Spring has certainly arrived!
You can see it at every turn; brilliant sunshine, a new flush of green across the Willamette Valley hillsides while area lakes and ponds find anglers casting their lures or baits for rainbow trout.
If there is a better way to spend the day than fishing with your family or friends, I surely don’t know where or when.
You see, trout fishing is contagious!
That’s especially true when the small fry take over a place like St Louis Ponds near Woodburn and experts like state fishery biologist Tom Murtagh are close at hand to offer advice.
Tom is one of a couple dozen experts and volunteers who recently helped put kids in touch with fishing at the ponds through ODFW’s Youth Fishing Clinic.
“We provide the instruction, the gear to use and the correct bait too," noted Murtagh. “Plus, we have instructors, volunteers and angler educators onboard here to help us out to help the families and teach the kids how to fish.”
It’s a perfect setting for folks who don’t know much about rods, reels and the varied lures or baits that trout prefer to bite.
The experts provide all of that and more – they even stock the lakes with legal-sized trout for the young anglers to catch.
The best part is that all of it is free!
“Fishing is a great way to get outside," said Murtagh. "It’s a healthy, fun thing to do with family. We get a lot of moms and dads who get a kick out of it too because it really helps them connect with their kids.”
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks more than one million catchable trout at 96 locations in northwest Oregon. There are scores of area lakes and ponds where the trout fishing is close to home and easy to find.
For example, Canby Pond in Clackamas County is stocked year round and it is open to kids, 17 and under or disabled anglers too.
In Washington County, be sure to check out Bethany Pond, just outside the Beaverton suburbs for another favorite year-round site.
That holds true for Commonwealth Lake in Beaverton too. It offers a neighborhood park that’s kid friendly and ADA-accessible and it is a delightful stop for a picnic lunch as well.
If you’re casting about for larger lakes to wet a line, Henry Hagg Lake and Scoggins Valley Park is a delightful destination where trout fishing along the shore or from a boat is most popular pastime.
“Perfect activity for kids,” noted longtime angler Trey Carskadon. “When you’re trolling along and a trout comes up and grabs it, they (the kids) get hooked. They reel fish in with a smile and it’s so easy to deal with – Hagg Lake is heavily stocked with trout and it’s got some whoppers in here too.”
More than a hundred thousand rainbow trout are planted in Hagg Lake each year according to Carskadon who favors a simple, but effective technique to catch them.
He called it “flat-line trolling.”
“On the end of my line is a snap swivel and I attach the lure to it – either a black rooster tail, a panther martin with a dark body and a bright blade or a crushed orange crippler. Many people like to go out to the middle of the lake and troll for fish, but the trout really congregate and feed along the break lines (drop offs between shallow water and deep water) that are close to shore. I simply let out about 60-feet of line behind the boat and slowly motor along– maybe twenty yards off shore."
Carskadon carried a small crew of anglers on a recent spring day; Ashley Massey and her daughters, Maddy-aged 11, and Sophia Massey-aged 5. Each enjoyed the chance to catch rainbow trout from a boat.
Ashley Massey is a life vest expert with the Oregon State Marine Board who leads her kids by example: she always wears a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) and she reminded parents that kids 12 and under must wear a PFD whenever they’re on the water.
“Conditions can change in an instant,” said Massey. “So, the key is to wear a life vest or jacket at all times. You never know when something’s going to change and there really isn’t time to put one on in an emergency, so find a life jacket that’s comfortable and wear it.”
Massey advised that parents should “read the label” when they shop for life vests and make certain that the ones they choose are marked “US Coast Guard Approved” and that they are suitable for the activities that they choose to do.
Finally, if you choose to visit Henry Hagg Lake, be ready to fall in love with a sprawling parkland where recreation waits at every turns – a place that makes you feel right at home since it’s less than an hour’s drive from Portland.
“We have a number of picnic areas,” noted Chris Wayland, Scoggins Valley Park Manager. He added, “We’ve some covered shelters which are available by reservation for group picnics and get-togethers. We also have 15 miles of master level hiking trail that is multi-use for both hiking and mountain bike use. So, we have a lot of things to here besides fish, although fishing is he number one activity here.”
There are two outstanding resource guides that are published by the Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife for folks who want to learn more about trout fishing that’s close to the Portland area: ODFW’s “Outdoor Calendar” lists all of the youth angling events by dates and locations – plus, the “50 Places to Go Fishing 60 Minutes From Portland” is a superb resource that provides directions to all of the local lakes and ponds where trout fishing is available.
You can pick up a free copy of each at any ODFW District Office or visitor center or online too.
In addition, be sure to go to Boat Oregon for all of the details and information about boating resources across Oregon.