Trophy Mackinaw in Odell Crescent and Wallowa Lakes
Oregon’s state record for lake trout already is over 40 pounds, but an even bigger mackinaw may very well be swimming in Odell, Crescent or another deep mountain lake.
Odell Lake, a deep and rich lake in central Oregon, holds the state record lake trout with a 40-pound, 8-ounce monster caught in 1984.
The owner of Shelter Cove Resort & Marina believes there’s an even bigger fish hiding in the lake with depths just shy of 300 feet.
He isn’t just guessing – he said more recently an angler caught, photographed, and released a mackinaw that likely would have bested the record had it been officially weighed.
“There’s (another) state record in this lake,” Kielblock said point-blank. “We have such a great kokanee population, and they feed on kokanee.” The lakers also have whitefish and rainbow trout on their menu, but Odell’s legendary kokanee fishery offers up an easy buffet line an old pot-bellied lake trout can’t resist.
The lake trout will hit deep-trolled wobbling lures such as Kwikfish and FlatFish or other lures that imitate kokanee and other forage, such as Rapalas. Trollers often employ downriggers or lead-core lines to get their lures down to the lake trout. Mackinaw also will snatch a jig – often at the business end of the lightweight line in the hands of a surprised kokanee angler.
Angling for Big Lake Trout in Crescent Lake
Crescent Lake, another big lake just south of Odell Lake, contains a smorgasbord of big trout, including lunker browns and decent rainbows, and quite a good kokanee fishery. And with all that potential food, its lake trout have topped 36 pounds already and may have the best chance of any other lake to top Odell’s state record.
“We have really big lake trout here,” said Tom Forestelle, former owner of Crescent Lake Lodge & Resort.
Forestelle said Crescent Lake’s mackinaw anglers usually troll plugs, including Luhr Jensen’s Kwikfish and J-Plugs.
Cultus Lake Macks Offer a Lesser-Known Fishery
With fewer and smaller lake trout than nearby Odell and Crescent lakes, Cultus Lake doesn’t get quite the same attention for this fishery. But Cultus still has put out trophy lakers well over 20 pounds, although the average lake trout here is smaller.
Once summer sets in, try trolling or jigging around ledges in deep water.
Commonly called Big Cultus, this destination along lake-filled Century Drive also offers good fishing for rainbow trout and whitefish, plus the occasional brook trout.
Knowing Wallowa Lake Anglers Land Mackinaw
Lake trout aren’t particularly abundant in Wallowa, a popular rainbow trout and record-breaking kokanee lake in northeastern Oregon, but the relatively few anglers that target them might find one quite large down in 250 to 300 feet of cold high-mountain water.
“All indications are we have a fairly small population (of lake trout), but they get to a pretty good size. We know of fish that are pushing 30 pounds in Wallowa Lake,” said Bill Knox, a fisheries biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “It’s not like you’re going to go out any day and be sure you’re going to catch a lake trout.”
Mark Moncrief of Tri-State Outfitters successfully targets the lake’s big macks. He said Wallowa has fewer lake trout than Odell, where he also guides, but that the population is stable and includes much large fish. His clients’ catches average a hefty 14 to 18 pounds, and Moncrief himself landed the lake record, a 36.5-pound bruiser.
A fish finder, a downrigger, and some patience will help.
Fourmile Lake is New Lake Trout Fishery
Fourmile is a high-mountain lake high in the Cascade Range northwest of Klamath Falls. ODFW planted lake trout at Fourmile three times between 1999 and 2003, and biologists like Roger Smith are now waiting to see whether mackinaw will reproduce naturally here.
Lake trout are slow-growing, so those planted fish haven’t yet matured into massive trophies, although sampling found fish to 8 pounds by 2009, Smith said. Most at that time was 16 to 20 inches, not big for lake trout but plentiful enough to provide good action, he added.
In fact, Smith and a fishing partner caught 20 lakers in just two hours by trolling Kwikfish lures at Fourmile. “If you go up there and you troll, you should catch some,” he said. Their largest lake trout that day was about 20 inches, however, and Smith said Fourmile’s lake trout will get to respectable size but likely not reach state record size because Odell and Crescent offer more prey.
A handful of other Oregon lakes have mackinaws, but most of these fish are undersized compared to the potential trophies swimming in the lakes above, so they get little attention. Among minor lake trout fisheries are Summit Lake in central Oregon and several high-mountain lakes in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
Lake Trout are an Introduced Species
Mackinaw isn’t native to Oregon, but in this handful of lakes, they seem to like their adopted home. They give anglers one of the best chances anywhere to catch a trout over 20, 30 or possibly even 40 pounds.
Additional Resources for Lake Trout Angling in Oregon
- Fishing in Oregon: The Complete Oregon Fishing Guide (Flying Pencil Publications, Scappoose, Oregon), by Madelynne Diness Sheehan
- The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website