Editor’s Note: When wild coho salmon runs are expected to be good, a limited harvest and duration season may be allowed on the lower river. A Sept. 15-30 season was announced for 2022. Check for regulation updates for the exact rules.
The Alsea River and its bay offer excellent fall chinook salmon fishing near the small central Oregon coastal town of Waldport. While catch records vary widely according to run strength, the Alsea has produced 3,500 or more chinook for anglers in its best seasons in recent year. In down years, the annual king catch is closer to 1,000.
The Alsea’s two main forks head in the Coast Range above the town of Alsea, southwest of Corvallis.
The best chinook salmon fishing is in the lower section, including a long tidewater and down into Alsea Bay at Waldport, about 15 miles south of Newport.
The tidally influenced section extends more than 10 miles from the bay up to the community of Tidewater. As with many systems, the salmon often stay in the bay and tidewater section until significant rains raise the Alsea River and entice them upstream.
There are several boat ramps in the tidewater section and in the river just above it for access. Bait and bobber fishing is a common way to fish for chinook in narrow tidewater areas.
Trollers tend to start working the long Alsea Bay closer to the ocean early in the run. There public moorages and boat ramps in Waldport, with supplies and boat rentals in the area. In the tidewater sections, boat anglers will find launches from Drift Creek in the lower stretch up to the community of Tidewater at the top end.
While the first chinook appear in August, the catch rates tend to be far better in September and October. In the second half of September, there likely will be good numbers of salmon from the bay well up into tidewater.
The fishing often remains good in these areas through much or all of October, until major fall rains lure the bulk of the run into the free-flowing river.
Above tidewater, fishing generally is best in October and continues to be worthwhile into November many years.
Bank anglers often have the best chinook success in the lower reaches of the river. Access spots include Mike Bauer Wayside, Blackberry Campground and a park at Five Rivers. There are additional access points upriver to the the forks at Alsea.
Drift boaters might consider putting in at Five Rivers to Blackberry Campground, or Blackberry down to Mike Bauer Wayside. There are a couple of tougher spots to take out below Bauer, including Barclay’s Break just above the head of tidewater.
Drift Creek, a tidewater tributary, produces a small chinook salmon catch.
Best River Levels
There may be enough water in the Alsea above tidewater to catch salmon as low as about 4 feet at the river level gauge, but you’ll find ideal conditions when the level is 5.5 to 6.25 feet.
Plunking with bait is better in higher water up to about 8.5 feet, with the very best plunking at a height of 7 to 7.5 feet. In lower water, the tidewater and bay are going to be better bets as fish stack up waiting for the next good rainfall.
Note: You might also be interested in Alsea River steelhead fishing.