Locations & Species
Oregon is blessed with diverse and abundant fisheries. There is good fishing for one species or another every single day of the year! Below is a calendar for species by month. This generally is fairly accurate, but runs can be a bit early, or run late depending on water levels and watershed the fish are returning too.
Give us a call and we can give you the current scoop on what’s happening currently, and where the best opportunities are to catch the next fish of a lifetime!
Our freshwater trips target Chinook (kings), Coho (silvers), Steelhead and Sturgeon, while our Saltwater trips target Tuna, Halibut, Crabs, Bottom Fish and Salmon.
There are almost 4 different and distinct runs of Chinook that we target. The first returns of the year are our Spring Chinook (Springers), returning to the Columbia and many of its tributaries starting in March. While fish are always caught in February, March is really the month to begin targeting these coveted fish. The Springer return generally peaks in late April to mid May, but will often fish all the way into July in many locations.
We also get a spring run on the Tillamook streams, as well as the Nestucca river. These Springers begin returning in May and often peak in June, with fish still entering the system into July.
The Springer return on the Columbia, slides quietly and seamlessly into the “June Hog,” or our summer run of Chinook on the Columbia. It almost feels like the same run of fish, with just dates denoting the change from Springers to Summers, yet historically these fish were quite different, with the June Hogs having been the largest species of Chinook known. It’s said this run was comprised of fish from 70 to over 100 pounds. It sure would be neat if those fish still returned!!
There is also a summer run of Chinook that goes up the Nehalem system, which begins to arrive in mid to late July, and peaks in August and then as this run begins to dwindle, the fall fish begin to arrive right on their tails.
The fall Chinook fishery is probably the most famous of all our runs. The “Buoy 10” fishery targets this fall run of chinook, which ascends the Columbia, and are often reffered to as “upriver brights.” This run begins in August, peaking towards the end of the month at “Buoy 10,” but continues to fish well into September on the lower Columbia all the way to Bonneville. The Columbia often has closures and restrictions on this fall run, but it can continue to fish clear into October, especially if your willing to go a little further up the river.
All the streams on the Oregon Coast also see runs of fall Chinook, and can literally be the best fishing of the entire year. The southern Oregon streams see earlier returns of these fall fish, and often begin targeting them as early as July, but are in full swing by August. The further north you get, the latter the runs seem to be, with the Tillamook system getting under way in September, and often peaking in late October to early November. The fall fish along the Oregon Coast can be some of the biggest Chinook of the year, and are eagerly anticipated by many anglers.
Finally, there is a winter run of Chinook on some of our coastal streams, seeing small runs of wild fish in December and January. These fish aren’t often targeted and are generally “bonus” fish when winter steelhead fishing on rivers like the Wilson or Kilchis river in the Tillamook watershed.
Besides the four runs of Chinook, we get runs of summer and winter steelhead. In some rivers it almost allows for a year long fishery, although there are definitely periods where there aren’t a lot of “new” fish available.
Winter run steelhead begin showing up in November, and by December most streams, both in the Willamette Valley and all along the Oregon coast have fishable numbers of steelhead available. The winter run fish often return well into March, and on some systems even continue to trickle in during April. The early portion of the winter run primarily consists of hatchery fish. This run peaks in late December or early January, and continues into February, where they begin to be overlapped by our wild runs of steelhead. The wild run is now often supplemented by brood stock programs, which are hatchery programs that use wild parents as the stock. These wild fish are often harvested by anglers who bring the fish live to holding tanks where Fish & Game then uses these fish to create a hatchery run.
The brood stock program has really given the late season steelhead runs a boost on many rivers, with the Siletz, Nestucca, Wilson and Clackamas rivers all examples of streams which see strong runs of these brood stock fish. The wild runs of winter steelhead, along with their brood stock brethren, are often larger fish. Many of these fish are double digit steelhead, with quite a few making it to the teens, and even an occasional bruiser twenty pounder! These fish are really quite remarkable, and often the crowds of earlier in the year have begun to dissipate and fishing can be excellent. It can be a magical part of the year.
Our summer run steelhead begin to enter many of the same streams right on the heals of the late winter runs, and on some streams in late March and early April, both fish will be caught. You almost can’t tell the difference until you get to the cleaning table, where the summer runs aren’t quite sexually matured with very small egg skiens or milt sacks. The summer fish return to rivers like the Siletz, Wilson, Sandy and Clackamas rivers as well as many others. These runs can be fished all summer, but really are at their best in April through June, and then often become harder and harder to reliably find fish.
The summer run of steelhead begins moving up the Columbia river system in earnest in late June to early July. While fish are in this system almost year round, the number take a decided jump around July when over 1,000 fish a day begin crossing over Bonneville dam. This run is targeted in the Columbia where fishing can be very good, especially off the mouths of certain feeder streams like the Cowlitz, Lewis, Klickitat and Deschutes, along with other hot locations like Drano Lake, Herman Creek. When the fall Chinook begin to overlap this run of steelhead, and then the silver salmon begin to show up, the river can often feel “Alive!”
