.
In fact, Wallowa Lake is home to the unofficial world record for largest kokanee salmon ever caught. Because of its remote location in the Wallowa Mountains in Northeastern Oregon, there is plenty of space for anglers aspiring to set new records or amateurs looking for bites along the shoreline. Best of all, Wallowa Lake rarely freezes, so fishing is open all year, with some limits enforced when stocking takes place.
This day started early in a two-person canoe. Blue-bird skies with a peppering of thin clouds set the mood for the day. With a thermos full of coffee and fishing rods rigged with inline spinners, we began fishing for anything that would bite. It wasn’t long before a rainbow trout found its way onto my hook and into the canoe. With the sun rising behind us and a beautiful trout in my hands, I took in the breathtaking landscape of fresh alpine trees, tall grass and snow-capped mountains. There are few times in life that allow one to truly appreciate the awe-inspiring wonders that nature can offer, and this particular moment was just that.
The morning flew by quickly as we enjoyed the lake’s serenity, and a seemingly short time later it was time to head back to camp for lunch. Though remote, Wallowa Lake State Park has plenty of comfortable lodging options, with 121 full-hookup sites, 89 tent sites and two yurts, plus hot showers and flush toilets. There are also rental cabins and the famous Wallowa Lake Lodge close by.
Campside grilled cheeseburgers were on order, and it wasn’t long before our bellies were thoroughly satisfied with delicious fire-cooked burgers.
Looking to catch something worthy of a story to tell, we headed back out to the canoe for another go at the fish. We rigged our rods with some small jerk baits normally used in bass fishing and cast parallel to the rocky shoreline. After just a few casts, my wife had a sizable mackinaw trout on her lure. Light tackle was being utilized so she played the fish and took her time before bringing it into the canoe. She later said, “the fight with that fish itself was reason enough to visit this lake again and again.”
The scenic landscape was a bonus on top of the superb fishing. After several impressive aerial acrobatic acts from the trout, we netted the fish and weighed it. The fish weighed in at a whopping 12 pounds and 5 ounces, enough to put a grin on anyone’s face. We quickly placed the fish back in the water to ensure that this fishery remains abundant with large catchable trout for future generations to enjoy.
If you enjoy camping and fishing and had to choose just one body of water in Oregon to visit, you won’t go wrong with Wallowa Lake. I promise it will be a breathtaking adventure you’ll never forget and that you’ll never stop talking about.