Lake fishing in Bend, Oregon


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Lake fishing in Bend, Oregon

Come and get hooked! 

Bend, Oregon, is home to an abundance of majestic lakes that beckons anglers from far and near. These lakes boast an amazing diversity of fish, some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Northwest, and opportunities for different fishing techniques like fly fishing and spin fishing. 

What makes Bend, Oregon, an incredible lake fishing destination?

Just a short drive from town is a bounty of beautiful lakes and reservoirs that are home to a wide variety of fish species. Cast a line in a high alpine lake, where dazzling mountain reflections, excellent morning hatches, and hungry trout await. Or soak up the stunning high desert views while trolling on a reservoir in search of impressively-sized fish. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil fishing experience at a mountain lake or a more exciting day of trolling for big fish on a reservoir, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in Central Oregon.

The variety of fish species is just as impressive as the variety of water. Trout fishing is what draws most anglers to Bend. The area is home to rainbows, browns, bulls, brookies, and more. The region is also home to a native species of trout known as the Redband Rainbow Trout, which is identifiable by its rosy red stripe along its side. Additionally, lower-elevation lakes host a great variety of warmwater species, including bass, catfish, and crappie.

With so many different fish species and lakes to choose from, there are plenty of opportunities to try or refine different fishing techniques. Fly fishing is quite popular around here, especially on the rivers. But lakes can be a perfect place to cast a dry fly with a nymph below or rig up a sinking line and strip in a flashy streamer to entice those trout. If you prefer spin fishing, you’re in luck! Trolling with spoons, spinners, or baited lines from a boat can produce fantastic catches, especially when targeting species like rainbow trout, brown trout, or kokanee salmon.

The calm and serene lakes of the region also lend themselves well to drift boat, kayak, or canoe fishing, allowing you to access secluded spots and target fish holding near weed beds or submerged structures. 

Fly fishing from a boat near Bend, OR

Wondering when to go fish the lakes around Bend?

Spring marks the beginning of the fishing season. With the melting snow and seasonal rains, our reservoirs and lakes start to replenish. As the days grow warmer, various bugs, like blue wing olives and green drakes, start hatching, enticing the fish to feast. Spring weather and conditions can be a bit unpredictable, so remember to pack your puffy jacket and check if boat ramps and roads are open.

Summer is the prime time for fishing around Bend, as the vibrant season brings an abundance of opportunities. With limitless blue skies, pleasant temperatures, and easy access to fishing spots, it’s the perfect time to gather your gear and head to the lakes. Not only do anglers relish the delightful summer conditions, but our finned companions do too. The warm weather and longer days contribute to frequent hatches of caddis, stoneflies, and pale morning dun, enticing hungry trout to indulge in a feast.

Summer also brings the risks of wildfires and scorching heat. If you’re fishing for cold water species like trout, increasing water temperatures can pose challenges to trout survival. So invest in a stream thermometer to check temps, especially during midday and afternoon hours. If temps are too high, have a backup plan like fishing lakes that house warmwater species like bass and crappie.

Lake fishing in the fog near Bend, OR

Fall brings a bounty of cooler temperatures that create a backdrop of golden hues. It’s a time when mayflies and caddisflies come alive, providing a much-needed meal for fish before snow and ice gather. This lively activity and beautiful scenery make fall an opportune time to cast your line.

During the winter months, lake fishing comes to a halt as many lakes freeze over or become inaccessible due to snow-covered roads. While lakes take the winter off, why not tie a few flies or plan your fishing adventures for the upcoming summer!

No matter what time of year you enjoy fishing, take a moment to look around between casts and enjoy the scenery. Central Oregon’s beauty will amaze you! Relish in the panoramic views of towering pine forests, vibrant wildflowers, and the majestic Cascade Mountains at Cultus Lake. Listen for the piercing cries of bald eagles soaring above the canyon walls at Lake Billy Chinook. Or, as the sun peeks over the horizon, take a deep breath of the crisp morning air at Cultus Lake and watch as flurries of mayflies dance along the calm water. 

The lakes near Bend offer an extraordinary escape into the beauty of the natural world. And an excellent way to uphold and preserve all this breathtaking scenery is by practicing the Bend-specific Leave No Trace principles. 

Now that you’re hooked let’s talk about some fantastic lakes to fish around Bend.

Pro Tip

The best way to fish our lakes is by boat. A kayak, float tube, drift boat, or motorized lake boat gives you the ability to reach deeper waters, submerged structures, and hard-to-reach spots where fish tend to congregate. Don’t have a boat? No problem. Hire a local guide with one. Benefit from a guide’s extensive knowledge of the lakes, including productive spots, seasonal patterns, and preferred techniques.

The Cascade Lakes

These lakes are located west of Bend in the Cascade Mountains and take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to reach from town.

  • Cultus Lake is a favorite fishing spot because of its many fish species, clear, cool water, and stunning surroundings. Plenty of rainbow, brook, mackinaw, cutthroat, and bull trout occupy the lake. The clear, cold water helps to keep the fish healthy and active, and the clarity of the water makes it easy to see them. Cultus is also surrounded by beautiful scenery, including mountains, forests, and meadows.
  • Crane Prairie Reservoir is home to an incredible diversity of trout, including rainbows, browns, brookies, and the unique Cranebow trout. These fish thrive in the reservoir’s clear, cold waters, which are fed by several creeks. The creeks provide vital nutrients, oxygenated water, and a mild current that helps to keep the trout healthy.
  • Davis Lake is home to a variety of fish species, including rainbow trout and largemouth bass. The clear, cold water of the lake helps to keep the fish healthy and active, and the abundance of fish makes it a great place to fish for all skill levels. The lake is also bordered by beautiful scenery, including volcanic lava, towering mountains, thick forests, and alpine meadows.
  • Elk Lake is known for its lively brook trout, kokanee salmon, and stunning mountain backdrop. While the fishing at Elk Lake may not be quite as epic as other lakes, it is still a great place to spend a morning casting some line. And after your fishing adventure, you can enjoy a bite to eat and a cold beverage at the resort.

Other noteworthy lakes around Bend

  • East Lake and Paulina Lake are nestled in the caldera of Newberry Crater and are a popular destination for anglers and nature lovers alike. The lakes are home to a variety of fish, including rainbows, browns, and Kokanee salmon. The serene volcanic landscape is also a sight to behold, and the lakes’ high altitude (6,400 feet) makes them a pleasant spot to escape the high summer heat.
  • Lake Billy Chinook, located north Bend and close to the town of Madras, is home to trophy-sized bull trout, feisty smallmouth bass, and playful kokanee salmon, providing an exciting and diverse angling experience. Its rugged canyon scenery and recreational opportunities add to the allure, making it an ideal spot for both anglers and adventure seekers.
  • Prineville Reservoir, located east of Bend, close to the town of Prineville, is a great place for warmwater species like bass, catfish, and crappie. It also offers truly picturesque surroundings, including scenic ochre cliffs and the rolling hills of the high desert. Check the conditions and accessibility to the boat ramp before you head out because the water levels can drop quite a bit, especially in the summer. 

Before you go

With so many epic lakes to fish so close to Bend, there are a few things you should remember as you plan your lake fishing trip.

  • Check conditions and regulations by calling a local fly shop or check online with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Research river access or book a fishing guide.
  • Purchase your fishing license online from ODFW
  • Be an ambassador on the river! Familiarize yourself with Keep Fish Wet tips and how to safely catch and release fish.

And above all, let’s enjoy ourselves and foster a friendly and respectful atmosphere on the water!