Wallowa Lake – Fishing in 1879

Wallowa Lake Oregon


The Wallowa Lake is undoubtedly the fisherman’s paradise.  Several varieties of trout and salmon are caught in its waters, following each other in successive seasons, and in the month of August the lake is literally filled with the Wallowa red fish, a species which are found in no other locality in America or in the known world, say the Standare.  It has been a matter of great study to ascertain the habits of this fish, which comes to the lake regularly in the spawning season; sufficient has been learned, however, to demonstrate that they are a species of the salmon and that they come up from the ocean through the Columbia, Snake, Grande Ronde and Wallowa rivers to their birthplace in the crystal waters of the Wallowa Lake, and that after reaching their spawning grounds they undergo a radical change in color and shape.  In August they run up into the small branches near the head of the lake where the water is shallow, and are then caught in great numbers with pitchforks, sharpened sticks, hooks, and even by some enthusiastic novices jumping into the shallow water and catching them in their hands.  These fish average twenty inches in length and vary in weight from four to eight pounds, and will average fully five pounds each.  A violent storm had been ragging on the lake for several days and the kingfisher, McCall allowed that there would be no use of trying to catch any fish, but we had brought with us our favorite trolling tackle, with which we had caught the largest fishes in the Eastern lakes, so notwithstanding the wind and rain and rolling white caps, we tried the lake and soon had a mess of speckled trout averaging three pounds each.  The chilly air soon drove us to McCall’s cabin, where that worthy soon invited our attention to a trout supper such as would have tickled the palate of the veriest gourmand among the patrons of Delmonico.”  Oregon State Journal (Eugene, OR), June 28, 1879, pg. 28, pg. 5, col. 3.  University of Oregon, Knight Library.

After reading this article about the fishing at Wallowa Lake, I refreshed my memory on just how far away Wallowa Lake was from the readers the Oregon State Journal in Eugene Oregon.  For them to experience a similar fishing trip it would be a major feat.  Even today by car – the trip to Wallowa Lake would be a full day’s drive.  In 1879 most likely the trip would be an extensive train trip – followed by horse back or wagon – but according to the author of this article – well worth the effort.


About gtoftdahl

Researching in Oregon Newspapers
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