Henry Hagg Lake Reports 2020

bass

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I hit Henry Hagg lake on Sunday to meet up with @Fishnbuck and hopefully get the skunk off of Hagg. I got there first and launched at ramp C, fishing by about 8:45am. There were not many people on the lake at that point and there was a misting rain falling. I started trolling towards the Sain creek arm, figuring that I would fish not too far from the ramp so that I would be able to see when @Fishnbuck showed up.

The water was a little dingy so I decided to try adding dodgers to my usually roostertails with1/2 nightcrawler. Normally when I fish Hagg the water is clearer so I thought that perhaps this would be helpful. As I trolled towards the back of the cove I had a hit on one of my rods - this was already a better day than my last trip. I kept trolling towards the back and I saw someone hauling out a huge brooder from the shore. I was not all that close but it looked like a really pretty fish and added even more hope for the day.

I trolled towards the back and I was marking what looked to be groups of fish here and there but I was able to successfully pass by them without disturbing them in the least :) Once I was out of the cove I started trolling along the no-wake zone buoys and met up with @Fishnbuck. We headed towards the dam since that is where I have had my best late season success at Hagg.

Once we were past ramp A I started to mark quite a few fish again but once again I could not buy a bite. I made two passes through that area varying depths and speeds but nothing seemed to interest the fish. I kept going on towards the dam, and then along the face of the dam and back and forth. I tried with flashers, without flashers, lure depths from about 50' to the surface but nothing seemed to make the fish want to bite.

The day was gorgeous, calm and sunny, and there were tons of midges hatching but I only saw a couple of rises all day long. The fish just seemed to be in a stupor. I talked with a handful of other folks (and @Fishnbuck) and everyone told the same tale. One boat did have a nice brooder that I believe that they said they caught jigging a spoon, but I don't think I spoke with anyone who landed a fish while trolling.

Around mid-afternoon, I decided that I'd had enough of the trolling. Even though I don't like to do it I decided to try bottom fishing with some powerbait (power eggs). I moved to one of the spots where I had marked fish earlier (and was still marking fish) and dropped anchor. I cast out and set my rod in the kayak and started fiddling with my depth finder to pass the time.

I was about 3 menus deep when I heard a scraping sound and saw my rod being dragged over the edge of the kayak. I grabbed the rod and felt the weight of a decent fish. I had been running my camera for a lot of the day but had turned it off at some point. I reached back and turned the camera on when I got the fish close to the kayak. I would guess it was about 13-14" and nice and fat.


I was pretty pumped to have broken the skunk! My next few casts did not produce (I only let them sit for a few minutes each - using sturgeon fishing like tactics). On the third cast I was rewarded again with another nice fish. It seemed like if I cast on top of them I would get bit within a minute and otherwise it was crickets. Sadly, the batteries died in the camera somewhere between that first and second fish and I did not notice until I went to turn the camera off later.

That second fish was a nice one just like the first. I quickly unhooked it and cast back out. Once again I had to move my cast a number of times before I got a bite. This time the fish swallowed the hook so I just cut it off and let it go. That is the part I hate about bait fishing for trout. They often swallow the hook and since I am out there for C&R fishing that is a bummer.

I decided that perhaps if I pulled the anchor and slowly drifted that perhaps I could do a better job of hooking them quickly and in the mouth. It took a while of moving here and there before that method paid off, but unfortunately once again, the fish swallowed the hook. At that point, I decided that I did not want to leave any more hooks in fish and to put away the powerbait. I had caught 4 nice fish all in the 13-14" range (and lost a couple more) in about an hour an d half. Not a blistering paste but WAY better than the earlier skunking.

I decided to end the day bass fishing so I went to where I had found them in November. I don't think that I really marked any bass but fished the spot anyway. I confirmed the lack of bass (or at least my inability to catch them) for the rest of the afternoon. I headed back to the ramp, bummed at the lack of success trolling but happy to have at least found success with the powerbait.

