Trout fishing at Diamond Lake hardly took a break this year.
Ice fishing was allowed at the lake, beginning Jan. 1. Numerous hardy souls ventured out on the icy, snowy surface, cut a hole in the ice and dropped their lines. The average catch was two or three trout in four hours of fishing.
When the surface began to turn slushy in late March, the lake got a break for a few weeks. When the remaining ice disappeared on April 23, the fishermen returned with their boats.
“The ice fishing season went OK, considering we were learning what to do,” said Rick Rockholt of the Diamond Lake Resort.
Rockholt said he expects the lake to draw a rush of fishermen 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.
It’s estimated there are about 300,000 legal-sized trout in the lake. Rockholt said he saw a couple of 25-inch fish in late April after the ice left.
“I still believe there are 10-pounders in this lake,” he said.
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 bit 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.
The largest trout weighed by the resort in 2012 was 9 pounds, 4 ounces. It was caught by an 11-year-old boy from the Medford area.
ODFW stocked 166,000 trout into the lake in 2012. The release consisted of 125,000 3- to 5-inch fish and 41,000 6- to 8-inch fish. The catch during the 2012 fishing season was about 142,500, with 78,000 being kept by anglers.
Last year’s fingerlings are now expected to be 11 to 12 inches in length.
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 undertaken 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.
The ODFW is monitoring the health of the lake, measuring biological indexes. Holly Huchko, an ODFW fish biologist, said algae blooms during the hot summer months are common for some Douglas County waters. She added, however, that Diamond Lake blooms have been shorter in duration than blooms of past years.
This year’s annual free fishing weekend — no license required — will be held June 1 and 2. The Diamond Lake Resort has scheduled a free Derby Day on the June 1 for kids ages 0-17.
The seventh annual Blackbird Fishing Derby is scheduled for June 22. Around a dozen tagged fish, with values of $100 to $5,000, will be in the lake. They have to be caught on that day for an angler to be rewarded.
Last year there were about 1,000 entries. A fish with a $1,000 tag was caught.
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, 300, 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.