Best Fishing in Oregon
Northwest Zone (Central Coast)
Photo courtesy of o2Fish Guide Service
Source:Fishing in Oregon: The Complete Oregon Fishing Guide (11th Edition) by Madelynne Diness Sheehan
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Northwest Zone includes waters draining to the Pacific Ocean north of (but not including) the Umpqua River drainage. It also includes tributaries of the lower Columbia River downstream from the city of St. Helens, Oregon (except sections of tributaries below the railroad tracks near the mouth of each stream, which are included in the Columbia River Zone).
The following are among the best fishing waters in the southern half of the Northwest Zone:
This river heads in the Coast Range west of Corvallis and enters the Pacific at Waldport, with good access along Highway 34. The Alsea is well-known for its hatchery winter steelhead runs, as well as fishing for wild fall chinook salmon and sea-run cutthroat trout. Hatchery winter steelhead start appearing in late November and fishing holds up into March. The North Fork has a hatchery and can be very good for anglers wanting to harvest steelhead, especially when the mainstem is high. There also are wild steelhead (adipose fins unclipped), which must be released. The Alsea’s first wild fall chinook arrive in the bay in August. Best fishing is in the bay and tidewater until fall rains raise the river enough to move fish upstream to the forks. Occasionally emergency regulations are enacted to protect low salmon returns. Sea-run cutthroat trout (also known as a “searun” or “blueback”) return in July through September and are often caught in the upper tidewater, and fishing for resident cutthroat can be excellent, including in the South Fork.
This tiny bay between Lincoln City and Newport has one of Oregon’s most direct and safest accesses for offshore fishing for salmon, albacore tuna, halibut, lingcod, crabbing and other species. Charter boats are available, along with services for private boat owners. While mostly a boater’s show, fishing from shoreline reefs on both sides of the mouth of Depoe Bay produces striped perch, cabezon, kelp greenling, lingcod and rockfish.
This is an all-around stream with popular runs of fall chinook salmon and winter and summer steelhead. It enters Siletz Bay between Lincoln City and the Salishan resort, due west of Salem. Hatchery and wild fall chinook first appear in the bay in late July or August. They move upriver with the rains and angling can hold up until late fall, unless a poor run prompts an emergency closure. Coho salmon must be released unless promising returns allow the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to open a special wild coho harvest season, as occurred in recent years. Steelhead can be fished year-round, with hatchery and wild runs of both summer and winter versions of these sea-going rainbow trout returning to the Siletz. Steelhead must be adipose fin-clipped to keep. Summer steelhead fishing peaks in June and again in October. The winter run peaks in February and March. Sea-run cutthroat trout move through tidewater from July through September.
Siltcoos and Tahkenitch Lakes
At these big, shallow coastal lakes between Florence and Reedsport, you’ll find trout, panfish, largemouth bass, and a rare opportunity to catch and keep wild coho salmon from a lake. Wild cutthroat can reach up to 20 inches and 4 or 5 pounds, especially in Siltcoos. Rainbow trout are stocked in Siltcoos as well. The lakes provide ideal rearing conditions for strong runs of large, late-returning coho. As juveniles, these salmon can be mistaken for pan-sized trout (they look a bit like kokanee). If they are silvery and have an intact adipose fin, they are young coho and must be released unharmed. When they return as adults, there is a modest fishery for these wild coho in both lakes from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. The best fishing for these silver salmon follows significant rains from late October through November (sometimes into December). Yellow perch are abundant in both lakes, and warmwater anglers also catch bluegill, brown bullhead catfish and other panfish. Siltcoos isn’t as good of a bass fishery as it was years ago, but it’s still possible to catch bass over 5 pounds.
This estuary at Florence, an easy drive west from Eugene and Springfield, often surpasses better-known Tillamook Bay for fall chinook salmon fishing, with other bay and offshore fish and shellfish opportunities. Fall chinook fishing, the big attraction, is best in the bay from September into November. Jack salmon and sea-run cutthroat trout start arriving in July. Jetty and rock anglers catch perch, greenling and other species. Crabbing and clamming can be quite good. Striped bass occasionally appear in late winter. Offshore fishing is focused on salmon and halibut.
A great producer of fall chinook, often second in catches only to the Rogue among Oregon’s best salmon rivers – with fewer anglers vying for space. The river also is good for winter steelhead and cutthroat trout and even has a shad run. Its headwaters are in the Coast Range west of Eugene and Cottage Grove. Fall chinook are in the river from September into December, with the catch often peaking in October. Many of these king salmon are caught in tidewater areas from Cushman to Mapleton but also are landed upriver and in Lake Creek. Fishing for hatchery winter steelhead is good from January through March in the mainstem up to Whittaker Creek and in lower Lake Creek. A small shad run is fished in May and June.
The popular vacation destination at Newport also is one of the best all-around bays for anglers, including good bottom fishing in the bay and from jetties for species such as lingcod, cabezon, black rockfish and perch. The bay’s best salmon fishing is from September through November. Sturgeon fishing can be good in winter and spring. Jigging for herring at South Beach Marina is a fun way to catch your own bait (or for smoking or pickling) in February or March. Crabbing is popular from docks, piers and small boats and often best in early fall, before major rains arrive. Charter and private boats are within reach of very good ocean fishing for salmon, halibut, albacore tuna and year-round fishing for lingcod and other bottomfish.