@Fishnbuck was loading up to leave when I got to the ramp. He had a similar story to mine. He had not had success trolling but did have some bites, including losing a big fish, dragging powerbait. This winter the fish have just seemed really inactive. I think if I make another trip out there I will not stick with unproductive methods for such a long time and try powerbait sooner. Use it to find fish that will bite and then perhaps try jigging a small castmaster or something like that. I think that would be a way to catch them more safely. Maybe tip the spoon with a crappie nibble or a piece of worm.

Anyway it was a gorgeous day on the water and I got to meet a new fishing friend, you can't complain about a day like that!
 

troutdude

Moderator
"This time the fish swallowed the hook so I just cut it off and let it go. "

Many years ago (maybe in the 80's) a Fisheries Biologist told me something that comforted, my C & R soul. He said that fish have an enzyme in their bloodstream. Which will dissolve hooks in roughly 3 days. So ever since then I, too, have just cut the line at their mouths. Then returned them to the drink. To hopefully continue to grow.

You may also want to try sitting on a school and jig with a lighter spoon, like a Thomas Buoyant. They flutter more slowly to the bottom--and just may trigger those finicky finned fiends.
 

fromthelogo

Member
Thanks for the write up @bass. Glad you had nice weather. I’ve always found Hagg hard to figure out for bass and spend most of my time on the Willamette. I think I’ll give it another try this Spring when the parking lots at the ramps along the Willamette are full with salmon boat trailers.
 

bass

Most Featured
"This time the fish swallowed the hook so I just cut it off and let it go. "

Many years ago (maybe in the 80's) a Fisheries Biologist told me something that comforted, my C & R soul. He said that fish have an enzyme in their bloodstream. Which will dissolve hooks in roughly 3 days. So ever since then I, too, have just cut the line at their mouths. Then returned them to the drink. To hopefully continue to grow.

You may also want to try sitting on a school and jig with a lighter spoon, like a Thomas Buoyant. They flutter more slowly to the bottom--and just may trigger those finicky finned fiends.
Good to hear that @troutdude ! I have heard that from time to time but knowing that it came from a Fisheries Biologist makes me really believe it.

I said a kastmaster for jigging up above because I know I have one in my tackle box. I will look around to see if I can find a Thomas Buoyant spoon in a good size. I have a couple of super tiny ones I bought with the idea of shad fishing (have not gotten around to that yet, but one of these years) but they would be too small to jig in 25-30' of water.

I may also tie up and try a few marabou or bucktail jigs as well.
 

bass

Most Featured
Thanks for the write up @bass. Glad you had nice weather. I’ve always found Hagg hard to figure out for bass and spend most of my time on the Willamette. I think I’ll give it another try this Spring when the parking lots at the ramps along the Willamette are full with salmon boat trailers.
I agree that bass fishing at Hagg is trickier than on the Willamette. I definitely spend way more time chasing bass on the Willamette than on Hagg. I felt like I was getting a handle on the late fall fishing on Hagg this year (did pretty well in November) but I have not had a bite in my two January trips.

I have no idea where the bass on the Willamette winter over.
 

bass

Most Featured
I left home and it was clear and cold. A low fog swallowed me as I headed out 26, "this is fine", I said to myself. The fog changed into light rain as I kept heading West, "this is fine", I said to myself again. As I got to Hagg and started across the dam the light rain started getting slushy. By the time I got to ramp C it was snowing, "what the *&%$" I said to myself :)

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I got to ramp C around 8am. I took my time unloading hoping that the snow would stop before I got on the water. The snow, sensing the challenge, refused to give in and it was still snowing lightly when I launched my kayak. The wind gently pushed me down towards Scoggins as I rigged up my trolling rods. I figured maybe it was a sign so I decided to just troll that direction.

