Fishing in Central Oregon

Somewhat paradoxically, Central Oregon is an angler’s paradise. Yes, most of our region is a high desert that, at first glance, doesn’t seem hospitable to the fish populations that would draw fishers from all over the Pacific Northwest.

But that just might be our secret weapon: The high-desert landscapes throughout Central Oregon are home to chilly waters that remain cool well into summer, lava-formed lakes that reach astonishing depths, and spring-fed waterways noted for clarity and cleanliness. So whether you’re trout fishing in Lake Billy Chinook or casting a fly for the famously large rainbow trout at Crane Prairie Reservoir, here’s a guide to making the most of your time fishing in Central Oregon.

a man in waders casting into the river

Top Fishing Spots in Bend, Oregon

Panoramic view of Sparks Lake in Central Oregon.

You’ll find no shortage of fine fishing near Bend—especially along the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, which passes some of the most iconic lakes in Central Oregon.

That’s where you’ll find Sparks Lake, for instance, where anglers can cast a fly for cutthroat trout and brook trout. A narrow channel connects the northern and southern halves of the lake, and it’s in that southern end (with deeper water and less human activity) that anglers have the best chance to catch larger fish. Note that Sparks Lake is best accessed by boat (non-motorized and motorized boats are permitted, though the latter are limited to a top speed of 10mph) and is open to fly-fishing only. (Learn more about Central Oregon fly fishing here.)

Just west of Sparks lake sits Devils Lake. And what the diminutive lake lacks in size (it measures just 23 acres), Devils Lake makes up for it with good fishing and ample services to make anglers feel right at home. Naturally reproducing brook trout reside in the lake, as do stocked populations of rainbow trout. You’ll also find a boat launch for non-motorized craft and a walkable shoreline that offers plentiful bank access, making it easy to enjoy a dose of solitude.

Where to Fish Near Redmond, Oregon

Redmond might sit surrounded by high-desert terrain, such as rock formations, underground caves, volcanic lava flows, sagebrush steppe, and rimrock river canyons—but fruitful fishing nevertheless abounds nearby.

A half-hour north of Redmond, Lake Billy Chinook isn’t just one of the best places to fish near town; it’s among the best fishing holes anywhere in Central Oregon. The 3,900-acre, man-made reservoir sits in the heart of the high desert and is the only place in Oregon where anglers can keep bull trout. Other popular species patrolling Lake Billy Chinook’s chilly waters include rainbow trout, brown trout, kokanee salmon, and smallmouth bass. Anglers will find boat rentals and other services at Cove Palisades Resort and Marina, as well as accessible shoreline and boat launches at three-day use areas within The Cove Palisades State Park.

Just 20 minutes northeast of Redmond, anglers can fish at the foot of scenic Steelhead Falls. The waterfall cuts through a rimrock canyon along the Deschutes River, plunging into a glassy pool at its base. Here anglers can fish (using artificial flies and lures) for steelhead, rainbow trout, and brown trout; any tagged wild fish must be released. Steelhead Falls is accessed via a one-mile round-trip, mostly flat hiking trail. In spring and summer, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, which like to hide under rocks and in brush along the trail; stay alert, and remain on the trail at all times.

Overlooking view of The Cove Palisades State Park

Fishing Near Sisters, Oregon

A man fly fishes from the bank of a river

Ask any angler their favorite fishing spot in Central Oregon, and there’s a decent chance they’ll single out the Metolius River—and it’s easy to see why. Emerging from an underground spring at the base of Black Butte, just south of Camp Sherman, the crystal-clear river is among the most scenic in Central Oregon—and remains as such before emptying into Lake Billy Chinook after 29 miles.

The tributary of the Deschutes River is known for its clear, chilly waters—preferred by the large populations of native rainbow trout, bull trout, and brown trout that call the river home. Several trails line both the east and west banks of the river, making it easy to fish from the shore or wade in. (Friendly heads-up, though: Only hatchery rainbow trout, kokanee salmon, and mountain whitefish may be taken from the Metolius. And note that the river is available for fly-fishing only above Bridge 99—but that artificial flies and lures are permitted below Bridge 99. )

The Metolius River is managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), so be sure to consult the state agency’s fishing regulations before casting a fly.

The Best Sunriver and La Pine Fishing Spots

Spring-fed rivers and crystal-clear lakes dot the landscape around Sunriver and La Pine, affording some of the region’s best fishing. And the locations of these waterways, far from Central Oregon’s population centers, means you’ll face less competition for your next catch.

The man-made Crane Prairie Reservoir was originally dammed to store irrigation water—but has since become one of the region’s most fruitful fishing holes. In fact, the shallow reservoir’s native population of rainbow trout—which can grow up to two inches per month in summer before reaching 10 pounds or more as adults—have earned the nickname “cranebows” for their impressive size. (The largest rainbow trout ever measured at Crane Prairie Reservoir weighed in at a whopping 19 pounds.)

Nearby Wickiup Reservoir has earned acclaim for its productive fishing—especially for kokanee salmon, which grow larger in the reservoir than almost anywhere in the state. Other popular species include brown trout (which can reach 20 pounds or more in spring) and coho salmon. Those fish, in particular, enjoy the reservoir’s unique combination of relatively warm waters and cool, deep channels (both creating ideal habitats for fish to thrive and grow).

a gal wading in the river casting her fly rod

The majestic Fall River emerges near La Pine and flows northeast for about 12 miles through forests of willow and fir before emptying into the Deschutes River—among the most famous rivers in Central Oregon. Along the way, the crystal-clear river offers ample opportunities to fish for brook and rainbow trout (both stocked several times each year), as well as native brown trout. (Note that Fall River is open to fly-fishing only.)

Wherever you wind up, chances are good a professional guide is happy to show you the ropes, provide the necessary equipment, take care of licenses, and dish on the best fishing holes around the region.

Explore Nature’s Beauty

From the sagebrush-covered plains of the high desert to the towering pines and majestic mountain peaks, discover the diverse landscape Central Oregon has to offer.