Crane Prairie was first dammed in the 20’s but it wasn’t until the 40’s when the Bureau of Reclamation came in did the impoundment succeed at holding water back as the Deschutes and other small tributaries filled the old forest and meadow area with clean, cold water.
Immediately Crane Prairie was on the map as perhaps Oregon’s finest Stillwater and really up until the early 90’s remained in the top 3. Sadly, in the late 80’s Largemouth Bass were illegally introduced to Crane Prairie (and other area lakes) and the resident rainbow population suffered a great deal for many years.
Besides bass, stickleback minnows were dumped by careless bait anglers using them illegally as bait and literally it was a disaster for the once thriving insect population here.
Despite all of that, ODFW and the local angling clubs have worked hard to revive Crane and it appears to be working. The last few years we’ve seen bigger and healthier rainbows and brook trout than we’ve seen in decades.
Callibaetis are still mostly missing from the menu but damsels, chironomids and leeches provide abundant food for the fish. Crane is big and it’s shallow. The deepest areas are the channels that meander thru the lake toward the dam.
In the Summer you must find these channels or you probably won’t catch fish. In the Spring and Fall the fish spread out on the flats and swim through the flooded out forest that gives Crane Prairie it’s signature look with old, dead pine tree skeletons sticking up all over the lake.
Crane opens with the general season in late April and closes at the end of October. A boat with a gas motor is the best way to get access to the fishing. Boat launches at the Resort, Quinn River, Cultus River and Rocky Point are all spots to explore throughout the season, especially while searching for the channels with the coldest water in the heat of the summer.
Crane Prairie is also located on the Cascade Lakes Highway and is accessible from Sun River, Oregon either on National Forest Road 40 or South Century Drive.