EAST LAKE is one of the finest and most historic fisheries in Oregon. Each season it produces Brown Trout over 10 pounds. The record is a 22-1/2 pound Brown, which is displayed in the Blue Duck Grill. According to many experts, the new Oregon state record Brown Trout is somewhere in the depths of East Lake. Rainbow Trout are the mainstay, caught using all techniques: trolling, still-fishing, wet and dry fly fishing and casting.
Kokanee, introduced in 1993, have been caught up to 20 inches and are abundant. Atlantic Salmon also can be caught using a variety of techniques.
There are many effective techniques for catching lake fish, and some methods are described below. Fly fishing is very effective, as described in the article How to Fly Fish at East Lake. For recommendations on what techniques have been most effective in the days preceding your stay at the lake, please ask our knowledgeable staff at the Store and Tackle Shop.
History of Fishing At East Lake Resort
East Lake (and Paulina Lake) were devoid of fish until July of 1912 when a local citizens group stocked both lakes. The Oregon Game Commission shipped Rainbow trout fingerlings to Bend by train. From Bend, it took horse drawn wagons all night to reach Paulina Prairie as the road was merely two ruts with alternating chuck holes. From Paulina Prairie, pack horses took the fish the remaining 14 miles to the crater entrance. In order to keep the fish alive, party members had to climb down into Paulina Creek canyon periodically to carry up buckets of fresh water. Half of the Rainbow fingerlings were stocked into Paulina Lake. The other half were put in live boxes, towed across Paulina Lake, then carried by hand in 5 gallon kerosene cans the rest of the way to East Lake.
By 1916, a road of sorts existed to East Lake, and Brook trout were stocked in addition to Rainbows. In November of 1925, Brook trout were seined from East Lake for egg collection. The Fish and Wildlife Department built a cabin on the southwest shore that year that headquartered seining operations until the forties. Rainbow trout have been stocked in East Lake every year since 1912, and are the predominate catch. Rainbows do not reproduce in East Lake, but Brook trout may have done some shore spawning. Although East Lake Brook trout became legendary, stocking of Brookies was discontinued after 1992 because of poor returns.
Types of Fish
Rainbow trout are the mainstay at East Lake and can be readily caught by all anglers. In the early part of the season, they are found in large numbers along the ice’s edge until the lake has completely thawed. At that point they disperse more evenly throughout the lake. Rainbow Trout can be brought in using any of your favorite still-water techniques: trolling, still-fishing, wet and dry fly fishing and casting. Because of East Lakes altitude and ice cold water, these fish are in great shape throughout the season.
Because of East Lake’s high altitude, it can be partially ice-covered until mid-May. The ice first recedes from the southeast corner where an underground hot springs warms the water a few degrees. This early open water provides anglers one of the best chances to catch a trophy-sized Brown Trout. These nocturnal predatory fish prowl the shorelines and shallows in search of baitfish. Casting or trolling minnow-type hard plugs such as Rapalas, Yozuri’s and Trophy Sticks, in gold, silver, rainbow, or a brown trout pattern, or pitching Krocodile spoons in shallow water could put you in the record book. Most experts agree that East Lake is the home of a state record German Brown Trout.
Brown trout stocking in East Lake was practiced between 1935 and 1940, then discontinued; however, a small population sustained itself. Brown trout stocking began again in 1984 with fish from Wickiup Reservoir’s wild stock, reared at Klamath Hatchery. Brown trout, having longer life spans, can grow to trophy size. The lake record is a 22-1/2 pound hen taken in 1981. During egg collection in 1952, a 30-pounder was caught and released. Currently, Browns are about 25% of the catch, the larger ones taken by anglers who target those fish specifically. Starting in 2010 Oregon fishing regulations prohibit any Brown Trout over 16″ to be part of the East Lake bag limit; only browns between 8-16″ may be retained. This law is supported by most anglers of East Lake as this will certainly enhance this already spectacular fishery.
In 1993, Kokanee were introduced into East Lake. These fresh-water sockeye salmon thrive on abundant zooplankton, and are a very popular game fish. The red meat is delicious, especially when smoked. Bright silver until the pre-spawn, these little salmon turn bright red with green heads at the end of their life cycle. Kokanee reach maturity at three years, after which they spawn and die. Unfortunately, without an inlet creek to supply oxygenated water to the eggs, reproduction is minimal.
At maturity, East Lake Kokanee average between 14 and 18 inches in length. Kokanee occupy the large deep area of the lake and provide great mid-summer angling when fishing for other trout species is slow. Kokanee fishing is exciting, as they fight hard, but are very soft mouthed. It takes skill to get kokanee into your boat.
By mid-Summer, the Kokanee will be deep, sometimes up to 50 feet. If a downrigger is not in your arsenal of equipment, you must troll with up to four ounces of lead to reach that depth. Trolling outfits for Kokanee are generally similar to those used for Rainbow, with the addition of white Shoe Peg corn to the bait (these are also available at the East Lake Resort store). The Jensen Dodger in 000, Ford Fenders, and Cowbells are all excellent attractors for Kokanee, and because of their soft mouths, the use of a snubber is imperative in getting fish to the boat. Jigging with Nordics, Gibbs Minnows or Buzz Bombs, especially with the aid of a fish finder is extremely effective method in catching Kokanee, many experienced fishermen regard jigging as the most effective method to catching a limit of kokanee.
