Nearly 350,000 fish. About 500 lakes. And just $33 for an annual resident angling license. The numbers don’t lie: This is going to be a great year for those who enjoy high mountain fishing. The state of Oregon stocked about 500 lakes in the Cascade Range with 345,000 fish last July, and many of those meals-on-fins are now large enough to keep. Of course, many anglers practice catch and release – it seems the chase (and the breathtaking scenery) is enough for them.
Still, there’s nothing quite like hiking into a remote area, fishing for a while, and then frying your catch over an open fire, having cleaned it with your ever-present folding knife. No wonder 25 percent of Oregon anglers prefer to fish in the state’s high-altitude lakes – there are fewer people around and no noisy jet skis or boats, making for a very relaxing, rewarding experience.
Just where does the average high-mountain fisherman aim his LED headlamp? Well, considering that there are hundreds of lakes in the Cascades, there’s no reason to sample only the best-known spots. You could tackle Todd Lake near Bend, the Sky Lake Wilderness near Medford, or simply choose from the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s list of 50 places to go fishing within an hour of Portland.
If you’ve never been lake fishing before, have no fear. Nearly every Oregonian can enjoy alpine lake fishing, assuming he or she comes prepared with a few necessities. We outline those must-haves below. From LED flashlights to a trusty folding knife, you’ll need to bring plenty of gear to have a successful high mountain fishing trip. As you pack, it will help to remember that you’ll need items for both hiking and fishing. We’ve created a packing list for those who have a day hiking and fishing expedition in mind; those who hope to camp will need to bring much more gear.
Hiking Gear to Bring
- Sturdy hiking boots, waterproof if possible. Depending on your fishing style, you may also want to bring waders or water shoes.
- Plenty of water – at least two liters per person in your group.
- Protection from the sun, including sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat for each hiker. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours and after swimming.
- A fully charged cell phone, in case of an emergency.
- Rain gear is always a good idea in Oregon. Check out the weather before you leave and be prepared for the worst.
- A first aid kit that contains ibuprofen, bandages, cortisone and other basic items.
- A compass or GPS system if you’re hiking off trail, or in case you get lost.
- A trail map, ideally one that shows topographical information.
- A camera, binoculars and any other items you want to bring to record and enjoy your alpine adventure.
- LED flashlights for every person in your party.
- Insect repellant.
Bringing LED flashlights or an LED headlamp is a good safety precaution. If you get lost in the backcountry, those LED lights will come in extremely handy for building shelter, gathering any available food and signaling rescue parties. Chances are you won’t have to use your LED flashlights for anything beyond lighting your way back to the car, but it’s always a good idea to play it safe.
Those who are staying overnight may want to bring LED camping lanterns instead. LED camping lanterns offer all the advantages of LED flashlights (extremely long battery and bulb life, energy efficiency and very bright light output), but with the added advantage of creating ambient light for an entire campsite. Of course, you can also choose to bring an LED headlamp so as to keep your hands free while fishing.
Fishing Tackle to Bring
- A fishing rod or two. Many high mountain anglers suggest bringing a lightweight, short spinning rod as well as a fly rod that is designed to split into several pieces for easier packing.
- Lures, to catch fishes’ eyes. Trout are probably the most common fish in Oregon’s high mountain lakes, since this is the species the state stocks via helicopter drops. Therefore, you may select lures made especially for trout, such as flatfish lures for fly fishing. The higher you go in altitude, the smaller your flies or lures should be, since the fish are also smaller in the mountains.
- An LED headlamp is extremely handy on a fishing trip – it allows you to focus on the task at hand, such as netting a fish, rather than fumbling with your light. An LED headlamp is definitely a must-have for early-morning anglers. Ideally, you’ll bring an LED headlamp with dimming capabilities. If you can turn your LED headlamp light down, you’ll not only preserve night vision, but you’ll also avoid spooking the fish.
Tailor the rest of the fishing gear you bring to your experience, the area where you’ll be fishing, and your own experience level.