Diamond Lake was ice-free by the end of April and fishermen in their boats have been cruising the waters since.
Their goal is to catch some of the estimated 250,000 legal-sized trout swimming in the high Cascades lake that is about 85 miles east of Roseburg. Fishing is best through the cooler weeks of late spring and early summer. The bite is best before the water warms up a bit and before insect hatches occur.
Rick Rockholt of the Diamond Lake Resort said he has seen a couple 19- to 20-inch fish since the ice left. A 12-pound, 4-ounce trout was caught by some young anglers from Roseburg last year.
“There could be a 15-pounder in there just waiting,” Rockholt said. “Who knows?”
Diamond Lake has an eight-fish-a-day limit. It’s the only water in Oregon that features an eight-fish limit.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing for families that come here to fish, and it’s good for the lake,” said Steve Koch, president and general manager of Diamond Lake Resort. “It’s a better reward for what is paid for the license. It’s an opportunity to harvest quite a few more fish. With the price of fuel, the ability to catch more fish will help offset some of the travel costs.
“I know (the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is) trying to balance the food source with the fishery, and this should keep the health of the lake steady,” he added.
ODFW stocked 206,000 trout in the lake in 2013. The release consisted of 160,000 3- to 5-inch fish and 20,000 5-6 inches in the spring and summer. In the fall, another 16,000 legal trout and 20,000 sub-legal fish were released. Last year’s fingerlings are now expected to be 8-10 inches in length. In addition to the fish from last year’s releases, there is also a carryover of trout from the previous year or two.
Releases totaling 275,000 fingerling trout a year are scheduled for each of the next five years beginning this year.
Most people fishing at the lake use Power Bait, with chartreuse and fluorescent orange colors being most popular. The bait is fished 18 to 24 inches off the bottom. Other options are night crawlers or trolling with Ford Fenders with either a small lure or worm.
Rockholt said fly fishing should also prove to be productive.
Diamond Lake has recovered as a trout fishery since undergoing the largest fisheries restoration project ever by ODFW. The agency in 2006 joined the U.S. Forest Service and other state and federal agencies to mix more than 100,000 pounds of rotenone into the lake and choke out the non-native tui chub, a minnow-like fish of the Klamath Basin that had decimated the lake’s food chain with its proliferation and contributed to algae blooms with its waste.
Visibility, which for years had been marred by poor water quality conditions stemming from tui chub, has reached nearly the deepest part of the lake, about 47 feet.
In anticipation of preventing future algae blooms — or the possible re-introduction of tui chub or arrival of another non-native species — the U.S. Forest Service and the ODFW are requesting all boaters to wash their crafts and trailers before visiting Diamond Lake. Interpretive signs are placed around the lake, explaining the threat of invasive species.
The lake had a couple of algae advisories last summer, but fishing was never stopped. Testing show the algae contained no toxins.
The ODFW is monitoring the health of the lake, measuring biological indexes. Algae blooms during the hot summer months are common for some Douglas County waters. Diamond Lake blooms, however, have been shorter in duration than blooms of past years.
This year’s annual free fishing weekend — no license required — will be held June 7 and 8. The Diamond Lake Resort has scheduled a free Kids Derby Day on the June 7 for kids 17 and younger.
The eighth annual Blackbird Fishing Derby is scheduled for June 21. Around a dozen tagged fish, with values of $100 to $1,000, will be released into the lake. They have to be caught on that day for an angler to be rewarded.
Last year there were about 1,000 angler entries. Nobody caught a $1,000 fish, but a couple of fish with $100 tags were caught.
The recent mild winter provided only about two months of ice fishing on the lake.
“The fishing was fair,” Rockholt said. “Most everybody caught some fish. People are still learning how to ice fish. People are getting bites, but not hooking them.”
Diamond Lake Lodge will host its annual Independence Day celebration with games and activities on July 4. Fireworks will be shot off over the lake beginning at 10 p.m.
For bicycling enthusiasts, an 11-mile paved path circles the lake and provides a popular ride.
Hikers have numerous options to explore around Diamond Lake, with the 79-mile long North Umpqua Trail nearby and the Mount Thielsen Trail culminating at 9,182 feet on the spire that looms to the east.
Besides the resort, there are also 450 Forest Service campsites around the lake. The majority, 250, are available to campers on a first-come, first-serve basis.
In the winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to the lake to glide on cross-country trails or bomb the backcountry with Cat Ski Mt. Bailey, Oregon’s oldest snowcat skiing operation on the 8,363-foot Mount Bailey.
Diamond Lake is especially popular among snowmobile enthusiasts. The resort grooms more than 300 miles of snowmobile trails in the woods and around the lake and also has machines available for rent.
For those who are learning how to downhill ski or just want to merrily slide on an inner tube, check out the tubing hill at the resort. A tow rope provides countless returns to the top of the hill.
Most snow equipment needs, including rentals, are available at the resort’s shop.
Boating and fishing return when winter’s grip relents at the end of April or early May.
The resort also rents sea cycles, single or tandem kayaks, paddle boats and canoes to visitors. Patio boats are available to larger groups.
A portion of the lake is roped off for mad, bumper-boat fun and for swimming.
Guided fishing trips are also available on the lake, and so are sightseeing tours for those who like to have someone else responsible for the work.
You can reach Features Editor Craig Reed at 541-957-4210 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.