25 Top Panfish Spots in the Pacific Northwest

Readers of this article need to remember that it merely the writer’s opinion and other reader/anglers may have had much different experiences at these waters.  Additionally, these spots tend to fluctuate in productivity and major year classes of different panfish species from year to year. But if you love fishing for panfish, the waters mentioned in this articles are wonderful places to start.

(1) – SILVER LAKE – This Silver Lake, the one near Castle Rock, Washington is probably best known as a producer of lunker largemouth bass. But the panfishing in this very shallow lake of more than 3,000 acres can be absolutely incredible, if somewhat inconsistent. When the panfish move into the canals, anglers can sometimes catch (and hopefully release) more than 200 assorted crappies and yellow perch with some bluegills and warmouths thrown in. Although the average size of the panfish is not exceptional, crappies weighing at least two and a half pounds have been caught in the last few years. Silver holds the Washington state record for warmouth with a fish slightly over eight ounces (.53 lbs), but produces a number of warmouth each year that weigh between nine and 12 ounces that are not turned in for state record recognition.

(2) – WARNER VALLEY LAKES – This string of lakes in southeast Oregon can cover more than 30,000 acres when there is a decent amount of rain or snowfall, but can also almost dry up during drought years. Right now, there have been several decent water years in a row and the fishing for crappie can be sensational. All of the lakes can produce good fishing after being full for a few years, but the most consistent fishing is in Crump and Hart lakes with Hart producing some sensational crappie fishing in the last few years and these lakes can produce fair numbers of two to three pound crappies after four or five years of good water conditions. Information  and supplies are available at the small communities of Adel and Plush.

(3) – Eloika lake – This 660 acre Spokane County lake is located on the West Branch of the Little Spokane River and definitely has a weed problem that does not seem to negatively impact fishing success to any degree. Although a noted largemouth bass lake, Eloika offers very good fishing for yellow perch and black crappie with some reaching very good size. Eloika gives up lots of perch, crappies and even largemouth bass to anglers fishing  it through the ice in the winter and as a bonus gives up some pumpkinseed and green sunfish, black, brown and yellow bullhead catfish and grass pickerel.

(4) – SELMAC LAKE – Covering less than 150 acres, Selmac is best known for producing Oregon state record largemouth bass, but this lake located south of Grants Pass near Selma offers superb panfish angling. Crappie and bluegill fishing can be exceptional with crappies averaging about a half-pound, but running to two pounds and lots of bluegills measuring seven to nine inches with some larger. So far, the recent introduction of golden shiners has not seemed to impact the panfish populations yet and the lake is easy to fish with large areas of shallow water full of bluegills with the crappies hangling around docks and other structure. There is also an overlooked population of brown bullheads in the lake and a few green sunfish. This lake also receives very heavy plants of rainbow trout and and may offer the earliest productive warmwater fishing in Oregon.

(5) – CRANE CREEK RESERVOIR – This 3,200 are reservoir located near Weiser, Idaho provides some good bassfishing, but in recent years has been putting out some sizable crappies including Idaho’s crappie to date – a white crappie weighing three pounds 12.8 ounces taken in 2012.

(6) – MOSES LAKE – The crappie can be hard to find in this lengthy 6,600 acre lake, but all fish species reach lunker size in this lake. A crappie and panfish jigmaker in Washington who goes by the internet name of jigmeister once stated that he targeted jumbo crappies to at least 16-inches in Moses Lake by sightfishing for them beneath the I-90 bridge around the first of June. Moses Lake definitely has more artificial structure (bridges and docks) than does neighboring Potholes Reservoir.

(7) – FERN RIDGE RESERVOIR – Although this 9,000 acre reservoir (when full) has given up largemouth bass weighing more than 11 pounds and contains brown bulheads, bluegills and tons of carp, the crappie fishery dominates everything and can be very productive in the spring. However, when the reservoir is severely drawn down in the late winter and early spring, the crappies and bass drop down near the dam and fishing can be very good until the reservoir level rises scattering the fish.

(8) – CASCADE RESERVOIR – Better known as Lake Cascade, this 30,000 acre reservoir (when full) in western Idaho has a reputation for producing the largest yellow perch in the state. Cascade contains rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, kokanee and landlocked coho salmon and Cascade holds the record for the cohos with a six pound fish. A prolific pikeminnow population competes with the perch and other fish, but probably helps keep the average size up and Cascade produced a perch in 2012 (2 lbs 9.6 oz) that tied the state record perch from Wilson Lake taken way back in 1971.

