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Bend Oregon-Home to Large Bull Trout

Aug 17, 2007
Bend Oregon is home to some of the largest Bull Trout in the Pacific Northwest and the United States. The Metolius River which is about a one hour drive west of Bend is the spawning ground to a great Bull Trout fishery.

The Metolius River springs from the ground at the base of Black Butte and flows into Lake Billy Chinook. Lake Billy Chinook is technically a reservoir as it is backed up my Round Butte Dam. The Metolius River, Crooked River and the Deschutes River all flow into the reservoir.

Bull Trout are an endangered species in Oregon with the exception of the Lake Billy Chinook and the Metolius River fishery. The Metolius maintains a steady flow of pure water at a moderate temperature year round, ideal for Bull Trout Spawning.

Bull Trout closely resemble Dolly Varden which is an anadromous trout found in coastal streams. The Dolly Varden migrates to the ocean to feed and then spawns in the coastal rivers. The Bull Trout is a land locked cousin.

The Metolius River and Lake Billy Chinook provide a year round fishery for large Bull Trout. The river is strictly catch and release of all fish including Bull Trout and restricted to artificial flies and lures downstream from Bridge 99. Consult the current issue of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Fishing Regulations.

Matt Johnson, a Bend real estate broker, and three of his friends recently took advantage of a 65 degree day in February and landed and released 9 huge Bull Trout while fly fishing the Metolius River. The largest was close to a whopping 32 inches! Fly fishing for Bull Trout is not an easy proposition but these fishermen have figured it out. Most fly fishermen put in many hours before hooking a large "Bully." Landing one is another matter.

The Oregon State record was caught in the reservoir in 1989 by Don Yow. It was a gigantic 23 pounds and 2 ounces. Biologists say there are larger fish present today.

Lake Billy Chinook is full of Kokanee Salmon which is the primary source of food for the big trout. These salmon are plentiful and help Bull Trout grow fat fast. They will however, eat anything that swims as long as it is bit size. They do take big bits.

Even thought the reservoir is open year round the Metolius Arm is closed during the winter months and open March first thru October 31. The best time to catch large Bull Trout in Lake Billy Chinook is March thru April in the Metolius arm. Normally the big fish will come out of the deep water into the shallows to feed at this time.

They can usually be found in 10 to 20 foot of water. Any lure that resembles a six to twelve Kokanee is best. Fly fisherman can set up a wind drift along the shore and cast large streamers into the appropriate zones.

Trolling for big trout is also popular. Large silver plugs such as Rapalas and Rebels are successful. Some fishermen will use down riggers putting their lures at the appropriate depth which is usually 15 to 20 feet. Be ready for a strike when you cross a main lake point. Cut herring is a popular bait when trolling.

Some anglers will cast to the shore. You can either set up a wind drift of use an electric trolling motor to keep your boat at the appropriate depth. Keep the boat in 15-20 feet of water and cast into the shallows. Big Bull Trout can sometimes be found in 3-5 feet of water if the wind is blowing with a good chop on the water.

There are some years when the fish don't move into the shallows early in the season. If this is the case jigging may be the ticket. Use your depth finder to locate the large schools of Kokanee in the Metolius Arm. This happened in 2006 to Daryl Loveland of Bend. He caught and released a 14 pound Bull Trout in 80 feet of water with a 2 oz jigging spoon right off the bottom.

Current Oregon State regulations allow one fish 24 inches or larger to be kept per day. To fish the Metolius Arm of the reservoir it will be necessary to purchase a Warm Springs Tribal fishing permit. These permits can be purchased in Culver at one of the two grocery stores. You drive through Culver on your way to the Reservoir.

Winter and early spring are the best times to fish for large Bull Trout. The river can become a little crowded in the summer and Lake Billy Chinook is a well known water skiing lake. Please release all Bull Trout as they are not very good eating. Plus, that 15 pounder may grow up to be the next state record if you release it. If you get one over 23 pounds and 2 ounces, keep it. You will have a new state record!
About the Author
Jim Johnson CRS is a real estate expert who has lived in Bend Oregon since 1981.
Call 541-389-4511 or see his web site http://www.BendOregonRealEstateExpert.com or
See more fishing information at Our Community
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