Prairie Reservoir, once one of the most prized trout fisheries in Oregon, is now in transition.
Located in Central Oregon, Crane Prairie rests only 42 miles from Bend, Oregon. For decades, Crane Prairie has been known for its exceptional Rainbow and Brook Trout fishing. But, in the mid
1980's someone illegally planted Largemouth Bass in the reservoir. Today, Crane Prairie is now one of the top bassin' locations in the Pacific Northwest. The lake is also known to
hold a small population of Kokonee.
Crane Prairie is very unique in that it is only 25 feet at its deepest spots. Five rivers
or creeks flow into Crane Prairie, providing excellent cool freshwater havens for the trout populations. The reservoir was created in the early 1900's for irrigation. A dam
was built on the Deschutes River that flooded a very broad amount of the valley. Much of the timber in the valley was also flooded before it could be harvested, leaving
thousands of dead gray tree snags over much of the reservoir. These snags continue to fall and create new habitat for not only the trout fishery, but the new Largemouth Bass fishery as well.
With the 20 year presence of the large mouth bass, and now the black crappie and stickleback minnow, Crane Prairie is in flux. Fishery experts are researching the mysteries and myths of Crane Prairie.
Trout purists can't help but blame the newer warm water species for the decline in keeper size trout that used to
be plentiful. Fishery Biologists have changed the annual trout planting strategies by increasing the release size from 3-4" to nearly 8-9" fish. As well,
a new study is in motion to pinpoint when and where the smaller trout are being reduced so dramatically.
In all the fish I've
cleaned and examined over the years, the evidence shows me that the Rainbow Trout feeds (during the periods when I catch them) mostly
on nymphs of all varieties and snails. Biologists tell me that the Brook Trout feed heavily on the stickleback minnows. Hopefully,
a good plan to balance out the populations will be discovered soon. Until then, hook into a trout at Crane...and expect it to have
some shoulders. It is estimated that newly released fish in Crane grow as many as 2" per month their first season.
Growing up in Central Oregon, I was able to spend a lot of time on
the Cascade Lakes, especially Crane Prairie. Crane offers
a wide variety of fish to a wide variety of fishing techniques.
Fly fishermen love Crane Prairie for its huge hatches throughout
the fishing season. Fly fishermen often use flat bottom boats
and get out in the center of the reservoir to fish between
the many millfoil pockets. Others like to float tube down
the river channels while dragging leach or wooley bugger patterns.
Bait fishermen will always be a mainstay at Crane. They offer
a variety of choices to the trout, but the most popular are
worms, powerbait, and dragon fly nymphs. The latter of the
three is very difficult to find these days as commercial nymph
pickers have decimated the reservoir's population. Luckily
there are plenty of other bugs to fatten the fish's firm bodies. I prefer to fish from smaller boats with low profiles to reduce visible presence and to reduce
Finally, trollers have some success along the edges of channels
with Thomas lures, flatfish, or other small bait imitations.
Large troll rigs just don't work due to the dense aquatic
vegetation and lack of depth to the reservoir. Bank access
for Trout is very limited while it is excellent for Bass.
If you want to spoil your future fishing buddies, bring them to Crane Prairie. They'll never truly respect
a limit of planter trout again! Ironically, the innocent approach to fishing often lands more fish on our boats
as the kids seem to out fish us time and time again.
If you come to Crane Prairie, expect to hook big fish (3 pounders are common),
see a variety of wildlife, and never count on the weather!
~Good Fishin' - Tim
for more information about Crane Prairie or any High Cascade Lake in Central Oregon!