The water was pretty muddy, maybe 1' of visibility so I decided to switch things up a bit. I had bought a small-bladed lake troll earlier in the week. I put that in front of my normal roostertail + 1/2 nightcrawler on one rod and on the other rod I decided to put on a chartreuse Strike King Bitsy Minnow (tiny crankbait). I got the rods out and I hunkered down deep inside my rain gear as I started slowly trolling towards the Scoggins end.

I had not gone too far when a trout slammed the rod with the BItsy Minnow. I picked up the rod and worked the fish to the kayak and carefully worked the fish towards the net. It was a really fat and healthy trout that was in the 13-14" range.

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I was really stoked! That was my first trout caught trolling in the new year. I went back to trolling and a short while later I hooked up again on the Bitsy Minnow. As I was fighting that fish in I realized that I had not turned on my video camera yet. So I reached back, turned it on and went back to fighting that fish. After another really good fight (if you watch the video at the bottom of the post closely you can see it jump just off my handle) I was able to land my second trout of the day!

Now this was more like it. I was ready for a killer day. I kept trolling towards Scoggins and maybe 20 minutes later my rod with the roostertail went off. I started working that fish in (felt like another good) but the hook pulled out as I was working to the kayak. I blame the Lake Troll, surely it could not have been a lack of skill on my part.

No big deal I thought I will have plenty more chances. Narrator's voice: "He did not have any more chances".

It was so weird. After that fish I had one more quick drive by on the spinner and that was it for me for trolling. I spent several hours trying but it was like the lake had just shut off. Really strange.

I had eventually trolled up to Sain creek arm and I decided to give the bass a chance. I fished a bunch of spider blocks with a drop shot but I never got a sniff. After an hour or so of that I decided to anchor up and try some powerbait fishing.

I dropped anchor in about 22' of water, tossed out my first rod and before I could even get my second rod baited I had another nice-sized trout on. Woo hoo, I thought. I quickly landed it and then was able to quickly get both rods back out. After a short wait I had another good bite on the same rod and started fighting the fish in. I once again realized the video camera was off and turned it on to capture the end of the fight.

I was so stoked to get some great, fast action footage. Once again the fish gods laughed at my paltry desires. I spent an hour fishing (moving a couple of times) without getting another bite. Really strange day.

That was it for me. I did a little more trolling without touching a fish and then spent the last hour of the day trying to calibrate my Garmin SteadyCast heading sensor. I realized I could turn on both the SteadyCast heading and the GPS heading on my unit. That revealed that I had a pretty big calibration error on the heading sensor. I kept trying to just re-calibrate the heading adjustment on the sensor but each time it would drift off almost right away.

Eventually it dawned on me to recalibrate both the compass and the heading. Once I did that everything was right with the world. When I was undeway in a straight line the two heading lines were perfectly on top of one and other. That felt really good to get that figured out. I am really looking forward to my next trip out. Might be tomorrow if my back starts behaving.

It was a day of snow, and then a calm period, then it was breezy for a few hours, then it rained pretty hard, but at the very end the wind died and the sun even came out. It was strange day with a couple of really good flurries of action and a whole lot of my just pedaling around. I was at least stoked to get my first troll fish of the year.

Here is a short video. You can see it still spitting snow when I land the fish trolling.

 
I am excited that the bite is slowly coming back. I plan on getting back out there in the next couple of weeks. Maybe i will get lucky and get a hold over brooder.
 

bass

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Fished again on Sunday. A couple of drive-bys but no fish caught trolling. I caught 2 on power bait, and once again they were nice sized and fat, but that is not much to show for a full day on the water. I did try for bass for about an hour but that was fruitless as well. Between the last 2 Sundays the lake dropped 5' and then came back up by 1.5'. I am not sure if that has an effect or not but there seemed to be a lot more junk in the water, especially towards Scoggins.

There were quite a few folks out but I never saw a single fish caught trolling.
 

Fishnbuck

Member
Sorry to hear about the continued mistreatment you have been receiving from H.H.

