Northeast Oregon recreation report

By Observer staff December 20, 2013 07:38 am
Northeast Oregon recreation report for December 20, 2013

Ice-fishing safety

With several water bodies beginning to ice over, it’s a good time to be reminded that anglers should always use caution during first-ice conditions. Take the following precautions: use the “buddy system,” wear a PDF in case of thin ice, carry a throw-rope, and use a heavy metal staff to check for thin ice. 

Vexilar’s Ice Fishing Today website — — has a 2-minute video describing how to be safe during early ice.


• POWDER RIVER: trout, spring chinook

Catch-and-release fishing with flies and lures is now allowed through April 25, 2014, from Hughes Lane in Baker City, upstream to Mason Dam. 

All other reaches of the Powder River and tributaries are closed to fishing. The reach immediately below Mason Dam is now near the winter minimum flow, but should supply anglers with good opportunity for holdover stocked trout or native trout. 


The Grande Ronde has cleared of ice and is fishable. Steelhead should be present and available for anglers. Pressure will be light and there should be plenty of water available for anglers. 

This year, steelhead have been taking diverse gear including shrimp, jigs, spinners and swung flies. Nymphing small flies such as glo-bugs and prince nymphs under an indicator can also be a deadly method. Abundant road access is available near Troy though anglers still need to be aware of private property and respect landowner’s requests. Some parties have made the float from Minam to Wildcat Cr.; however, this float can be difficult under low flow conditions. Look for the gage at Troy to be above 900 cfs for an easier float.

• IMNAHA RIVER: steelhead

The Imnaha has cleared of ice and is fishable.

Fishing will likely be slow but a few fish should be available in the lower river. Fishing will pick up in the late winter/early spring when fish start moving out of the Snake River toward the hatchery facility on Little Sheep Creek. Anglers can find success on spinners, bait and other lures. Fly anglers will be able to find success swinging flies and nymphing.

Steelhead fishing was slow with anglers averaging 14.4 hours per steelhead landed for the week of Dec. 9-15. Steelhead catch and returns have been made up of approximately 90 percent wild fish. Anglers are using a variety of techniques drift fishing techniques, eggs under a bobber, jigs and shrimp. The daily bag limit is 3 adipose clipped steelhead. The salmon season ended Nov. 30. Anglers should consult the synopsis for detailed regulations.

• WALLOWA LAKE: rainbow trout, kokanee, lake trout

There may be some stocked rainbows available near the north and south ends of the lake. These fish can be found on a variety of gear types, and provide some late-season opportunity. One angler this week reported catching a 16- to 18-inch rainbow trolling a minnow imitation. Boat launching, however, may prove difficult after docks have been removed from the lake

For the hearty fisherman, kokanee can be caught at the south end of the lake by jigging DEEP and can produce if the lake freezes. On Nov. 20, the temporary regulation expired for kokanee back to 10 per day with no more than 5 over 12-inches. Starting Jan. 1, the rule allowing 20 kokanee per day, no more than 5 over 12 inches will become permanent.

The Wallowa River above the lake closed up to the falls on the west fork and the PPL intake on the east fork as of Aug. 31 to protect spawning kokanee.

• WALLOWA RIVER: steelhead, whitefish

The Wallowa has cleared of ice but may have some slush flowing. Steelhead fishing will likely be very slow over the next couple months. Steelhead will move into the Wallowa River as winter progresses and catch rates will improve through spring until closing on April 15.

Trout season closed Oct. 31; however, fishing for whitefish remains open with the steelhead season and will produce throughout the winter. Anglers can target whitefish using a variety of light tackle, and fly anglers can find success using beaded nymphs in runs and pools.

• SNAKE RIVER below HELLS CANYON RESERVOIR: fall chinook, trout, sturgeon, bass

Fall chinook fishing is closed in Hells Canyon as of Nov. 18. Steelhead fishing has picked up in Hells Canyon is producing at respectable 7-9 hours per fish. Steelhead fishing will continue to produce through the winter as fish move toward the tributaries. Anglers are reminded barbless hooks are required.

Trout anglers will find success using a variety of methods. Look for trout on seams and foam lines where insects often collect. Only adipose clipped trout may be kept.



Bighorn sheep: Bighorn sheep can be seen in the Burnt River Canyon west of Durkee or along the Snake River Road south of Richland.

Elk: Elk are visible along the base of the Elkhorn Mountains in the early mornings and late evenings.  Elk can also been seen from the viewing areas on Old Auburn road about 10 miles southwest of Baker City or North Powder River Lane, in Union County about eight miles west of North Powder. Remember the wildlife area is closed to entry so bring binoculars and a spotting scope for the best look.


Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area

Note: New this fall: All visitors must have in their possession a free daily permit to access the wildlife area. Permits are available at several self-check-in stations at entry points and parking lots. Wildlife viewers and anglers also need a parking permit to park on the wildlife area. The $7 daily or $22 annual permit can be purchased online or at an ODFW office that sells licenses or at a license sales agent. Learn more about ODFW’s Wildlife Area Parking Permit Program.

The Tule Lake Public Access Area and Auto Route are closed to daily public entry. Tule Lake is open to foot traffic Sat., Sun. Wed. and holidays during the pheasant, quail and waterfowl hunting seasons as is much of the wildlife area. The Glass Hill Unit remains open daily through January. Visitors are advised to carefully read posted signs and consult game bird regulations before entering the wildlife area. Dogs are not permitted within the Wildlife Area, on or off leash except during authorized hunting seasons. There are numerous quality viewing opportunities from county roads that pass through the area. Binoculars or a spotting scope will help as many animals are best viewed from a distance.

Virtually all of the wildlife area is frozen resulting in a severe reduction in waterfowl on the area.

Western Meadowlarks continue to be seen along roads and in shrub patches. Northern Shrikes and American Tree Sparrows are present on the area along with white-crowned sparrows and a single Harris’s Sparrow. The first Red-bellied Woodpecker ever documented in Oregon is still being seen in northeast La Grande, not on the wildlife area, but it is very notable and a good reminder that rarities can show up anywhere, any time.

For more information on access rules for Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area, please consult the Oregon Game Bird Regulations or call the wildlife area 541-963-4954.


Winter is a good time to view mule deer and white-tailed deer as they are more actively feeding during the limited hours of daylight this time of year. A good place to observe mule deer is along the Wallowa Lake highway between Joseph and the south end of Wallowa Lake. Drive slowly and watch along the moraine on the east side of the lake around dawn and dusk. Be careful to use the turnouts when stopping to watch these animals, as there will be other traffic on the road. White-tailed deer can be found throughout the Wallowa Valley on or near agricultural lands.

Most of the elk on the Zumwalt Prairie have moved onto the breaks of the canyons where they are less visible. It is still possible to see them occasionally from the Imnaha Highway or the Trail Creek Road on The Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie Preserve. Once you find a herd, use binoculars or a spotting scope to observe the animals.

Many waterfowl, particularly Canada geese, mallards, and American wigeon, are arriving in the county on their southward migration and can be seen flying into Wallowa Lake in the evenings from the county park at the north end of the Lake. Many geese can be seen feeding in agricultural fields around the county, and the dabbling ducks can be seen eating cattle feed on the feedlots and along the open water streams feeding on water plants.