Best Fishing in Oregon
Free Fishing Days in Oregon
Free Fishing Weekend has for years been a tradition in Oregon, but starting in 2016 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has upped their game by adding more free fishing days to the annual calendar.
Free fishing means that anglers don’t need a license, tag or endorsement to go fishing, crabbing or clamming anywhere in Oregon on those designated days. However, you still must follow all of the other rules including catch limits. So our best advice is to study up on statewide, zone and specific water regulations before heading out.
The traditional Free Fishing Weekend is held the first Saturday and Sunday in June, which also is when the Oregon State Parks traditionally waives fees at its many locations as well.
The new free fishing days have been added in late April, right after Thanksgiving, and around New Year’s. The Oregon State Legislature authorized the additional free fishing opportunities to help introduce more anglers to the sport.
The April dates fall on the fourth Saturday and also the next day (Sunday), which in the past was a traditional trout fishing opening weekend for many waters, although regulation changes have made the April opener less of a focus. The November dates are the Friday and Saturday immediately following Thanksgiving, the traditional start of Christmas shopping with Black Friday. (The state parks department also waives fees that Friday only.) Free fishing additionally is allowed on New Year’s Eve (December 31) and New Year’s Day (January 1).
ODFW typically stocks a boatload of hatchery raised trout in waters across Oregon during the spring, especially ahead of free fishing weekends. They also plan a substantial number of events at family-friendly fishing sites to help inexperienced anglers learn to fish.
ODFW likely won’t stock as many waters during those fall and winter free fishing days, but as an example in November 2016 the agency planted trout (including some very large specimens) in several Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon waters. To give you an idea, that year ODFW stocked Cottage Grove Pond, Walter Wirth Lake and Walling Pond (Salem), Waverly Lake (Albany), Huddleston Pond (Willamina), Sheridan Pond, Blue Lake (Fairview), Reinhart Park Pond (Grants Pass) and Expo Pond (Central Point near Medford). Additionally, Henry Hagg Lake near Forest Grove had been planted with many trout in mid-November, and most of those would still be available. Stocked locations certainly could change year to year.
An occasional free fishing event may be planned during the cooler months.
Consult ODFW’s website for updates related to free fishing, often in the form of news releases and through the weekly recreation report. You can find up-to-date regulations online as well.
To help you choose your fishing spots on free fishing days and all year long, check out our Best Fishing in Every Oregon County page for opportunities near you. Another good resource is our month-by-month Oregon Fishing Calendar. Either of those sources will take you to additional pages chock full of fishing information tailored to your interests, location and time of year.
Here are some quick suggestions (with more more of this website’s resource pages linked) to consider around each free fishing time:
In April and June, trout fishing is excellent across Oregon for both stocked and wild fish, although be aware that some river systems will be closed in April. Bass and panfish fishing is also a strong draw during these months. Summer steelhead, shad, sturgeon, spring Chinook salmon and shellfish also are worth looking into in mid- to late spring.
In late November, trout fishing options are fewer but definitely still available, with some of the better spots at lower and mid elevation lakes and ponds and a handful of year-round rivers. Some waters are still churning out fall Chinook or coho salmon and even late summer steelhead, while select streams also are seeing their first winter steelhead. Catch and release sturgeon fishing is often very good in the lower Willamette River and Multnomah Channel in Portland. Late fall crabbing can be very good if the rains have been moderate and there isn’t an emergency closure (as in 2016).
In late December and early January, fishing for hatchery runs of winter steelhead is peaking in western Oregon and there are trout, sturgeon and shellfish to be had, among a few other options, so check out the links in preceding paragraphs for something of interest. Ice fishing might be a safe option if the weather has been cold enough in the Cascade Range and Eastern Oregon.