Atlantic salmon were first introduced to East Lake for one year in 1974. These fish were an anadromous stock from Gasp Bay, Quebec, the same stock used in Hosmer Lake. In 1990, a new land-locked Atlantic salmon stock from Maine was introduced anticipating they would eat the Tui Chubs, grow large, and become a featured species.
Anglers were, in the past, encouraged (but not required) to release Atlantic Salmon to help them achieve sufficient size to eat the chubs. Although Atlantic salmon up to 20 inches have been taken from East Lake, they seem to have found easier prey to subsist on. Atlantics are very popular with fly fishers, being one of the few trout species that will rise on a dry fly. They are also a noted fighter, built like a torpedo, and loaded with determination to disappoint even experienced anglers.
TECHNIQUES AND TIPS:
Trolling is probably the most effective means of fishing throughout the summer. Ford Fender, Cowbell, Flash-lites, Willow Leaf, Dave Davis, and Jack-O-Diamonds make excellent attractors. The most critical aspect of setting up your trolling outfit is to use a rather long leader between the attractor and the lure or bait. East Lake has high water clarity, at least four to six feet of four pound test leader is recommended. Six to eight-foot leaders may be required when the lake is calm and the sun is bright. A bare worm will catch fish, but a Number one or two Needlefish, Wedding Ring, or Triple Teazer can enhance success, especially when augmented with worm and white corn. Size K4 and K5 Kwikfish in Frog, Coach Dog, and Black Glitter patterns can be extremely effective too.
Fly fishing: East Lake is becoming nationally and even internationally known as one of the most productive fly fishing lakes anywhere. Jim Teeny invented the Teeny Nymph here in search of “The Big One,” and still considers East Lake as one of his favorite spots of all time. The nutrient rich water, along with deep weed beds and numerous hot springs all combine to make East Lake a paradise for fly fishermen. Callibaetis patterns both wet and dry are the fly of choice. This mayfly usually starts hatching in early to mid June and daily hatches continue until fall weather appears in September. When the Callibaetis are coming off, 50 fish days for the accomplished fly fisherman are not uncommon. Woolly Buggers are the other wet fly of choice. Dry flies also work well, especially during frequent hatches. The Atlantic Salmon are one of the few still-water species that will rise on a dry fly, and when they do, a spectacular fight follows. Read about Fly Fishing East Lake under our “Activities” Menu on this website.
Still-fishing: Most successful baits are Velveeta cheese, Berkely Power Baits, worms, single eggs, or canned shrimp. To enhance success, anchor your boat at both ends facing into the wind to reduce movement. Try to keep your bait just off the mossy, weed-covered lake bottom, to allow the fish to find it more easily. Two pound leader with number 14 to 18 treble, or single hook tucked completely inside a salmon egg, are recommended. Either split shot or sliding sinkers should be used to maintain the bait from 18 inches to 24 inches off the bottom.
What about the Mercury warning for this lake?
Mercury is a chemical that occurs naturally in the environment. It is believed that the greatest source of elemental mercury in Oregon is in the rocks, soils, and sediments. Back in 1994 the Oregon Health Division issued an advisory to anglers on limiting the intake of fish from several bodies of water within the state. Antelope Reservoir, Owyhee Reservoir, Brownlee Reservoir along with stretches of the Columbia , Snake and Willamette Rivers along with East Lake are among the bodies of water whose fish tested high in mercury levels. East Lake ’s fish tested positive, Paulina Lake ’s fish did not. The natural source of mercury in East Lake fish is due to the geology and volcanic nature found among this particular body of water. This situation also occurs in other parts of the country and 34 states have issued similar advisories.
The mercury a fish absorbs is stored throughout its body. Fish eliminate mercury from their bodies at a very slow rate so concentrations can gradually build up over time. The longer a fish lives, the greater the accumulations can be in the tissue, but especially in the body fat. It is very common for many species of fish including tuna, halibut and sturgeon to have mercury levels that exceed the standards of the FDA (1ppm) and EPA (0.5ppm). In a February 2010 article from Bloomberg Business regarding the elevated mercury levels in canned tuna, they reported that “FDA guidelines have an uncertainty factor built in that limit mercury exposures to levels 10 times lower than the lowest levels associated with adverse effects”. There have been no documented human effects from eating fish with elevated mercury levels in Oregon, but it is known that mercury can be a health threat if people absorb high doses. As a precaution the Oregon Health Division recommends that you consider limiting your consumption of East Lake fish as follows:
Avoid eating Brown Trout 16” or larger
Women of childbearing age should eat no more than one 8oz meal every month.
Healthy adults should eat no more than one 8oz meal every two weeks.
The resort staff and generations of returning East Lake visitors have no reservations or concerns about eating the fish from East Lake. Our hope is that this notice is informative and provides some answers and may relieve any concerns that you may have as well.