Volcanic lakes make for hot fishing

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    LA PINE, Ore. — Newberry Crater's ancient caldera is home to two of Central Oregon's hottest fisheries.

    East Lake is most prized for its trophy German brown trout, but it is Paulina Lake that holds the state record for a 28-pound, 5-ounce brown caught in 2002.

    The lake record for East Lake is a 22½-pounder caught in 1981, although it is rumored that a 30-pound female was caught and released during egg collection in 1952.

    However, many anglers fail to realize that these high-altitude lakes 22 miles south of Bend boast some of the state's best kokanee catches.

    The landlocked salmon inhabit the deeper waters, fattening up on the abundant zooplankton.

    Kokanee reach an average of 16 to 20 inches, with many weighing in at well over 4 pounds.

    Another salmon species, the Atlantic salmon, were introduced to East Lake from Maine in an effort to control the chub population. For this reason fishermen in the past were encouraged to release any salmon that were caught to allow them sufficient time to grow and feast on the pesky chubs.

    This practice has left some well-fed specimens just waiting to be plucked; tossing them back is no longer required.

    The limit for either lake is five fish per person/per day, including kokanee, and only one may be 20 inches or larger.

    Because of the mercury released from the underground hot springs at East, it is recommended that you refrain from eating the fish caught there; this does not affect the fish in Paulina.

    Tremendous trout

    Rainbow trout are stocked starting in May as soon as the roads are free of snow and the lakes are accessible.

    In the early season, while there is still ice on the lake, the rainbows gather off the shore and are the predominant catch.

    As the weather warms, fish will disperse throughout the lakes, but can still be caught easily from the bank.

    When still-fishing you want to float your bait about 24 inches off the bottom so it will be clear of the weeds.

    Rainbows will bite on everything from cheese and Power Bait to nightcrawlers, eggs and white corn.

    Brown trout make up 10 to 20 percent of the fish population for both lakes. In East they typically run along the southern and eastern shorelines, specifically in the corner near the hot springs.

    Casting and retrieving works well from the bank using brown or green Rooster Tails.

    Trolling is also effective. When trolling, keep to the shallow water along the bank. Use lures that resemble minnows, such as FlatFish and Needlefish, or spoon lures such as Krocodiles.

    Using a trolling fly will also bring results in the big-fish category. If you're specifically targeting trophy browns, try using a size 18 or larger Rapala and fish the lakeside of the weedbeds one hour before dawn.

    Make sure you have at least 20-pound test or you'll lose the sucker while reeling in.

    Vertical jigging is the most popular local fishing method. Pink and red Nordic Jigs or Buzz Bombs are the local preference.

    The brand-spanking-new holographic Buzz Bombs are also proving to be one hot jig for those experimenting with them in the early season.

    Spectacular salmon

    Kokanee are the leading catch at Paulina Lake. Most run between 12 and 20 inches and from 2 to 4 pounds.

    They like to lurk at depths of 30 to 50 feet. The best time to catch them is early morning when the water is coolest.

    For either lake, trolling is the key to catch sockeye salmon.

    You will want to use 7 feet of leader along with a four- or five-blade Cowbell or Flashlite for attraction.

    So far this year the fish have been biting at many different speeds from barely moving to 8 miles per hour, so experiment with your pace; you'll likely get bites at whatever speed you choose.

    Three or 4 ounces of lead or a comparable downrigger work the best for weight. A good lure to use is a Wedding Ring with silver flashers and green beads.

    Try adding a worm or white corn to the hook for a fail-proof fish feast.

    Fly fishing and flying fish

    Jim Teeney developed his "Teeney Nymph" for landing East Lake's browns, and it remains a popular fly lure to this day.

    Other sure bets include black, green or olive Woolly Buggers. These lakes are ripe for fly fishing due to their daily cycle of hatches.

    There is a morning and evening hatch of both dragonflies and nymphs, while the callibaetis mayflies hatch four times daily, making any time a great time for fly fishing.

    The Atlantic salmon are another favorite of fly fishermen. They've been known to rise on a dry fly, making them a spectacular and exciting catch.

    Where to start

    Tony Graham, who manages the East Lake Resort (541-536-2230), says the fishing has been so plentiful already this year that you could "throw an old mattress pad out there and catch a fish."

    From the shoreline 30 yards out, a weedbed covers the perimeter of the lake floor. Graham suggests fishing on the lakeside of these weeds between the rock ledge and the hot springs on the lake's east side.

    If you're getting stuck in the brush, you're too close to shore; if you're coming up empty, you probably need to move in a little.

    On opposite sides of the lake, directly under the white pumice slide on the west bank and under the rock cliffs to the north, are the two other prime locations for shore fishing.

    For boaters there is a wide channel that runs across the lake between the white pumice slide and the rock ledge on the east.

    There is an underwater drop-off here that is a favorite hiding spot for kokanee.

    At Paulina, there is a ledge that runs the circumference of the lake where the water level drops to 40 feet; this is where you should concentrate your efforts for best results.

    The browns conveniently converge around two of the lake's boat docks at Little Crater and Paulina Lake campgrounds. Both trout species are known to lurk in the waters near the Warm Springs camp area.

    You'll want to fish close to the shore and within 35 feet of the surface. Kokanee can be found in the dead center of the lake, 40 to 50 feet down.

    Plan ahead

    At an altitude just shy of 6,400 feet, the weather ranges from mild to downright freezing. Keep this in mind and pack those thermals when preparing for your trip.

    Call ahead to check current weather and road conditions.

    If you happen to forget your cold weather clothing — or anything else for that matter — both lakes feature resorts with restaurants and full-service stores including camping and fishing gear, groceries and souvenirs.

    Boat and cabin rentals are available, as well as several campgrounds.

    If you're planning to stay in one of the resort cabins or in the campgrounds, be sure to reserve early. On any given summer weekend both resorts can be full, often weeks in advance.

    For more information call East Lake Resort or Paulina Lake Resort (541-536-2240).

    Material from Fishing & Hunting News
    published 24 times a year.

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