MARK MORICAL,The (Bend) Bulletin via Associated Press
BEND, Ore. (AP) -- The low-lying sun cast shadows on the basalt field across the river just upstream of the Big Eddy Rapids. The sounds of the stream echoing through the cold, quiet air soothed the soul. Rainbow and brown trout lurked somewhere beneath the surface, looking for food to sustain them through the winter months to come.
Fall on the Deschutes River, and on most waterways in Central Oregon, is a special time. While many heralded lakes in the region closed for the season to trout fishing last weekend, lots of opportunities remain for anglers looking to land a few trout this fall and winter.
"Fish are trying to put on mass for the winter, when there's not as much forage available," said Brett Hodgson, a fisheries biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bend. "They are feeding extra heavy this time of year."
Fishing the Deschutes from Benham Falls downstream to Bend offers decent chances for rainbow and brown trout, and now is a good time to fish that section because water flows are conducive to successful angling.
"There's enough water in there and there's less water than during the summer irrigation season, so it's easier to fish," Hodgson said. "Once you get near Bend, it's fishable. But depending on the location, it would be challenging and potentially unsafe to try to wade it."
Flows on the Deschutes River near Bend are currently running at about 500 cubic feet per second, Hodgson said. The Deschutes from near Redmond downstream to Lake Billy Chinook also offers excellent fishing this time of year. But stream flows can be significantly high in that section, and Hodgson said anglers should stay on the bank when fishing that area.
In addition to the Deschutes, the Metolius River near Sisters and the Crooked River near Prineville are productive fisheries throughout the fall and winter.
"The Metolius is excellent for fly fishing for both rainbow and bull trout," Hodgson said. "Bull trout completed their spawning run, so there'll be adult fish coming back from the spawning tributaries. Now's a really good time to try to catch bull trout."
Lake fishing opportunities also last into the winter in Central Oregon, due in part to the ODFW's new fall stocking program. Thanks to a special appropriation from the Oregon Legislature, the ODFW has supplemented its regular stocking program with several thousand larger and trophy-sized trout. The legislation provided $400,000 for the fish and wildlife department to purchase additional trout from private hatcheries in order to enhance fishing opportunities throughout the state.
In Central Oregon, 10- to 12-inch rainbow trout were stocked last week in Three Creek Lake, North Twin Lake, Ochoco Reservoir, Haystack Reservoir and Shevlin Pond. This supplemental stocking will resume next spring and continue through 2011.
Three Creek Lake, south of Sisters, and North Twin Lake, southwest of Bend, should remain open for a month or so, by which time snow is likely to impede access.
"As we move forward with this program, in purchasing trout from private vendors, we'll release the fall fish earlier in the year," Hodgson said. "This was kind of a pilot program this year. We'll try to get them (the stocked fish) in the lakes in September so people have more opportunity."
Trout fishing on Ochoco Reservoir near Prineville should remain good throughout the fall until the reservoir freezes over, which typically happens in late December or January. The water level of the reservoir is currently low, Hodgson said, but the boat ramp is operational.
Haystack Reservoir near Culver is a prime destination for winter fishing on the High Desert. Winter and early spring, when water conditions are at their peak, are the best times to fish Haystack, according to Hodgson.
"During irrigation season, the water level is consistently going up and down during the day, which can throw the fish off somewhat," Hodgson said of Haystack. "Now the water level is stable and it's a very good time to fish Haystack. There's nice browns to be had in there as well."
Prineville Reservoir also offers good trout fishing through the winter, as does Lake Billy Chinook, though the Metolius arm of the lake does not open until March 1.
"There's not many people that target bull trout before March 1 on Lake Billy Chinook, but there are guys who do very well," Hodgson said. "And the kokanee population in Lake Billy Chinook appears to have rebounded from lows of a few years ago."
Which further lengthens the list of winter opportunities for hardy Central Oregon anglers who refuse to stay indoors during the late fall and winter.
Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.