Central Oregon’s Wickiup Reservoir has changed a lot since I began fishing it. Back in the early 1970’s, it was primarily a brown trout fishery with fair numbers of kokanee and coho salmon. There were a few rainbow and brook trout present as well and plenty of whitefish. But effective brown trout techniques were in short supply back then. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Donald Ivan LaDuke, of Oakridge, developed some very effective streamer flies which he trolled for the big browns and he caught lots of big fish One fish he caught just before dark was especially large and despite being left overnight in Don’s boat, it weighed 24 pounds 14 ounces and became the state record brown trout for Oregon – a record that lasted more than 40 years from 1957 when the lunker brown was caught.
While the largest browns were usually taken in the slackwater areas of the 11,000 acre reservoir (when full), I spent most of my time casting Rapalas to bassy looking spots in the reeds above Sheep Bridge Campground and I gradually learned how to catch nice-sized browns to more than seven pounds, but as I anticipated that fall’s arrival of larger browns to the upper reaches of the reservoir, I managed to arrive for my last trip of the season and left my oars to my eight foot pram back home – and could not find a suitable piece of wood anywhere.
So I watched helplessly as browns in the 15 pound class jumped and splashed and had to resort to casting my plugs from shore to fish measuring less than 20-inches – not knowing that this was going to be the last season that the upper end of Wickiup would be open to fishing through October.
My proudest moment on Wickiup actually took place on the half-mile of the Deschutes immediately below Wickiup’s dam on my first trip to the area while on Marine Corp leave in early October in 1970.. I had read an article by Colonel Dave Harbour about using minnow-imitating plugs for brown trout on the Green River in Wyoming. So I tied on a 3 1/2-inch sinking gold Rapala to my six pound monofilament. Unfortunately, the ultralight rod I used to lob the surprisingly heavy lure was completely inadequate when it came to setting the hook. But amidst about 30 anglers fishing that half-mile stretch, only one angler had managed to hook a six-inch trout. I managed to land three of the 16 trout that struck my Rapala and every one of them ran from 15 to 24-inches. It took several more years before anglers started regularly using Rapala-type lures on rivers and streams.
Although I knew that eventually Crane Prairie’s largemouth bass would end up in Wickiup, but it was my friend, Jim Wilhelm, who informed me that he had landed several bass while fishing the Deschutes above Wickiup in late July. I quickly talked me into showing where he was catching these fish and in a small 20 foot long backwater, we had bass weighing five or six pounds come within inches of taking our jigs and plastic worms. At that time, the bass were not much evident in Wickiup.
Now, Wickiup has good populations of largemouth bass and brown bullhead catfish and produces brown trout exceeding 20 pounds and rainbows exceeding 14 pounds in most years. There is a small population of brook trout that reach decent size that seem to hang out in the cooler areas of the reservoir such as the springs in and near the North Davis Arm.
But most of the fishing pressure seems directed at the reservoir’s kokanee which regularly top two and a half pounds in weight and are taken by trolling and stillfishing.
Wickiup is a tremendous largemouth fishery and fish weighing at least seven pounds are taken each season with lots of fish weighing four to six pounds. Some bass anglers fish bobber and nightcrawlers in the shallow reedy areas on the east side of the reservoir above the dam. Other anglers concentrate on casting to any downed wood or stumps they can find and both methods produce lots of bass.
Some of Wickiup’s brown bullheads will easily top two pounds and they are often taken in the same shallow areas as the bass, but one overlooked spot for the bullheads is in the rocks along the face of the dam. Some anglers have found that they can catch fair numbers of bullheads by casting to them when they are feeding on or near the surface on insects or small fish. It seems when casting a small wacky-rigged senkos to a cruising bullhead -the bullhead will follow the sinking senko to the bottom and then nail it.
At some point, Crane Prairie’s bluegills and crappies will end up in Wickiup, but currently, they seem to seldom enter the catch. In the meantime, Wickiup may be Oregon’s best two tier fishery and will most likely remain so in the forseeable future.
The photo below this article is of Logan DeGree, who despite not yet being a teenager is one of Oregon’s most accomplished anglers. He is holding up largemouth bass from Wickiup Reservoir that weigh five and six pounds.