Expect a bigger tug at Lost Creek Lake

TRAIL — Trolling slowly Monday through a stretch of Lost Creek Lake called the Quarry, Frank Lee's rod doubles over and begins a man-verses-trout tussle that's occurring with pleasant frequency here.

Lee's wife Cathy eventually slips the net under a rainbow trout whose presence in this Rogue River reservoir represents the silk purse to the sow's ear of last year's lost fall trolling season.

The 141/2-inch trout is a holdover from last spring's planting of legal-sized trout that spent a third of 2008 finning unmolested by anglers who were scared away by a toxic blue-green algae outbreak.

For a lake known for trout that all seem to come from the same 9-inch cookie cutter, a plump 141/2-incher is one big treat.

"It's beautiful," says Lee, an 81-year-old Grants Pass man who has fished Lost Creek Lake regularly the past 24 years. "Nice and fat, and no parasites on it.

"I think there's a lot of holdovers just like it in the lake right now," he says.

A thick crop of holdover trout stands as the dividend for this spring's anglers who had to fish elsewhere during last fall's fishing crash caused by an anabaena flos-aquae outbreak.

The 41/2-month public-health advisory against water contact, fishing and eating Lost Creek's fish over fear of the toxic algae was voluntary. Yet it scared anglers away from Sept. 16 until Jan. 27, giving these trout a chance to break their historical mold and collectively become fat enough to be worthy of $2.25-per-gallon gas to get to this lake 30 miles north of Medford.

"We don't have an estimate, but anecdotally, we appear to have a good number of them out there and that they're nice, healthy fish," says Dan VanDyke, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Rogue District fish biologist.

"I think Lost Creek Lake is going to be a diamond in the rough this year," VanDyke says.

It's hard for a 3,430-acre lake stocked annually with 75,000 legal-sized trout to play possum on anglers.

The immediate angling flurry undoubtedly will focus more on Diamond, Howard Prairie and Hyatt lakes, which all open to fishing Saturday. But Lost Creek Lake sports enough intrigue to catch more anglers' eyes this spring.

"Those holdovers will spice up the catch for anglers, for sure," VanDyke says. "We think it's a great place for folks to go enjoy the upper Rogue."

Lost Creek defines a put-and-take fishery — the ODFW puts in 100,000 8-inch rainbows that draw more than 11,000 angler-days a year.

Most fish like the Lees do.

They launch their 12-foot aluminum boat at the Lost Creek Marina and putter straight across the reservoir to the Quarry, a series of submerged rocks and ledges that serve as trout condominiums.

They troll with Ford Fender flashers in front of a small Hot Shot plug spiced with a dab of PowerBait. Others rely on old stand-bys like Wedding Ring lures with a piece of night crawler dangling off the hook.

For most of the years the Lees have spent at Lost Creek, the Hot Shots and Wedding Rings have drawn in 9-inchers that are more fun to catch than to eat.

"We usually give away all the fish we catch," Lee says. "We just enjoy getting out."

But getting out stopped Sept. 16, when the wicked anabaena flos-aquae reared its toxic head.

This potentially toxic form of bacteria can be harmful to people or pets if ingested or inhaled. Jackson County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued public-health advisories against water and fish contact, and that kept the Lees and others away until the algae dissipated in late January.

No one knows what triggered such a protracted bloom. But the one positive thing about it is the opportunity for more holdover trout to spend their fall sipping insects at will, raising their girths to a point where they are now about a pound apiece.

Word of their presence has started to circulate.

"We've been really busy the past two weeks," says Frances Moggo, at the Lost Creek Marina, which shut down during the algae outbreak. "People are even renting paddle boats to fish."

Conditions currently might not be best for trolling, however.

The Lees had four bites Monday, netting two fish.

"My wife got the bigger one," Lee miffs. "Fifteen inches."

Historically, trout fishing can be spotty while the Corps fills the reservoir, and this week's hot spell didn't help much either.

The Corps is scheduled to fill the lake in early May, and the Lees plan on returning to the Quarry to mine some more of those holdover trout.

"There's too much debris in the water now for trolling," Lee says. "When the lake is full and the debris settles down, we'll start catching fish.

"That's the theory, at least," he says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

Share This Story