I made my way out to Detroit this past Sunday with good success. If it's not too much of a haul for you maybe we can get together out there in a week or two
 

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bass

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Nice fish @Fishnbuck!

I have not been catching many at Hagg but they have all been nice sized and healthy. The weird thing is how bad the trolling bite is. I know folks are catching trout and kokes at places like Detroit, Merwyn and other lakes by trolling. Perhaps it is just that Hagg is too off color for trolling to be effective. What was the clarity like at Detroit? I have driven past Detroit but never fished it. I want to fish BIg Cliff some day as well.
 

bass

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I hit Henry Hagg Hagg lake on Saturday. I was excited to both go fishing and try out some Beta firmware on my Garmin heading sensor. I got to the ramp C around 7:15am and I have to say the drive around the lake had some icy spots. If you are heading out early and it is cold and clear be careful!

Since it was so cold I took my time getting ready. Even though it was a beautiful day it felt really cold on the water until about midday. I am glad the winds were calm but when the sun went behind a cloud you really felt it.

I started out by trolling again. The lake was 9.8' below full pool and the visibility was a fair bit better than my previous trip (probably about 2' in a lot of places although there were some murkier areas). On one rod I had my faithful 1/24oz roostertail with 1/2 nightcrawler but I added a flasher in front of it do to the water conditions.

On the other rod I had a Strike King bitsy minnow (1.5" crankbait) in chartreuse/green color. I started trolling towards Scoggins slowly weaving my way back and forth across the lake happy to see way less junk in the water than my previous trip.

I huddled in tight to stay warm when the crankbait rod went off. After a spirited battle I landed a fat and healthy 13" fish. That has seemed to be the normal size I have been catching this winter. I think it indicates that the fish are growing. This was probably a 10" stocker from last spring.

After I released that fish I went back to slowly pedaling my way back towards Scoggins. There were a couple of crew boats out rowing and it was enjoyable getting to watch them work while I searched for more trout.

I made it back to the mouth of the Scoggins arm without any more bites so I decided to turn around and start trolling back. Shortly after I made that decision I had trout number 2. Pretty much a clone of the first fish and also on the bitsy minnow.

I kept trolling and did not get another bite until I was past ramp C, but I did see some folks scuba diving on the way there. What a crazy day on the water.

This fish hit the spinner hard but came off about 1/2 way in. That is one reason I don't like adding a flasher (or spinner harness). That extra drag seems to make it a lot harder to land a fish. I thought about taking the flasher off, but it is hard to change something out that just got bit.

I hooked another fish around the mouth of Sain on the crankbait but it jumped and through the lure. I circled around that area for while since I had two bites fairly close to one and other but I could not draw another strike there.

I kept heading towards the dam. Experimenting with fishing depths of anywhere from15' to really deep and running my lures from near the surface to depths of about 30'. All that experimenting did not produce any results so I went back to my earlier setups.

I was trolling across the mouth of a small cove when trout number 3 hammered the bitys minnow. Once again, they fish put up a great fight and was right in that 13" range.

At that point I took off the spinner and put on a different small crankbait on that rod. I trolled for a couple more hours without getting another bite. Maybe the spinner and flasher was attracting them and then they were liking the bitsy minnow. I have no idea.

Around mid-afternoon I was at the dam and decided to see if I could wrangle up a smallmouth. I tried a bunch of lures and depths but that ended up just being casting practice.

While I was trolling up towards the dam I had marked some fish on a point so I decided to head back there and see if I could tempt some with some powerbait (gulp eggs).

I was really happy to see that there were still a lot of fish on that point. There seemed to be fish at all depths from on the bottom (in about 20') all the way up close to the surface. The wind was light and steady so I was able to hold myself in position with my pedals and paddle and did not have to even drop anchor.

I made a cast and was getting the feel for how much correction I needed to hold myself steady when I thought I felt a bite. I wasn't completely convinced since it is easy for my to lightly bump the rod while holding position.

