The Angle: Year-Round Fishing in Northern Oregon
By Lucas Holmgren
To the casual angler who goes fishing once a year with friends, they may think there is a general “fishing season.” When it comes to fishing in Northern Oregon, the opportunities are year-round.
There are lakes in the Mt. Hood Region that do become covered with ice in the winter, but even those lakes offer phenomenal ice-fishing opportunities. For the rest of the region, there is always a fishery to be had!
So let’s break down the opportunities and locations throughout the year.
January & February
Anglers willing to brave the weather changes and cold will find excellent Winter Steelhead fishing on the Sandy & Clackamas Rivers. These fish start to arrive in November, but the best time is January-March. Whether in a drift boat or from the bank, these fish will migrate and hold in accessible parts of these rivers and bite fairly well. Catch-and-release Sturgeon in the Willamette and Columbia Rivers can also be phenomenal during this month, and if you can find warm water outlets or backwaters in lakes, you have a chance at winter-time Panfish.
March & April
The ultra-popular Spring Chinook fishery begins in the Willamette and Columbia Rivers; meanwhile Winter Steelhead is at its peak, so when anglers leave the tributaries to fish “Springers” you likely have your best chance at a Steelhead. Bass anglers will start to target the “pre-spawn” where you have the best chance at a trophy bass! Many lakes are stocked with trout and they are easy to catch.
May & June
By now, there are large numbers of Spring Chinook, even in tributaries like the Clackamas. Winter Steelhead are mostly gone but pilot runs of Summer Steelhead show up. Bass fishing is phenomenal in the Willamette River! Anglers are targeting Walleye in the Willamette. Trout fishing is often excellent. A massive run of shad will appear in the Columbia & Willamette Rivers.
July & August
Although many of the rivers have recreational boats in them, fishing can be good. Bass will seek out colder and deeper water. Trout fishing gets difficult but not impossible. Columbia Walleye fishing can be good near the 205 Bridge. Summer Steelhead are spread throughout the Rivers but usually only bite in the morning or if they’re in cold, oxygenated water.
September & October
The prime of Salmon season, Fall Chinook and Coho are migrating up the Columbia River. This is the best time to book a guided salmon trip. If rain occurs, Summer Steelhead will begin biting again after over-summering in the rivers. Bass can be very aggressive as they feed before winter.
November & December The tail-end of salmon season, with Coho being the main target. Summer Steelhead are beginning to wear out, but can bite very aggressively at the same time. Sturgeon fishing can be excellent. The Willamette will still produce some Smallmouth and Walleye but they are more lethargic.
Don’t hang up your rods! There are always opportunities if you’re willing to work for them.