Best Kokanee Fishing in Oregon

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Kokanee are probably not the first fish you learned about when taking up fishing. Yet kokanee, a feisty and tasty land-locked sockeye salmon, are among Oregon’s most prolific gamefish if you know where to find them.

In selected waters, including Odell Lake and Green Peter Reservoir, fat kokes grow to such abundance that anglers who learn the tricks have a reasonable shot at reaching 25-fish bonus bag limits.

Northeast Oregon is home to Wallowa Lake, which in 2010 produced the world’s largest kokanee, the 9-pound, 10.72-ounce brute in the photo at right.

Oregon also has a smattering of fishing opportunities for other land-locked salmon species. See below for details.

Once you’ve finished this article and figured out WHERE in Oregon you’re going to catch kokanee, be sure to scroll back up here to read our simple guide on HOW to catch kokanee.

Use these links for the best kokanee salmon fishing in Oregon.

Willamette Zone

A long stringer of green peter reservoir kokanee.
Photo courtesy of Ron Walker, Kokanee Power of Oregon

In the Willamette Valley, it used to be pretty easy to tell you the best kokanee fishing spot: Hands-down, Green Peter Reservoir on the South Santiam River was the place to go.

Green Peter is one of the best places in Oregon to conceivably catch and keep 25 tasty kokanee without needing to feel any guilt, because these fish are so abundant here.

We consulted one of the lake’s frequent kokanee fishers for much more information read: Green Peter Reservoir Kokanee Fishing

These days, in some kokanee anglers’ minds, Detroit Lake east of Salem has displaced Green Peter as the best of the (Oregon) west.

The kokanee run bigger at Detroit, their numbers have been on the rise in recent years, and a fairly new, more generous bag limit lets you keep up to 10 fat kokes there.

For more, read Detroit Lake Fishing.

The Portland, Salem and Eugene areas are all within the Willamette Zone, making it the most populated of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s management regions.

For other kokanee-holding lakes that are relative close to home for the majority of Oregon residents, we also have full articles on several more of these locations, namely Timothy Lake east of Portland and Triangle Lake west of Eugene.

And there’s more. We write in more depth about several of these spots as well as some other places around Oregon to consider in this article: Best Kokanee Fishing Outside Central Oregon

Central Zone

A bunch of kokanee caught at odell lake, oregon.
Photo courtesy of Paulina Peak Tackle

If you get so hooked on kokanee (which is entirely possible) that you want to pick one area in Oregon with lots of kokanee hot spots relatively close together, it would have to be Central Oregon.

Odell Lake is one of our favorites because the kokanee fishing always seems to be at least good, and often great.

But places like Paulina Lake and Wickiup Reservoir certainly have their moments, and kokanee in those spots tend to grow bigger than Odell’s pan-sized salmon.

The following links will take you to articles about lakes that at times have good kokanee fishing, and some of these can have lights-out fishing at times. Most of these lakes also have at least one type of trout in good numbers as well.

For additional information about Central Oregon kokanee fishing spots: Best Kokanee Fishing in Central Oregon

Southeast Zone

Several zone waters have fair kokanee fishing and can be found on this page: Best Kokanee Fishing Outside Central Oregon

Northeast Zone

Wallowa Lake

An angler holding a large kokanee caught at wallowa lake.
Photo courtesy of Brian Russell

More Land-Locked Salmon in Oregon

Chinook and Coho

Landlocked versions of these popular migratory species are available in several west-slope Cascade Mountain reservoirs in Willamette and Southwest zones.

In most cases, they are a secondary fishery behind to more abundant trout and/or kokanee found in these same waters.

See some of your options for catching land-locked Chinook salmon with our articles covering fishing at Detroit Lake, Green Peter Reservoir and Hills Creek Reservoir, all in the Willamette Valley, and Applegate LakeFish Lake and Lost Creek Lake in Southern Oregon.

Cooper Creek Reservoir near Sutherlin in Douglas County (north of Roseburg) is a spot where you might catch land-locked coho salmon.

Note: To find abundant anadromous (ocean-going) runs of these large salmon, start here: Oregon Salmon Fishing page.

Atlantic Salmon

Formerly stocked on a limited basis, most famously in Hosmer Lake (a fly-fishing only location), Oregon has now discontinued its Atlantic salmon stocking programs and there are few if any remaining in these lakes.

Return to Best Fishing in Oregon page

For month-by-month ideas of when and where salmon and other types of fishing are best, see our Oregon Fishing Calendar.

Oregon Resources

ODFW Weekly Fishing Report
ODFW Trout Stocking Schedule
Oregon Fishing Regulations
National Weather Service