The Silvers or coho, begin showing up in August and peak in September, but continue to arrive well into October, and sometimes even in November. Some streams, especially southern Washington streams see very late runs of silvers, so it’s possible to run into coho well into the fall. While not targeted in the Columbia except at Buoy 10, the coho are often a welcome addition to the anglers bag all along the lower Columbia system.
Silvers also return to the Oregon coast in September and often peak around October. There are generally a lot of wild fish mixed into this run. In fact in 2011 fishing in the Tillamook bay system I spent several weeks targeting coho while casting spinners to visible pods of fish. We caught well over 200 fish in just a few weeks and only 1 of these fish was a clipped hatchery coho. This abundance of wild fish has made it possible to allow a catch and kill fishery for these wild coho on many of the coastal streams, which is expanding again for 2012, with a larger quota, and more fishing days.
Halibut fishing generally begins on May 1st with our inshore seasons. Inshore halibut is considered any fish caught in water less than 40 fathoms. A fathom equals six feet, so the inshore season is confined to fishing in water less than 240 feet deep. Along with the inshore season, there is also an all depth season which falls over several Thursday thru Saturdays during mid May through September, or until the catch quota is achieved.
Thankfully the quota for “all depth” is separated from the inshore fishery, because the all depth will often hit their quotas, but the inshore season often remains open for most of the summer and often into the early fall. This can be a fantastic addition to the salmon trolling or bottom fishing outings out of many of the coastal ports, but local knowledge often plays a vital part in finding these shallow water halibut, with spots being somewhat guarded. If you’re lucky enough to have a few of these spots, you can enjoy some great fishing, and often larger fish than come from our deep water spots further offshore.
Tuna has become a very important fishery in Oregon over the last ten to twelve years, getting more and more attention from anglers and sport boats alike. While this fishery is far from something new, its popularity from the private boat sport fishing fleet has grown exponentially in just a few short years. The only availability for tuna used to be a very few quiet sport fishing boats along with a few larger charter operations. The charter operations primarily pulled hand lines for tuna, with almost no availability for angling with rod and reel.
The tuna fishery has blossomed, and is possibly one of the best locations to target albacore in the world. There is a similar fishery off of New Zeeland, but otherwise our fishery is more dependable than any other location currently known. These fish begin arriving off our coast in late June to early July, but traditionally can be counted on to be available in fishable numbers by the first week of July.
Fishing for tuna might be the most amazing and chaotic experience many Northwest anglers every get to experience. Until you’ve been bit on all seven rods being trolled, or chum a school up to the back corner of the boat where every bait tossed over is immediately bit, you really haven’t experienced true angling pandemonium. It’s really something to be seen!
The albacore off Oregon are generally juvenile fish migrating across the Northern Pacific from Japan, and average around 15 pounds. While the majority of fish are in this weight range, there are some fish available each year into the 30’s, and even an occasional 40 pounder.
This fishery is limited only by the weather. The ocean off the Oregon coast is a notoriously fickle beast, and can often put a stop to the best laid plans of chasing their real silver bullets, but with all the fisheries available, other opportunities can often be realized.
Fishing for bottom fish is a year long activity off the Oregon coast. Ling Cod and Black Sea Bass are the two most commonly caught species, but with an amazing list of other species of rock fish available, you never quite know what the next fish you pull up might be.
Early in the year there is no depth restrictions fishing for bottom fish, but once halibut season rolls around, bottom fishing is restricted to less than 40 fathoms, and in some years less than 30 fathoms. These depth restrictions are to protect two species of fish, which are currently protected off our coastline. The Yellow Eye and Canary rock fish are both endangered species, and take an amazing amount of time to grow and mature, with a life span nearly as long as ours! Larger specimens of these two long-lived rock fish can reach the ripe old age of 60 years!
Other species commonly caught are Greenling (sea trout in Northwest speak), Cabezon and many species of rockfish. The limit is 7 bottom fish per angler per day, which only 2 may be ling cod and 1 a cabezon. The black sea bass, or rock fish if you prefer, along with the ling cod are some of the tastiest fish you’ll ever encounter, and make for a wonderful day fishing offshore.
Many months out of the year have seasons open for salmon in the ocean, and this can be another wonderful addition to an offshore trip. During the spring time, several of the bays get a push of spring Chinook, and this can be wonderful fishing on days when the ocean is nice enough to allow boats offshore. Tillamook bay is a great location for targeting these early season kings.
There are also feeder Chinook available early in the year, with many of these fish headed for the Sacramento River in California, or other river systems south of Northern Oregon. As spring turns to summer, more and larger Chinook begin arriving, followed by silvers in July. The ocean can become a wonderful place to be in July with literally to many choices of targets to choose from!
Crabbing can be good year round, and often spectacular when you can leave your pots offshore. With a limit of 12 crabs per person, you can end up with a pile of these tasty “spiders” real fast! If you work at it, limits can often be realized, but if just fished as an accessory to other fisheries, they are generally just a wonderful culinary bonus!
Crabbing can also be very good in the bay systems, but can sometimes be put off when there are large amounts of fresh water coming down through the bays. Crabs can’t survive very well in water that doesn’t have a fair amount of salinity, so when rivers are blown out from storms are one of the times where crabbing can become a little tough.