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The Fishy History of Crater Lake

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The country’s deepest lake is blue and beautiful, a popular spot for anglers and sightseers alike—but it’s not without a fishy backstory. In fact, until 1888, the lake was completely devoid of native fish!

What’s the reasoning behind this surprising lack of fish? We’re exploring the answers—and the current state of the lake—in today’s blog.

A natural absence

Perhaps a rare oddity among other lakes of its size, Crater Lake was once completely free of fish in its waters until 1888. If you had gone there for a day of fishing, you would have been “wowed” by the pure blue water whose lack of pollutants is reflected in the clarity of the lake—but through those clear waters, you wouldn’t be able to spot any fish to catch!

Stocking up Crater Lake

What about now? If you’ve been to Crater Lake in recent years, you’ve probably caught a few fish on your own. As it turns out, those fish—rainbow trout and kokanee salmon—are the surviving descendants of the 1.8 million fish added to the lake between 1888 and 1941, as an effort to stock up the lake and shape a new angler-friendly environment. These species thrived in the cold, oxygen-rich waters of Crater Lake, and turned the once-empty spot into a fisherman’s mountain paradise.

Today’s angling experience

As anglers who want to see (and fish) every body of water available, we’re thankful that the lake underwent such a large effort to incorporate fish into its ecosystem! You may be wondering, however—why did officials stop filling up the lake, and is it permissible to fish here?

Fortunately, it’s not just permissible—it’s something that Crater Lake actively encourages amongst its visitors! Further restocking wasn’t needed past 1941 because the fish in the lake were able to thrive and reproduce on their own.

Today, there’s no fishing limit or license necessary to enjoy Crater Lake—the park officials just ask that you come prepared with artificial bait, so as to keep the space as pure and free from outside interference as possible. This is a measure that will help keep the Crater Lake you know and love, just as amazing for your kids, grandkids, and future generations of anglers.

Have you ever gone fishing in Crater Lake? Share your experience with us below!


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