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Headin' Outdoors with Scott Staats

I love mini vacations that last two to three days, and recently my wife and I had one of those at Odell Lake. We stayed at a nice little cabin with a view of the lake. Our goal was not only to go after Odell’s renowned lunker lake trout, AKA mackinaw, but also to have a relaxing getaway.

We fished for three hours with Mike Jones, who guides for Shelter Cove Resort, but fishing was slow that morning for everybody and we had only two bites, but no fish. However, it was a fun little mini vacation.

I know there are huge lake trout in this lake. I witnessed it firsthand on the outing prior to this one. On that trip, I tagged along with Jones and Rollin Beauchane from Canby. Beauchane fished Odell Lake on two earlier occasions for lake trout, but came up empty, so he decided to go out with Jones.

Late morning, Beauchane hooked into something pretty big. At the time, the boat’s downriggers had our lines down to about 180 feet. After taking his time, careful not to bring the fish up from the depths too quickly, Beauchane finally got the fish to the net. It measured 32 inches and weighed around 15 pounds.

Anglers are allowed to keep one lake trout per day, at least 30 inches in length and Beauchane decided to keep this fish.

“Odell Lake is a beautiful lake to fish,” said Beauchane. “Where else can you go and look out and see such great scenery?”

The five-mile long lake was carved out by a glacier. Snow- and ice-covered Diamond Peak rises to the southwest about five miles away. Located near Willamette Pass in the northwest corner of Klamath County, Odell Lake was named for William Holman Odell in 1865, while surveying for the Oregon Central Military Road, which later became Highway 58.

Beauchane has been fishing Odell Lake for about 10 years. The first few years, he only fished for kokanee, but then got serious about lake trout. When he brings his own boat, he usually fishes for kokanee early in the morning, then switches to lake trout by mid-morning. That fish was one of the biggest he’s caught from the lake.

“One of the things that drew me to the area was Shelter Cove Resort,” he said. “The resort and surrounding campgrounds are very clean and the people are very friendly.”

Odell Lake is arguably the best lake in the state for mackinaw. Nearby Crescent Lake also has lunker lakers as does Wallowa Lake in the northeastern part of the state. The last two state record lake trout were caught in Odell Lake, the most recent in 1984 that weighed 40 pounds, 8 ounces.

What makes Odell such a great mackinaw lake is that it has deep, cold, clean water (330 feet deep), structure such as underwater humps and ridges, and a good food supply in the form of kokanee and mountain whitefish. The seemingly endless schools of kokanee are one reason the limit on them is 25 per day, with no size limits.

Mike Jones, owner of L&M Catchin’ Guide Service, has spent the last 30 years guiding. To fish for lake trout, he said you’ve got to be patient and concentrate on your presentation. On a good day, he’s caught 15 to 20 fish, but those days don’t come too often. Most boats are lucky to land one or two fish in a day, but the fish are big. It sort of reminds me of elk hunting – if you’re lucky, you’ll come home with one trophy.

“I’m a firm believer that predator fish will follow underwater ridges or structure points since that’s where much of the baitfish hangs out,” Jones explained. The fish that day was caught near one of those underwater ridges that dropped off to about 260 feet. To get down this deep, downriggers are a must.

Jones uses flashers ahead of plugs such as Yo-Zuri’s Crystal Minnow, Worden’s FlatFish and Silver Horde. Beauchane’s fish came on a Silver Horde. He adds scents such as shrimp and anchovy. For these big fish, he uses 30-pound-test leader, notably P-Line’s Fluorocarbon line.

Most of the lake trout he’s caught this year have been on Worden’s 55 Hawg Nose Flatfish, trolling from 2-5 mph. Last weekend we trolled with two flatfish and one Yo-Zuri. The flatfish run about 20 feet deep with 150 to 200 feet of line out. The downrigger was down about 50 feet for the Yo-Zuri.

Fish can be anywhere from right under the surface all the way down to the deepest part of the lake. That’s why good fish finders are also a must, especially those with GPS charts that show bottom structure. Instead of doing long trolls from point A to point B, Jones said you can spend more time working the structure points where the fish are more likely to be found.

The biggest fish he’s caught weighed 32 pounds, 12 ounces. The biggest to make it in his boat by a client weighed 38 1/2 pounds, which was caught about 10 years ago. He once caught 22 fish in 2 1/2 hours with two clients, the biggest being 22 pounds. “That was the wildest fishing I’ve ever seen,” Jones said.

Right now, the kokanee fishing is a bit slow, but Jones predicts it will pick up as soon as the barometer levels off and we get some warmer weather.

“Odell Lake is a good fishery for lake trout, kokanee, rainbow trout and whitefish,” said Jones. “It’s a very deep and productive lake and has good hatches of bugs.”

Anglers need to be aware of the wind that funnels through Willamette Pass and across the lake, often making for some choppy conditions.

“Every day you fish is a good day,” said Beauchane. “If you catch something, it’s a bonus.”

There are several developed campgrounds around Odell Lake, as well as boat ramps that allow for sailing, wind surfing, water skiing and fishing.

“We consider ourselves a destination resort,” said Jim Kielblock, who has owned Shelter Cove Resort for the past 16 years. He and his wife, Trula, are looking to retire and currently have the resort for sale.

The resort has 72 electric RV sites, 13 lakefront cabins (from studio-size up to an 1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath cabin). All of the cabins are right on the water and come with a picnic table, barbecue, fire pit, plus a dock for your boat. Not many other places in the state have those features. They also have a general store with a full espresso bar, a 135-boat slip marina, gas on the dock, showers and laundry. Waterskiing and jet skiing are also popular at the lake.

“We have a tremendous amount of hiking trails in the area,” Kielblock said. “People can hike to many smaller high lakes, where they can fish or camp. The Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from Canada to Mexico, is only a quarter-mile from us. We are a stopping point for about 200 to 300 of those hikers.”

Salt Creek Falls is only six miles down the road from the resort. It’s the second highest falls in the state at 286 feet high and is easily accessible from the road. For those into Frisbee golf, there’s a course at nearby Willamette Pass Ski Area as well as many mountain bike trails.

To set up a fishing trip or stay at the resort, call Shelter Cove Resort at 541-433-2548 or Mike Jones at 541-285-4987.

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