Wallowa County has perhaps the most diverse freshwater fishing opportunities in Oregon, from rainbows in high mountain lakes, to trophy kokanee and lake trout in Wallowa Lake, to summer steelhead and spring Chinook, to smallmouth bass and catfish.
Wallowa LakeFor many anglers, Wallowa Lake is the county's main fishing attraction. The deep, clear waters of the lake hold native rainbow trout, kokanee and lake trout. Wallowa Lake also is stocked with thousands of hatchery rainbows each spring and summer.
While a few anglers venture onto the ice during the winter and early spring, most of the fishing takes place in the summer.
Many anglers are attracted by the lake's prized kokanee, which are a landlocked sockeye salmon. Wallowa Lake holds the state record for kokanee, a 6.74-pound, 26-inch fish caught May 22, 2001, by Joseph resident Pam Fahey.
Anglers typically catch kokanee in the 8- to 11-inch range, but plenty of bigger fish, including kokanee measuring 18 to 20 inches, are caught each year.
"There are definitely trophy-size fish in Wallowa Lake," says Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Bill Knox. "Every now and then someone catches an 8- or 9-pound rainbow. There are some 20- to 30-pound lake trout in Wallowa Lake."
Kokanee are caught jigging and trolling. Flashers fished in front of Wedding Rings tipped with bait work well. Since kokanee eat shrimp, one of the most effective baits is Pautzke's Fire Corn, which is cured in krill.
Shore anglers will catch stocked rainbows with salmon eggs, Power Bait and worms. Many anglers fish the head of the lake, where the Wallowa River flows in, but Knox points out a boat is used to stock the lake and spread the fish out.
RiversSummer steelhead are a big draw in the fall in the Grande Ronde River near Troy and in late winter and early spring in the Wallowa and Imnaha rivers. Nearly 800,000 baby steelhead are released from Wallowa Fish Hatchery in Enterprise, one of the biggest steelhead stockings in the state, fueling the popular fishing on the Wallowa, Grande Ronde, Snake and Columbia rivers.
Spring Chinook enter the Imnaha from late May through July. The 2009 run is expected to be big enough to allow a fishing season, ODFW said.
Steelhead are caught on the Wallowa from Minam to Wallowa drifting eggs or fly fishing. The season closes in mid-April.
The last Saturday in May, the Wallowa River re-opens to trout fishing. Only fin-clipped, or hatchery trout, can be kept from the mouth of Rock Creek downstream on the Wallowa.
PondsMarr Pond in Enterprise, Wallowa Wildlife Ponds near the town of Wallowa, and Victor Pond northwest of Wallowa, offer good fishing for stocked rainbow trout in the summer. Honeymoon Pond, McGraw Pond, Teepee Pond and Salt Creek Summit Pond also are stocked with trout.
Salmon eggs fished with marshmallows or Power Bait are good bets for trout.
Warmwater speciesAlthough access to the Snake River is difficult in Wallowa County, the river has good numbers of smallmouth bass and catfish. Smallmouth bass also are available on the lower Imnaha and Grande Ronde rivers. Hells Canyon Reservoir and Brownlee Reservoir, south of Wallowa County, offer some of the best catfish, bass and crappie fishing in the state. The fishing is good through the summer.
The state record catfish came from Brownlee Reservoir.
Fishing suppliesFor more information on fishing in Wallowa County, visit the Sports Corral in Joseph, Joseph Fly Shoppe or Four Seasons Fly Shop in Island City.