(9) – POTHOLES RESERVOIR – This southeast Washington reservoir of 28,000 acres formed by O’Sullivan Dam has a long history of furnishing excellent panfishing. Sometimes the panfishing pressure plummets due to the wonderful fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass, rainbow trout and walleyes. Now that channel catfish are established in the reservoir the additional predation should keep the average size of Potholes’ panfish species as impressive as ever. Potholes has produced bluegills to more than two pounds, crappies to more than three and yellow perch that average ten inches – the only problem is finding them in all that water.

(10) – IRONGATE RESERVOIR – One of two reservoirs (the other being Copco) in northernmost California that have yellow perch populations, Irongate separates itself from Copco, situated just upstream on the Klamath River, by having more varied fishing. This thousand acre reservoir has an incredible population of yellow perch averaging six to seven inches in length, but infrequently reaching or topping a foot in length. But Irongate also has numerous other fish species such as rainbow trout, largemouth bass, crappies and green sunfish that make the fishing even more interesting.

(11) – LONG LAKE – Washington has several Long Lakes, but this one is a reservoir on the Spokane River in northeast Washington and offers incredible angling variety with largemouth and smallmouth bass, brown bullheads, rainbow and brown trout, northern pike and northern pikeminnows as well as incredible late season fishing for yellow perch and black crappies. All fish species reach lunker sizes in this lengthy 5,000 acre reservoir and Long Lake holds the state record for northern pike with a fish of more than 34 pounds.

(12) – COTTAGE GROVE RESERVOIR – Located east of the community of Cottage Grove, Oregon, this 1,100 acre reservoir offers very good fishing with little fishing pressure. The reason for this is the mercury advisory regarding consuming fish from the reservoir. Despite the fact that the reservoir has produced several largemouth bass weighing at least ten pounds, it is illegal to keep bass measuring 15-inches or more. Cottage Grove contains bullhead catfish, rainbow and cutthroat trout as well as such panfish species as black crappies and bluegills.

(13) – BANKS LAKE – This 25,000 eastern Washington lake holds the Washington state record for largemouth bass, but is best known for producing good-sized walleyes, smallmouth bass and rainbow trout. The lake also produces good-sized kokanee, lake whitefish and brown bullheads, but is capable of giving up impressive catches of good-sized panfish – especially yellow perch and black crappies, but some bluegills and pumpkinseeds also enter the catch.

(14) – LOOKOUT POINT RESERVOIR – This lengthy reservoir of 4,300 acres receives, located west of Highway 58 between Eugene and Oakridge,  very little fishing pressure despite producing jumbo-sized rainbow trout, brown bullheads and largemouth bass. Walleyes and landlocked chinook salmon are also present, but the best fishery this reservoir provides is for white crappies. They are hard to find at times, but Lookout Point has produced crappies to at least four and a half pounds for anglers and fisheries biologists have netted even larger crappies.

(15) – OWYHEE RESERVOIR – This eastern Oregon reservoir provides good fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass and channel catfish, but the best fishing is usually for yellow perch and crappies. While the average crappie only measures eight or nine inches and the perch slightly less, both species are capable of reaching more than 12 inches and the spring fishing can be phenomenal.

(16) – LAKE STEVENS – This 1,000 acre lake is located five miles east of Everett, Washington and offers good fishing for a variety of fish species. All fish species are capable of reaching good size for their respective species, but the best fishing is for kokanee, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and yellow perch. Brown bullhead and largemouth bass provide fair fishing and while the crappie fishing is only mediocre, it seems a fair portion of them are lunkers.

(17) – BEN IRVING RESERVOIR – This 250 acre reservoir, also known as Berry Creek Reservoir, is located west of Winston, Oregon and despite its often murky water, gives up wonderful fishing for black crappie and bluegills. A growing yellow perch population has not yet contributed much to the fishery, but largemouth bass often furnish good fishing although the number of lunker bass is disappointing. The bluegills often run seven to eight inches and the crappies average nine to ten inches with fish to two pounds rarely taken.

