At Cheadle Lake Recreational Area east of Lebanon, anglers, walkers and kayakers each enjoy the great outdoors at an expansive park not far from town.
Halfway across the state, children catch their very first rainbow trout at Prineville Youth Fishing Pond.
Meanwhile, visitors to the north coast can spend the day at Lake Lytle in Rockaway Beach, where a new fishing dock provides more space for people to fish.
These projects are just a few of the many dozens of improvements made using Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Restoration & Enhancement program dollars in the past several years. Each of them were accomplished under the umbrella of the 25-year Recreational Angling Enhancement Plan meant to make fishing a more pleasurable, convenient and successful experience for anglers throughout the state.
Simply stated, the goals of the plan and the funding include providing “a place to fish, and a fish to catch,” said Kevin Herkamp, ODFW Restoration & Enhancement coordinator.
Cheadle Lake Recreational Area is a clear example of how an unused, run down space could be transformed into a community gem.
“It was just an old mill pond,” said Jason Williams, maintenance operations director for the city of Lebanon’s public works department. “No amenities.”
The pond, once part of the Champion mill, was home to warmwater fish, but with no public access.
The Lebanon Community Foundation acquired and donated part of the property to the city. About 2010, the city received an Oregon State Parks grant that started clean-up, trail development, parking improvements and some additional property acquisition, Williams said.
Other partners, including Santiam Steelheaders, Oregon State Marine Board and the ODFW provided additional funds for work on the project.
Now, it’s the city’s busiest park with a dock, boat launch, 2 1/2 miles of paved trails, restrooms and a paved parking area. A new pumping station keeps the lake full even in summer. And, Williams said, the fishing’s good.
“It has something for everybody from wildlife viewing to angling to boating and jogging, bicycling, walking. It just has a lot of amenities really close, right in town.” Williams said. “I think that’s one of the greatest benefits of it, it’s right in the center of the community,”
When ODFW redirected its focus to enhancing angling statewide nine years ago they did so with three objectives, Herkamp said.
They wanted to: successfully teach anglers of all ages how to fish; provide bodies of water for fishing that were adequately stocked with fish, either native or hatchery; and to offer more opportunities for fishing that would be easier for urban populations to get to on any day or evening of the week.
The direction included creating new fishing ponds in places where there weren’t any, such as the Prineville Youth Fishing Pond, and to restore existing fishing sites by doing the necessary improvements that would make them easier to use and more fun to spend time at.
Using Restoration and Enhancement dollars – collected through fishing license fees – for these projects just made sense, Herkamp said.
“Fishing facilities provide a direct benefit to fishermen,” Herkamp said.
A couple of the numerous places that R&E funding has helped transform since the angling plan was adopted in 2009 are St. Louis Ponds north of Salem and Cleawox Lake south of Florence.
Meanwhile, new ponds are being created in other parts of the state to help develop the next generation of anglers.
Another example of restoration efforts is at Whetstone Pond in the Denman Wildlife Area near Eagle Point. Pavement in a wheelchair access area at the pond had cracked to the point that it wasn’t easy to use, said Clayton Barber, manager of the wildlife area.
Completed in 2015, this project not only repaired what was broken but added two 75-foot long fishing jetties built with curbs to make them wheelchair accessible, Barber said. Prior to the project, only bank fishing was available. They also reconfigured the parking lot to make more room.
“It’s the only wheelchair-accessible, warm-water fishing site in the Rogue Valley,” Barber said. “It did create more area for people to fish.”
The wildlife area, once known as Camp White, a military installation that trained troops during World War II, is home to numerous wildlife species and about eight types of habitat.
Birdwatchers can sight raptors and osprey. Deer live in the woods. Hunters can find pheasant, ducks and geese. The pond is a warm-water fishery.
“This place gets a tremendous amount of fishing use. As soon as the sun comes out in the spring, that parking lot fills up and people come out with little kids and fishing poles,” Barber said. “Your semi-pro bass guys are out there fishing in the pond. People just bring lunch and view wildlife. It’s a nature spot within the urban industrial complex.”
Lake Lytle, a popular trout fishery in Tillamook County, features another completed project. Community groups and ODFW worked together to replace an aging dock at the 65-acre lake, near Rockaway Beach, said Ron Rehn, STEP Biologist for the North Coast Watershed District.
Now the location has a much larger aluminum dock, making it possible for more people to fish at once. Its length reaches out to deeper water, improving anglers’ catch. It is shored up by an anchoring system that will give it better support during storms.
Half the costs of the project were funded with R&E money. The remainder was contributed by the Loren Parks Foundation, Rockaway Lions Club and the city of Rockaway Beach.
In many cases, R&E is the only source of funding for fishing facility improvements. When there are grants available from other organizations, R&E can provide necessary dollars to match those funds.
“We have no other options,” Rehn said. “The money benefits in a lot of different ways, from research to production to outreach and education.”
This is the first in a three-part series that will highlight more completed projects, describe the R&E funding process and look forward to what’s next for angling enhancement.