View from above in golden hour at Applegate Lake in Oregon

Score Trout and Bass at Oregon’s Applegate Lake

Access some of the state’s best fishing just 40 minutes from Medford.

Applegate Lake is fairly easy to understand. Often called Applegate reservoir, it sits at the southern end of the Applegate River. What’s more curious is how this remote southwest Oregon lake, created in 1980 as a flood control project, now boasts so many healthy fish populations that call its waters home. The reservoir, located just north of the California border, is rich with smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and crappie, and regularly stocked with rainbow trout and Chinook salmon. 

The landscape could factor; the shoreline around Applegate can be steep, which makes bank access tough. However, you can launch a kayak at the boat ramps, or cast a line from the ramps or the mouths of the creeks that feed the river. If you’re fishing for trout from the bank, you might have better luck with nightcrawlers or other bait. If you’re trolling, try worms and/or Wedding Ring Spinners. For bass, go with a more standard bass lure

If you’re not sure what kind of bait or flies to use, you can always stop by the Public Lands store in Medford and ask their fishing concierge for recommendations. You can also call the U.S. Army Corps Applegate Reservoir information line at 1-800-472-2434 for news on water levels, surface temperatures, and the latest stocking dates.

While the reservoir offers plenty to keep busy, the Applegate River isn’t to be overlooked: Between mid-February and March, it’s often slammed with legendary runs of winter steelhead. The section north of the dam is tumultuous with rapids (and almost entirely lined with public land), but there are several floatable sections upstream of Murphy. You can also fish the river from Fish Hatchery County Park, which sits between New Hope and Wilderville. Bring nymphs when the water level is low, and colorful egg patterns for opaque water or more turbid conditions.

Note: While the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife prohibits casting from a boat on the Applegate River, you can use a canoe or kayak to float from bank to bank. (Just be mindful to avoid private land, and have a buddy or a shuttle lined up to grab you at your takeout.) 

Added Bonus

Fish not biting? A multi-use trail encircles the entire 17.5-mile perimeter of Applegate Reservoir. The loop is popular among hikers and mountain bikers alike, but you can escape the crowds by bagging peaks instead: Summit spurs to nearby 4,397-foot Stein Butte and 3,527-foot Collings Mountain both branch off from the lakeshore trail. And if you want to stay the night, head to Hart-Tish Park for tent and RV sites. (You can reserve campsites online.) More Info:

Getting There

Applegate Lake lies just 40 minutes south of Medford. It’s within the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, on the ancestral homeland of several Native American peoples, including the Umpqua, Modoc, and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.

To get there from Medford, hop on OR 238 West. When you get to Ruch, hang a left just past the Ruch Country Store to get on Upper Applegate Road. After about 20 minutes, the lake will appear on your left. 


Grab lunch (or breakfast, if you don’t mind getting on the water a little late) at Sweets-N-Eats in Ruch. Owned by a local mother-daughter duo, this café serves up hearty meals with a generous side of small-town hospitality. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.