The Willamette Zone includes all waters draining to the Columbia River between the city of St. Helens and Bonneville Dam, except for those portions of tributaries east of the Sandy River that are downstream from the Union Pacific Railroad line. It includes all waters on Sauvie Island except the Columbia River.
The following are among the best fishing waters in southern areas of the Willamette Zone, which includes Eugene and Springfield:
This reservoir on the Row River near Cottage Grove has big largemouth bass as well as stocked rainbow trout, wild cutthroat trout, brown bullhead, bluegill, crappie and lots of small yellow perch. In spring and summer, bass to 8 pounds are caught in the Row River inlet, among the reed canary grass and in the channels on the upper end. Submerged stumps and root wads also provide good bass cover, and the dam is best fished once the reservoir is drawn down. Trollers fishing hardware and bank anglers fishing with bait catch trout. In the winter, try fishing for crappie and bluegill near the dam. Check the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual regulations booklet for a health advisory related to mercury levels; eating stocked trout is considered the safest because they haven’t been in the reservoir as long.
Hills Creek Reservoir
This reservoir on the Middle Fork of the Willamette and Hills Creek near Oakridge offers year-round fishing for stocked rainbow trout, with some wild cutthroat trout and landlocked spring chinook in the mix. Trolling is a popular way to catch trout as well as chinook. Some years, it also can produce excellent catches of crappie, particularly in the Hills Creek Arm at the upper end of the reservoir. Crappie fishing is especially good when there is plenty of submerged vegetation that has grown up in earlier dry years. Bull trout must be released unharmed.
This is one of Oregon’s finest trout streams. Though it doesn’t have particularly large fish, it has excellent numbers of wild and stocked rainbow trout and wild cutthroat trout near Eugene and Springfield, and also boasts very good fishing for spring chinook salmon and summer steelhead. Wild “McKenzie redside” rainbows are popular with fly anglers in the lower river as it flows near Springfield and into the Willamette River. The wild trout fishery is a year-round opportunity, with numerous insect hatches. Portions of the river above and below Leaburg also are heavily stocked with fin-clipped rainbow trout each summer, allowing for a high-success harvest fishery. Spring chinook and summer steelhead arrive in late spring and early summer and are fished below Leaburg, especially below the dam. Summer steelhead continue to be caught into fall. The upper river also offers wild trout in a mountainous setting, including occasional bull trout. All wild trout must be released. Regulations vary according to river section and season, so study up before fishing.
Willamette River (Eugene)
This section between the Coast Fork and the McKenzie River includes the Eugene-Springfield area and boasts a nice run of summer steelhead and good fishing for nice-sized rainbow and cutthroat trout within a short cast of the University of Oregon. Bank access is plentiful from parks and bike paths from Day Island Park in Springfield to Beltline Road in Eugene. Steelhead arrive in May and June, with many hanging out in the stretch where they were stocked as smolts. They can be caught here throughout summer and well into fall. Spring chinook don’t stop here but can be caught as they pass through in May and June on their way to the Middle Fork (see below). Wild cutthroat trout and some larger wild rainbows are present but must be released. Occasionally finclipped hatchery trout drop out of the stocked Alton Baker Canal and can be harvested in the river from late April through October.
Willamette River, Middle Fork
This largest tributary to the upper Willamette is popular with spring chinook and summer steelhead anglers below Dexter Dam and has some excellent trout fishing upstream. It joins the Coast Fork to form the mainstem Willamette south of Springfield. Best fishing for spring chinook and summer steelhead is between Springfield and Dexter Dam, with springers peaking late May through June. Summer steelhead arrive at about the same time, but this fishery extends into the fall. The lower river has only a modest trout fishery. From Lookout Point Reservoir upstream to Hills Creek Reservoir, the Middle Fork is an excellent wild trout stream restricted to artificial flies and lures. Only fin-clipped trout that drift down from the reservoir may be kept. Above Hills Creek Reservoir, sections of the Middle Fork and Hills Creek are stocked with fin-clipped hatchery trout for harvest. Bull trout and other wild trout must be released.