I focused in on the rod tip and oh yeah baby, that is definitely a bite. I set the hook expecting another 13" clone but this was definitely something else. My rod whipped down and my drag was peeling. The fish then come up and made a really nice jump (you can see it on the video at the end) and let me see just how big it was. It was a bigun'.

I just kept the pressure on with my ultra light and let the rod wear that fish out. I love that rod. It is a 6'6" Fenwick I bought this past spring and it is a fish whipping machine. Again and again I worked that fish near the kayak only to have it take off and dive like a demon.

My rod would bend almost all the way to the handle each time but that soft parabolic action protected my line beautifully. I thought I was starting to get the upper hand when the fish took off behind me and made another monster jump.

It is so hard to be patient when you have a good one on. I had my net out and thought I was ready to try for the fish but as soon as the net touched the water it took off again. However, no matter what that fish tried to do and what dirty trick it tried my rod just cushioned it all again and again.

Eventually, the fish tired enough for me to net it and measure it. 20.5" and fat as all get out. I am loving the new net!

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The picture does not do that fish justice since it is curled up the side, but I think you can tell how thick and fat that fish was. I am not sure if that is one of the brooders from December or not. Its fins looked to be in good shape.

When I let it go it thanked me with a big splash :)

I had drifted quite a ways from the point during the fight and my hands were shaking as I retied a new hook on my line and made my way back. I looked around again with my FF and found the fish again.

I cast back out and after a short wait I had another customer. I set the hook and I could not believe it but it was another big fish. This one did not jump at all but just stayed down and once again tested the flexibility of my rod.

I eventually tired the fish out and netted it. Another big fish. If I had not caught that 20.5" fish earlier I would have called this one a beast. Instead it was just a nice fish :)

49578837568_977ad9588a_h.jpg


This beauty taped out at 17" and was a completely different looking fish. Its jaw is really long and this looks like a fish that maybe has been in the lake for a long time. Just a really beautiful fish.

I released that one as well and made my way back to my magic spot. It took a bit of hunting this time but I managed to get a 15" fish on that go round. My camera had died by that point so no pic of that one but it looked normal.

I once again headed back to the magic spot and I was still marking fish on the point but the bite was done. I probably fished at least another 40 minutes around that area without getting another bite.

It was getting late in the afternoon so I decided to head back. I stopped and fished here and there and missed a few more fish on power bait but I did not land another fish.

I was really happy with the day though. 3 caught trolling and 2 really nice fish on power bait.

Here is a video with me landing two of the trolling fish (and showing the lure) and catching the 20.5" and 17". I hope you enjoy it. Watch for the jump around the 4:40 mark. I got fancy and even slow-mo'ed the jump :)


Just a gorgeous day out on the water.
 

4labs

Active member
Those are some great looking fish.
Hagg is a bit past my range . Ready to hit Dorena soon
 

fromthelogo

Member
Once again thanks for the report. I’m looking forward to the water warming another 10 degrees so the small mouth bite will start heating up.
 
Can't wait to hit Hagg soon again. I am getting tired of waking up early on Saturday to go fish steelhead and coming up empty.

Might need some trusty Hagg Rainbows again.

Maybe this summer i will try my hand at smallies too.
 

Fishnbuck

Member
Great write-up. Glad to hear you had a rewarding trip, H.H. had not been treating you well. Good quality fish!
 

bass

Most Featured
Thanks @jamisonace , that rod is so forgiving in a fight. I love how cushioned it is. Not an accurate caster but a great fish fighter.

@305to503fishermen , I see folks catching trout from the shore while I am out there. You should definitely fish for smallies this summer. Fishing for smallies in the Willamette is my favorite fishery.

I was happy to finally have a good day at Hagg @Fishnbuck ! I did not even decide to go until late Friday. I think that threw them off :)
 
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