It’s safe to say that Oregon is not usually listed as a top destination for avid ice anglers. But don’t let the lack of notoriety fool you.
Locals know that some of the best winter fishing is through the ice and it’s still a well kept secret. When the rainy west coast starts wearing on you, head to the mountains or drive further east for some of the best ice fishing Oregon has to offer.
Not all Oregon lakes freeze enough for safe ice fishing every winter. However, high elevation lakes near the Cascade Mountains and plenty of mid-elevation lakes and reservoirs in eastern Oregon freeze reliably.
If you are ready for some ice fishing this winter, here are the 7 best lakes in Oregon you should try:
- Diamond Lake
- Lake of the Woods
- Fish Lake
- Chickahominy Reservoir
- Prineville Reservoir
- Thief Valley Reservoir
- Wolf Creek Reservoir
Each lake offers something unique for ice anglers so keep reading for a full lake report and essential tips for success. Plus, read to the end to check out some early ice fishing opportunities on a few top producing ponds.
1. Diamond Lake
Diamond Lake is all you could ever want for ice fishing. This big, high elevation gem covers over 3,000 acres and is the arguably the top trout fishing destination in Oregon all year. To cap it off, Diamond Lake is easily accessible in winter and surrounded by stunning mountain peaks.
An hour and a half drive east of Roseburg, Oregon takes you deep into the Umpqua National Forest. You’ll find excellent winter accommodations on the northeast shore at Diamond Lake Resort where you can get the latest ice fishing updates, advice, tackle and even rent an ice auger.
Trophy trout over 20 inches are abundant in the lake which is heavily stocked with keeper sized rainbow trout. Tiger trout and brown trout spice up the catch and are stocked in Diamond Lake to control populations of illegally introduced tui chub. All tigers and browns must be released if caught.
Ice thick enough for safe ice fishing generally forms by January. By mid-winter when the ice is thicker, snowmobiles allow easier travel to distant fishing spots on this sprawling lake.
However, most ice anglers find plenty of room and success within a short walk from the resort. Focus your efforts in 20 feet or less of water to start. While not necessary, electronics will help find the fish. Small spoons, tungsten jigs and small minnow imitations like a Rapala Shad Rap all produce decent catches.
Tip your lures with wax worms, meal worms or a chunk of nightcrawler to entice finicky trout. The daily limit is 5 trout but you can only keep one over 20 inches.
2. Lake of the Woods
Lake of the Woods sits nestled among the trees midway between Medford and Klamath just off Highway 140. While it’s not exactly on the scale of Minnesota’s similarly named Lake of the Woods, it still produces fine ice fishing for a variety of species.
Situated at nearly 5,000 feet in elevation this 1,146 acre lake pumps out spunky stocked trout up to 16 inches and abundant eater sized perch. Other species wrestled through the ice each year include bluegill, crappie, kokanee, bass and the rare chunky brown trout. Some 10 pound browns do exist in Lake of the Woods.
Most winters cap the lake in ice by the end of December. Although, you should call Lake of the Woods Resort for the most up-to-date ice forecast before making the drive. The lake is surrounded by numerous private cabins. The easiest spots for accessing the ice includes Lake of the Woods Resort (open year-round), Aspen Point and Sunset Point campgrounds.
Early ice produces the best bite for trout along shallow flats adjacent to deep water. If you are starting from the lodge, try Rainbow Bay or head north and drill a short distance from shore. Yellow perch are always willing to bite. Use a few waxies on a small tungsten jig. You’ll locate perch in slightly deep water holding tight to bottom.
3. Fish Lake
Just a few miles west of Lake of the Woods and less than an hour outside Medford, you’ll find beautiful Fish Lake. Fish Lake lies in the shadow of Mt. McLoughlin and is an extremely popular ice fishing destination.
During drought years, the fishing quality takes a hit. However, during most winters this 486 acre reservoir relinquishes plentiful stocked rainbow trout and gorgeous brook trout in the 10-14 inch range. If you’re lucky, you may hook into a feisty tiger trout which must be released.
By mid-January ice thickness reaches a safe 6 to 10 inches. Start your trip at Fish Lake Resort where you can get last minute gear or rent an ice auger. The resort is open Friday through Sunday during winter and cabins are available to rent.
Trout are well dispersed throughout Fish Lake. Focus your efforts shallow in 10 to 20 feet of water. During early morning and late evening prime-time hours big trout tend to move even shallower to feed. Sometimes you can find them in water less than 8 feet deep. Keep quiet to avoid spooking fish in the shallows.
Simple bait options often out fish everything else. Powerbait or nightcrawlers on a plain hook with a small split shot catch limits for most ice anglers. Small jigging spoons or micro ice jigs also fool rainbows and brookies.
4. Chickahominy Reservoir
At full pool, Chickahominy Reservoir spans 530 acres among the desert sage brush in southeast Oregon. The reservoir is situated along a somewhat isolated stretch of Highway 20, 100 miles east of Bend and 30 miles outside of Burns, Oregon. Lodging in Burns is your best bet if traveling from outside the area.