(18) – COOPER CREEK RESERVOIR – This 160 acre reservoir is located in Sutherlin, Oregon and despite loads of pleasure boaters, furnishes excellent fishing for largemouth bass, bluegills and black crappies. Many of the anglers target stocked rainbows, but mamy of Cooper Creek’s bluegills exceed eight inches in length and the crappies, which anglers can sight fish for in the spring, often top ten inches with some much larger.

(19) – FIO RITO LAKES – Two small lakes (North and South) totaling 54 surface acres located on the east side of I-82 five miles south of Ellensburg, Washington. The lakes receive heavy plants of rainbow trout, but are best known for their warmwater fishing. The best fishing is usually for largemouth bass, black crappies and yellow perch, but brown bullheads and pumpkinseed sunfish are also present. Some of the panfish reach very respectable sizes.

(20) – REYNOLDS POND – This small central Oregon, very shallow lake of less than 20 acres produces lots of small brown bullheads as well as some smallish largemouth bass. However, there are a few good-sized crappies in the lake and Reynolds holds the Oregon state record for redear sunfish with a jumbo redear that weighed a half-ounce less than two pounds. The lake has lots of redears that will easily top three-quarters of a pound, but the fish can be spooky in the shallow water. The closest supplies are at the store in Alfalfa.

(21) – DOG LAKE – This lake, located east of Lakeview, Oregon offers varied fishing for a variety of warmwater fish and all species seem capable of reaching lunker size. Every year, largemouth bass weighing more than eight pounds are caught and last year a nine pounder was caught. Yellow perch are capable of reach 12 to 14-inches in length,but average smaller, Crappie weighing more than two pounds were taken last year, but the average size is about nine inches. Bluegills in the eight to nine inch class were caught last year, but the most interesting recent development is the presense of redear sunfish in the lake. They are not yet lunkers, but if they grown like the other warmwater species in the lake, a new state record may be in the near future.

(22) – JOHN BOYLE RESEVOIR – This reservoir, bisected by Highway 66 (Green Springs Highway) west of Klamath Falls can be tough to fish due to fluctuating water levels due to power generation. But the lake has good numbers of crappies, yellow perch, pumpkinseeds, brown bullheads and fair numbers of largemouth bass. The Klamath River just upstream from the reservoir is a hotspot for lunker rainbow trout and may be the reason that the warmwater fish in the reservoir are pretty much overlooked. Years ago, the reservoir produced some crappies weighing more than three pounds, but today, they seem to top out at about a pound and a half. While most of the fishing pressure seems to be from shore near the highway bridge, the lower end of the lake offers the best fishing for the crappies, yellow perch and largemouth bass.

(23) – TRIANGLE LAKE – This 290 acre reservoir is located west of Eugene along Highway 36 and most of the fishing pressure is directed at the kokanee and rainbow and cutthroat trout. But Triangle produces good-sized warmwater fish with several bass weighing ten pounds or more being caught in recent years. The lake also contains good numbers of yellow perch and bluegills with a very much overlooked population of black crappies that average about ten inches in length, but reach at least one and a half pounds. The perch are seldom caught, except by anglers fishing deep and the best fishing is for bluegills that average about seven inches.

(24) – FAT ELK SLOUGH – This Coquille River slough is located about a mile west of Coquille, Oregon and provides erratic warmwater angling. However, the fishing can, at times, be sensational. Largemouth bass, cutthroat trout, bluegills, yellow perch and brown bullheads are present, but the best fishing is for crappies and while the best numbers are near the Highway 42 Bridge, the largest ones reside in the short section of the slough between the tidegate and the Coquille River with some crappies weighing well over a pound.

(25) – LACAMAS LAKE – The fishing in this 300 acre lake, located near Camas, Washington has gone downhill in recent years, but the lake has a reputation for producing good-sized specimens of largemouth bass and lots of eight inch bluegills. The water quality has deteriorated, but excellent fishing for a variety of warmwater species is still available in Round Lake, a 30 acre lake connected to Lacamas by a very short canal. Bluegills, largemouth bass, black crappies, yellow perch and brown bullheads are present and this small lake has produced largemouth bass approaching ten pounds and channel catfish weighing more than 30 pounds. The best fishing is for bluegills, but most anglers seem to target the planted rainbow and brown trout.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.
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