: David Cobb / Alamy Stock Photo

Camper’s Guide to Fishing in Oregon

July 6, 2021

Fishing usually entails getting up before sunrise. Loading all your gear into the vehicle. Driving a bit while downing coffee and trying to hit the lake before the fish wake up. Or there’s a decidedly different approach: yawning as you unzip the tent, breathing in the fresh lakeside air and casting your line before breakfast. Book a spot at any of these Oregon campgrounds and discover easy access to a variety of fish. You’ll create memories with your family that grow bigger every time you tell them. Here are several of Oregon’s top spots to do just that.

Timothy Lake comes with some of the best views of Mt. Hood. Book a campsite as early as possible, as the summer season fills up quickly. (Photo courtesy of USFS)

Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge

Located just east of Portland, the hardest part isn’t finding fish in the mountain lakes of Mt. Hood National Forest. It’s keeping your eye on the line and off the dramatic view of Oregon’s tallest volcano dominating the sky. Brook, rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout all call this place home, as well as kokanee — a landlocked salmon that spawn in their home lake.  

Six campgrounds at Timothy Lake, on the southern flank of Mt. Hood, offer postcard-perfect views. Watch the ripple of your spinner as you reel it in from your bankside site. Or delicately present a fly from your boat near the lake’s confluence with the Oak Grove Fork of the Clackamas River. Book your site at Gone Creek, Hoodview, North Arm, Oak Fork, The Cove, and Pine Point Campground, or look for dispersed camping available at some sites on a first-come, first-served basis.  

Don’t let the name fool you. The easily accessible Lost Lake Campground, on the northwestern flank of Mt. Hood, is a delightful place to rest at your lakeside campsite. Paddle out and troll a flasher with a worm in the hopes of landing dinner. If you come up short, you can always grab a burger at the restaurant. All of these sites here and at Timothy Lake fill up early, so check often for cancellations. 

Bring on the incredible fishing and stargazing at Prineville Reservoir State Park, newly designated as an international Dark Sky Park. (Photo by R.J. Sanchez / Oregon State Parks)

Central Oregon

Two oases teem with fish in the middle of the Central Oregon high desert. Here trout, large- and smallmouth bass, crappie, and bullhead swim to their heart’s content. When the temperatures rise, you’ll want to join them. 

Just over an hour north of Bend, the Pelton Dam may hold the water back, but it can’t contain your excitement at landing a big brown trout on a lure from your boat. With a boat launch and boat rentals available at Pelton Park Campground, you can relax at a tent, cabin or yome (a cross between a yurt and a dome, with canvas walls on a platform) site with truly clean showers. Rinse and repeat the process all over again tomorrow.

Tall cliffs. Desert ridges. Cold water and clear skies. This place is idyllic for abundant populations of crappie, brown bullhead and trout, too. Watch for tight lines as they take your jig. Then enjoy some of the best stargazing around from your site about an hour east of Bend at Prineville Reservoir State Park, newly designated as an international Dark Sky Park.

Lake of the Woods, just outside of Klamath Falls, is one of the best spots in the region to unwind with a rod. (Photo by Jak Wonderly / Travel Southern Oregon)

Southern Oregon

 Outside of Klamath Falls, tucked deep into the Cascade and Klamath ranges, two lakes offer big mountain views — not to mention lunker bass, feisty bullhead, plentiful perch and crappie, too. They’re perfect places to unwind. Until your rod bends and you shout “Fish on!” to envious friends. 

A popular lake in the summer, you can still find peace with your rod at Lake of the Woods with a stay at the Aspen Point Campground and Sunset Campground. Here at one of the clearest lakes in Southern Oregon, just an hour east of Medford, the knife-edged peak of Mt. McLoughlin and towering Douglas firs cut through the sky as fish break the water’s surface.

Less than an hour south of Roseburg and just off Interstate 5, the fishing for large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, trout, brown bullhead and yellow perch is second only to the amenities at Chief Miwaleta RV Park and Campground, which hugs the banks of the Galesville Reservoir. After growing tired of hauling in feisty fish near rolling green hills, you can relax in your RV at a full-hookup site, in a cozy cabin or under the stars in your tent. 

Find an abundant population of steelhead, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, largemouth bass, catfish, bluegill and brown bullhead at Tenmile Lake, on Oregon's Southern Coast. (Photo by Tim Hurlbut)

Coast Region

Fishing on the Oregon Coast might conjure up images of rocking side to side on a boat in big waves. For those who don’t have their sea legs yet, there’s still great fishing to be had off a jetty point or on a pristine inland lake. 

Just off U.S. Highway 101 and 12 miles south of Reedsport, Tenmile Lakes Park is an easy basecamp for a family fishing trip to Tenmile Lakes. The large, shallow waters of both the north and south lakes have a combined surface area of 2,000 acres, making it the fourth largest lake in Oregon. Fishers love the abundant populations of steelhead, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, largemouth bass, catfish, bluegill and brown bullhead. A little aim with a lure yields big rewards. 

Craggy rocks. Pounding surf. All thankfully seen from a safe viewing distance. The rising ocean tides bring numerous surf perch into shore near the north jetty of Tillamook Bay. Or rent a boat at Garibaldi Marina for some crabbing. Enjoy fresh Dungeness around the fire while camping at Barview Jetty County Campground as the sun sets on the Pacific.

A petrified forest is visible in the true-to-its-name waters of Clear Lake, an idyllic retreat for fishing and camping. (Photo by Wyatt Pace / EugeneCascadesCoast.org)

Willamette Valley

Driving east from Eugene feels as if you’re slowly moving through an oil painting. Verdant green trees surround you. Turquoise lakes reveal a rich diversity of aquatic wildlife, some of which are healthy populations of large rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout as well as crappie. 

At Clear Lake, along the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway, you can walk through a forest or you can fish above one. Three thousand years ago, a lava flow created a natural dam that inundated standing Douglas fir trees, and you can still see beneath the surface of the crystal blue water. Grab a spot at the Cold Water Cove Campground and hold your pole tight for when a monster hits your lure or fly.

The best way to fish the large, scenic Hills Creek Reservoir is trolling behind a motor, which you’ll need with how massive this body of water is. A water enthusiast’s paradise in the summer, it’s a haven for fish in September and October. You can catch some of them right near your campsite at Packard Creek Campground, 8 miles south of Oakridge.


If You Go:

Remember to purchase a fishing license before you go, and check for regulations, stocking schedules, fishing tips and even trip ideas at MyODFW. Many campsites can be crowded in the summer, so consider a trip in fall or spring for the fewest crowds. 

About The

Guy Ragnetti
Guy Ragnetti is a writer and creative director living in Portland, but his true home is in Oregon’s outdoors. When not working on stories for clients in the outdoor-recreation industry, you’ll find him backcountry skiing, surfing, fly-fishing and sailing. He shares these adventures with his wife, his daughter and their overly happy chocolate Lab.

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