Inside Dorena and Cottage Grove Reservoirs
I prefer rivers over lakes and fly fishing over bait or hardware. But there will be days in an angler's life that river fishing with a fly is not feasible and this is usually due to high river conditions and extremely cold or warm water. It took several tries at trolling before I became good at this style of fishing on Dorena Reservoir.
When I got a kicker motor for my driftboat it increased the range of usage for my boat and I learned how to troll for trout. The first few times out I used Ford Fender trolling blades with a piece of worm on a 3 feet leader. After three tries and only one trout to show for my efforts I knew there must be more to this method if I wanted to catch trout. A friend of mine, Kent Chastain of Cottage Grove, had the information I needed. He informed me that I need to add a piece of corn to my worm if I wanted action on Dorena. I could not understand why a trout would want a piece of corn since I didn't think these fish were vegetarians. However corny this advice sounded I decided it couldn't hurt since I was going fishless and I needed to get some payback for the long hours I had put toward this trolling endeavor. After Kent showed me a couple of trolling paths and armed with my worm and corn I started catching trout on Dorena Reservoir.
There was one year in the 90's when all our rivers were out of shape as we had tons of rain in June. I remember trolling for trout in the first week of July that year. As I mentioned earlier trolling isn't my favorite way to fish but it is better than no fishing at all and it is an activity that gets you on the water and in the outdoors. It beats sitting at home on the T.V. or computer. Here are some tips for anyone trolling on Dorena and some of these tips might work for you on other bodies of water:
Learn to use a worm threader and use half a worm threaded through the hook and onto the leader. The tip of the hook should be exposed to let you put on one or two kernels of canned corn. Kent said white corn for Dorena and yellow corn for Cottage Grove Reservoir but I didn't think there was any difference in the response I received from the trout whether the corn was white or yellow.
Follow the wind. In the morning the wind is usually coming off the mountains blowing west and the west side of the lake does well in the morning hours. As the day progresses the wind will come from the northwest and the east side of the lake does better.
If there is chop on the water (there usually is) you don't need to troll deep. If the lake becomes smooth you have to troll deep and slow. It is hard to catch the trout under these conditions but these conditions usually do not last very long.
After many years of trolling (2 or 3 times a year in the 90's) I happened to notice someone anchored and catching trout. After this angler left his spot I motored to the same area and anchored myself. What I noticed about this area is that it was on the northeast side of the lake and the wind was coming from the west which is the prevailing direction in the summer months. I also noticed that there was a point of land upwind from this location and there was chop on the water past the point but the water behind the point was still. The trout were concentrated between the choppy water and the still water. I finally started catching trout using still fishing methods on Dorena. In the still fishing method you use very light tackle with 6 to 8 pound test main line. To the main line thread a oval slip sinker and tie in a barrel swivel below this sinker. To the other end of the barrel swivel tie a 3 foot leader with a size 14 or 16 treble hook. Use Berkeley Power Bait in any color you desire. Roll this bait into a ball and squish it onto the treble hook. You have to use these small trebles so that the power bait will float off the bottom. If the hook is too heavy the bait will not float. After you cast this setup away from your boat the trick is to fish this bait on a loose line and give the fish line when it starts to bite. If the fish feels heavy resistance on the line he will not take it firmly. This is why you must use the sliding sinker so you can feed the fish extra line. After you let out 5 to 10 feet of line when the trout is biting it is usually hooked solid when you set the hook.
Dorena and Cottage Grove Reservoirs also offer excellent fishing for bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, and the latest discovery by my boys ... yellow perch. When I go for the warm water species (rarely) I usually fish Cottage Grove Reservoir. I anchor off a point and toss night crawlers with no weight or little weight and let is sink slowly toward the bottom. 50% of the time a fish will usually take the bait before it gets to the bottom if you choose a good spot to anchor. I never got into the bass fishing as much as some anglers so I cannot comment on this fishing. All I know is that there are bass up to 8 pounds in these reservoirs and most knowledgeable anglers use lures and not bait.
These two bodies of water can be fished the year round. In the winter when the water is at the lowest (minimum pool) you can bank fish with the powerbait method. The planted trout will be the biggest in the winter and in the spring since they have been feeding throughout the summer months and haven't been caught by fishermen. At Dorena Reservoir there is a parking lot you can drive to at the bottom of the lake and launch a boat or bank fish around this parking lot.
Here's the boat launch and parking lot at the bottom of Dorena at minimum pool
Here's my sister Sally from Livermore fishing Dorena at minimum pool
The trout were extra big this year. These were some of the smaller ones. I also heard that some fly fishermen were catching these trout in the reservoir on flies before it got too cold.
Moving up the reservoir I would like to tell you about fishing in the river channels in the spring and fall.