Garrison Lake trout like panning for gold

Garrison Lake - Port Orford, OR (Curry County)

The author admires a 3-pound 1-ounce Garrison Lake rainbow trout that he caught on a tube jig/PowerBait Trout Worm combo. Photo by Larry Ellis.

by Larry Ellis

There is no better time than the present to grab your favorite trout rod-and-reel outfit, deploy your favorite trout tactic and head to Garrison Lake in Port Orford, Oregon, where ODFW has planted 600 trophy trout weighing over 2 pounds in the last 19 days.  In another two weeks, ODFW will be planting an additional 250 larger trophies in Garrison as well.

That's not even counting the 4,850 legal-size trout that were dumped in the reservoir two weeks ago.  In my experience, legal-size rainbows in Garrison average approximately 10 inches in length, sometimes a little larger.

In addition to all the recent plantings of trophies and catchables, Garrison in my humble opinion has one of the best holdover trout populations in Oregon.  A holdover trout is simply a catchable-size or larger trout that was not caught the year it was stocked.  It simply "held over" in the lake to grow even larger.  Garrison is a thriving winter and spring fishery for holdover rainbows ranging from 12 to 20 inches or even larger. Some of Garrison's holdover rainbows have easily went over 5 pounds.

Furthermore, ODFW has recycled some winter steelhead into Garrison Lake, steelhead that have easily weighed over 10 pounds.  Catch one of these puppies in a lake and I will guarantee lots of heart-thumping adrenaline rushes.

Garrison Lake is located approximately 50 miles from Brookings, so the trip is well-worth your while for the chance of hooking into the trout of your lifetime, especially considering that several of the trout that were stocked this year have tags sticking out of their fins.  Some of these tagged fish are worth money.

"ODFW is implementing a tag reward trout study for 2017 in which anglers will be asked to report tagged trout that are caught," reports a recent ODFW weekly recreational report.  "Some of the tags will be worth money. Anglers can report tagged fish to the ODFW Gold Beach office (541) 247-7605 or on ODFW's website. The study is an effort by ODFW to see what size of trout contribute to the fishery the best."

So how does a person set out to catch a trophy trout?  It's really the luck of the draw, but it's only a matter of time when you'll be going one-on-one with Garrison's line-peeling, thumb burning rainbows.

My best advice is to use an ultra-light outfit with 2-pound monofilament being for your mainline and leader.  I firmly believe that lighter lines will garner more bites.

It is also important to note that Garrison is usually choked with weeds. The trick about fishing Garrison is finding an open pocket between the weeds.

So a fish finder can be your best friend at Garrison, not because it finds fish, but because it is key to fish the sloping areas that are around 12-feet deep.  The reasoning behind fishing this particular depth is rooted in science. Aquatic plants like Hydrilla, Milfoil, Elodea, and Parrots Feather tend not to grow in depths greater than 10 feet.

Once you do find these 12-foot goldmines, anchor up and use your favorite fishing technique.

I have caught Garrison Lake 'bows on just about every bait known to man - PowerBait, little pieces of roe, marshmallows - they all work!

But my favorite all-time trout technique is casting 1/32- or 1/64-ounce skirted jigs.  I prefer to use skirts that glow in the dark, also known as phosphorescent skirts.  The best ones that I have found are made by the Radical Glow Company.  You'll have to visit this company's web site to buy these particular skirts.

I will also tip my hook with a 1-1/2-inch piece of a pink or orange PowerBait Trout Worm.

The cool thing about using Radical Glow tubes is that they will glow for up to 30 seconds or more underwater when you first flash them with a bright hand-held L.E.D. flashlight, which is worth at least one slow cast and retrieve.

The limit is 5 trout per person; only one of which may be over 20 inches. Steelhead are considered trout.

Tight lines!

Larry Ellis, author, writer, columnist and photographer has had a 50-year passion for fishing in California and Oregon's saltwater and freshwater venues. He is a well-known writer for Oregon, Washington and California Fishing and Hunting News, Northwest Sportsman, California Sportsman and Pacific Coast Sportfishing. He currently writes monthly for Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine, and is the author of two books, "Plug Fishing for Salmon" and "Buoy 10, the World's Largest Salmon Run."  Both books can be bought from Amato Publications (, Amazon and eBay. Ellis particularly loves living in his hometown of Brookings, Oregon - The heart of salmon country and gateway to fishing paradise.

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