The surroundings may look dry and lifeless but trout grow fast and huge in Chickahominy. Feasting on minnows, leeches and insects all year, rainbow trout average 16-18 inches with some reaching several pounds.
The arid central region of Oregon gets a dose of frigid temperatures early and a good 4-6 inches of ice caps most of the reservoir by mid-December. Keep in mind that ice thickness fluctuates across the lake so exercise caution. The best ice is found at the BLM access site at the south end of the lake.
Chickahominy Reservoir averages 10 feet deep with the deepest portions reaching 28 feet when full. Trout run shallow and often feed just below the ice. Standard trout baits and ice flies are effective. A flashy jigging spoon sometimes helps attract fish from a distance.
Be prepared for stiff icy winds that frequently scour the area. A popup ice shelter makes for a more enjoyable day as long as you stake it down tight.
5. Prineville Reservoir
This amazingly scenic reservoir is a popular year-round destination for central Oregon residents. Winter fishing opportunities draw anglers from the nearby towns of Bend and Prineville. Both are less than a 45 minute drive away and provide great options for winter lodging.
During average winters, the 3,000 acre expanse of Prineville Reservoir ices over by mid-January. Rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, bass, catfish and crappie call this Crooked River impoundment home. Although, through the ice trout are the main catch.
You’ll find an abundance of 16 inch trout cruising shorelines in the numerous coves along the reservoir. The western half generally harbors the best ice early on in the season. When the bite is hot, drop down a Swedish Pimple tipped with a few waxies for good measure.
Anglers targeting Prineville Reservoir’s large population of smallmouth bass through the ice should fish rocky points or gravel beds in up to 40 feet of water. Small rattle baits get bass interested but occasionally a smaller offering like a 1.5 inch plastic grub on a micro jig gets them to commit.
If you’re looking to chase crappie through the ice, electronics are essential. Tight schools of crappie suspend over deep water. The crappie are not huge in this lake and population booms and busts are common from year to year.
6. Thief Valley Reservoir
Thief Valley Reservoir on the Powder River sits only an hour north of Baker City off I-84. Desert shrub steep and sage covered hills make for a beautiful back drop that pairs well with the excellent ice fishing.
Rainbow trout are the main quarry swimming in Thief Valley Reservoir’s 900 acres (full pool). Crappie and largemouth bass are also available for anglers looking to lay some spiny-rays on the ice.
As an irrigation reservoir, heavy drawdowns in drought years negatively impact fishing for the following season. Even so, this nutrient rich reservoir recovers quickly. Trout populations are sustained with the help of heavy stocking of one hundred thousand rainbow fingerlings annually and incredibly fertile waters. The result is big trout with 20 inch bows taken every year on everything from Powerbait to Jigging Raps.
Access out on the ice is easiest from the county park on the east bank. Ice fishing is actually quite good just a short ways out from the boat ramp. A few inches of ice normally forms by January but check every step on your way out.
Your best option for lodging is at the town of North Powder or further south in Baker City. We recommend contacting a fisheries biologist for information on water levels and the ice fishing outlook.
7. Wolf Creek Reservoir
A hop, skip and a jump across I-84 from Thief Valley is Wolf Creek Reservoir. This 200 acre impoundment on Wolf Creek harbors fast action ice fishing for stocked rainbow trout. Wolf Creek is a great option in years when more drought-prone reservoirs have suffered.
The launch area near the dam is easily accessible throughout the winter. First ice is generally the best closest to the dam, which is an easy trek from the parking area. Stay off the soft ice up near the headwaters early in the season.
Trout tend to cruise through shallows and stay suspended in the upper water column as they venture over deeper water. Some of the best catches are had with subtle bait presentations.
Once again North Powder, Baker City or La Grande are safe bets for lodging.
For a change of pace, check out the ice on nearby Pilcher Creek Reservoir for 14-18 inch rainbows and the occasional crappie.
Early ice destinations
Itching to get some ice fishing under your belt but the big reservoirs aren’t frozen yet? Well there are several small, year-round, ponds that might hold you over.
This half acre pond is stocked with catchable rainbow trout 2-3 times a year. Roulet Pond is located just outside the town of Elgin in northeastern Oregon. Ice often covers the entire pond from November until March but always check the thickness before ice fishing.
Just a short trek east of Burns, Oregon and you’ll arrive at Burns Pond. This small local fishery ices over by December and usually has 3 inches of ice or more when temperatures drop below freezing for a week or more. Always watch for thin ice. Rainbow trout are heavily stocked in spring.
Highway 203 Pond
This 11 acre pond is located just north of Baker City at the intersection of Highway 203 and I-84. A good plant of catchable rainbow trout is added annually and can make for some consistent fishing when iced over by mid-December or earlier. Bass and small bluegill also add variety.
New to ice fishing? Check out our beginner’s guide to ice fishing and you’ll be all set to hit the ice in Oregon. For experienced ice anglers, head to our ice fishing page where you’ll find dozens of articles with all sorts of valuable information to boost your skills.
Always remember to be safe on the ice this season. Use common sense and check for at least 3-4 inches of clear solid ice before heading out. No fish is worth your life.