Headin' Outdoors with Scott Staats

Fishing high lakes
The long winter has postponed access to some of the high lakes, making for many disappointed anglers this spring. Some lakes still have a lingering cover of ice, while a few feet of snow still block roads leading to many boat ramps.
   However, it's only a matter of days until all of the high lakes are accessible. In the meantime, anglers have been heading for Wickiup and Crane Prairie reservoirs and are having some luck. I decided to give Wickiup Reservoir a shot.
    I'm always punctual; it's one of my faults. I don't like having to wait on others so I don't want them waiting on me. I try to be at least five minutes early. However, I didn't count on road construction on the way from Prineville through Powell Butte and had to wait at least five minutes until the pilot car got repositioned at the front of our line.
   Then I hit what seemed like the continuous road work on Highway 97 from Lava Lands Visitor Center to the Sunriver exit, which slowed me down once again. By the time I met John Garrison, owner of Garrison's Guide Service in Sunriver, I was only a few minutes behind schedule. We headed to Twin Lakes Resort where we had breakfast while looking out on South Twin Lake. I must say, the pancakes were some of the best I've ever had.
   Jim and Joann Frazee have owned Twin Lakes Resort for six years and Lava Lake Resort for 31 years. Their son Joie spends most of his time helping to run Twin Lakes Resort. He came over and sat down for a few minutes and shared some information with us.
   He said South Twin Lake was stocked recently with 6- to 8-inch rainbows. Anglers were catching 12-inch fish, which were last year's stocking. A few larger fish were being caught at both North and South Twin lakes. We watched from our table as one angler headed out in a float tube while a few others worked their way along the bank. He said there have been brown trout taken from Wickiup already weighing 11 and 14 pounds.
   "On opening weekend you couldn't get to Crane Prairie Reservoir from here," Frazee said. "You'd have to take the 40 Road out of Sunriver. To get there from here, you have to go almost all the way back to Sunriver."
   He said he met a lot of frustrated people and the biggest complaint he heard was that there were no signs posted anywhere telling anglers they couldn't access Crane Prairie from the 42 Road. For those coming over Willamette Pass from Highway 58, he said they can come north up the 46 Road, turn on the 40 Road and come into Crane Prairie. However, they couldn't access Wickiup Reservoir once there.
   These access problems this spring are due to the heavier than normal snowpack. At this time last year anglers were fishing most of the high lakes. Frazee thinks it will be at least a week before Lava Lake is open. There were still a few feet of snow on the ground there and some of the lake was still ice covered.
   "When it comes to access," said Frazee, "it's a little awkward because you have two county-maintained roads (40 and 42) with a few miles of snow-covered Forest Service roads in between, which aren't being plowed."
   When I was up there, the 4-mile stretch of Forest Road 42 from Browns Creek to the Cascade Lakes Highway was not plowed. The same went for the 4270 Road between Wickiup and Crane Prairie reservoirs. The road to Cultus Lake Resort was plowed but the road to the boat ramp was not. Since then, the latest reports are that everything is now open except the gate to Lava Lake.
   After a hearty breakfast, Garrison and I headed for Wickiup and got on the water after 9:30 and motored up the Deschutes arm of the reservoir. Garrison's 24-foot pontoon boat makes for a comfortable outing.
   The chilly morning quickly warmed up and we were greeted with a wide array of wildlife of the winged variety. We got within good viewing distance of Western grebes and buffleheads. A few bald eagles and ospreys flew over us. A kingfisher chattered from a tree onshore.
   We had our four lines in at exactly 10 a.m. Two years ago that may have raised a few eyebrows and possibly even a few citations from the local game warden. However, last year the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife offered anglers a two-rod license for $17. This validation allows anglers to fish with two rods or lines on standing water bodies, which include lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
   Garrison likes to use dragonfly nymphs when fishing for trout on Wickiup and Crane Prairie reservoirs. That day he had two different species - one he calls the regular version and the other he calls spiders. We had hits on both.
   We had our first hit at 11 a.m. - he missed, and our second hit 10 minutes later, which I missed. Garrison calls these short strikes or "grab and spits." I just call them misses. At 11:40 he brought a 16-inch brown trout to the boat, which made for a tasty dinner.
   "Trout are a little finicky this time of year," Garrison explained. "It's early in the season and fishing will be fine when it warms up." This is his 27th year of guiding on the high lakes and his guide service is currently up for sale.
   For those interested in catching big browns, he suggests trolling early and late in the day with lures such as Rapalas in the main part of the reservoir and in the Deschutes and Davis arms. Trout will also hit worms, PowerBait and a variety of flies. For kokanee, troll with typical kokanee gear or try jigging. The bass hit plugs and plastic worms or grubs.
   The water temperature was 46 when we started. The reservoir is currently 96 percent full so there's lots of water to cover.
   According to ODFW, Wickiup has natural production for both kokanee and redbands (rainbow trout). For brown trout, the state has been stocking about 6,000 fingerlings each year.
   The resort is open every day and besides lodging, they offer boat rentals (no motors are allowed on South Twin Lake). Rentals are $12/hour, $28 for 4 hours or $40 for the day. They also rent canoes for $12/hour, single kayaks for $10/hour, double kayaks for $12/hour and 2-person paddleboats for $10/hour.
   The restaurant is open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday. During the week it's from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends it's 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., breakfast, lunch and dinner. They always have a dinner special that includes dessert. Prime rib comes out of the smoker at 5 o'clock on Saturdays.
   The resort posts photographs of large trout taken from Wickiup Reservoir and the twin lakes from the current year. Photos are also posted on their website (www.twinlakesresort.net) from current and past years.
   For more information on access to lakes and fishing call Twin Lakes Resort at 541-382-6432 or Garrison's Guide Service at 541-593-8394.