Best Fishing in Oregon

Oregon Coast Spring Chinook Fishing

Photo courtesy of Big K Guest Ranch
Photo courtesy of Big K Guest Ranch

The Oregon coast has more fall chinook runs than spring chinook, but it’s hard to beat fighting a mint-bright springer on a spring day. And it’s impossible to beat spring salmon on the grill.

Like other salmon runs, coastal spring chinook numbers tend to be cyclical. Some years are lean, others generous. Coastwide, spring chinook numbers have improved significantly since 2010, following some down seasons.

The following handful of rivers and bays, listed north to south, offer the Oregon coast’s primary spring chinook salmon fisheries.

Tillamook Bay
Tillamook Bay has a hatchery based run that returns fish primarily to the Trask River, with a modest hatchery run into the Wilson River.

Spring runs here are far smaller than the famous fall chinook returns. More than 700 were tagged in 2010, about the number that were kept in the previous two (lean) springs before that.

Look for nearly all of the spring chinook to be landed in May and June on Tillamook Bay.

The bay is fished from the jetties up to the upper bay, where the Trask enters through the city of Tillamook on the southeastern side of the bay. Trolling herring or spinners is popular for springers. Fresh roe, sometimes paired with sand shrimp, can be fished under bobbers in the tidewater areas.

For more on fishing here, read Tillamook Bay Fishing, Crabbing and Clamming.

Wilson River
This has been a very modest spring chinook fishery, with about 100 spring chinook, give or take, tagged during recent seasons, mostly in May and June. The run is expected to further decline because the ODFW has ended spring smolt plants here, with the five-year-old fish due in 2018. Some springers may still stray into the river, especially from the neighboring Trask River.

The Wilson is a very good fall chinook salmon and steelhead fishing river, and also has good cutthroat trout angling.

For more detailed information about fishing both chinook runs:
Wilson River Chinook Salmon Fishing

Trask River
The Trask River is Tillamook Bay’s primary spring chinook destination.

The river can produce 2,000 spring chinook in a good year and recently started receiving even more spring chinook smolts (transferred from the Wilson River).

The most (and brightest) fish will be caught in the lower river, from the head of tidewater near Highway 101 up to the hatchery. Springers arrive in fishable numbers in May and the catch rate is often best in June.

The Trask River also has an excellent fall chinook fishery.

For more detailed information about fishing both chinook runs:
Trask River Chinook Salmon Fishing

Nestucca River
The Big Nestucca and its main angling tributary, Three Rivers (where the hatchery is located), can be very good spring chinook fishing spots.

In 2010, the main river yieled more than 1,000 springers, and Three Riers gave up more than 700. Both fished substantially better that year than in the previous few years. Spring chinook are present and fished from May into July in the mainstem Nestucca, with the peak fishing usually in June. June is the month to hit Three Rivers, which sees limited numbers of salmon before that time and then closes a bit earlier than the mainstem.

The mainstem, particularly below the mouth of Three Rivers, has limited bank access but excellent drift boat access. The mouth of Three Rivers near Hebo and farther up this tributary you’ll find several popular bank-fishing holes.

The Nestucca River also has an excellent fall chinook and two steelhead fisheries.

For more detailed information about fishing both chinook runs:
Nestucca River Chinook Salmon Fishing

Winchester Bay and Umpqua River
The large Umpqua River system and its estuary, Winchester Bay (Reedsport and several small coastal towns), can be fantastic for spring chinook. It’s also one of the top places for fall chinook fishing in Southwest Oregon.

The excellent 2010 season produced more than 5,100 chinook from the bay and main river, and another 2,000 from the North Umpqua. Many years the catches are more modest.

The first significant numbers of spring salmon to enter the bay and lower Umpqua River arrive in March, but the better fishing is found in April and May. Winchester Bay is loaded with services for boaters, and the river itself has good drift boat launches and plenty of bank access.

By May, a good number of these springers have turned into the colder waters of the North Umpqua River. A high number of them will still be below Winchester Dam in May. Focus soon turns upstream to the stretch of main river below the hatchery on Rock Creek, where catches get going in May, peak in June and continue into July. The Glide area has good bank access.

Rogue River
The Rogue River traditionally has a strong run of spring chinook. The trick is finding them on this long river.

The river below Rainie Falls (below the take-out at Grave Creek) starts seeing fair numbers of fish in March, with good catches of bright spring chinook usually coming in April and May (sometimes into June). This area is fished by drifting from launches at Foster Bar, around Agness and several good put-in and take-out points from Quosatana to the bay.

In the upper river, east of Grants Pass, the best catches on the entire Rogue often come from the river above the former site of Gold Ray Dam and in particular closer to the deadline at the Cole Rivers Hatchery’s diversion dam (below Lost Creek Dam). Although the springers up here aren’t always as bright as the lower-river fish, they remain good quality and this entire area produced more than 3,200 spring chinook in 2010.

Expect catches in the upper river to begin in earnest in May. Peak fishing often occurs in June, with pretty good catches stretching into July in the higher reach.

There is plenty of bank and boat access in the upper river from parks and other public lands. Boaters will find good launches from McGregor Park to Shady Cove, as well as farther downriver.

The Rogue also has excellent summer steelhead fishing that overlaps the springer run.

Also on this website, more articles about spring chinook fishing around Oregon:

Return to Oregon Salmon Fishing

For current regulations, consult the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual regulations booklet or website.

Photo courtesy of Big K Guest RanchPhoto courtesy of Big K Guest Ranch