Best May Fishing | Oregon

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Northwest Zone

Trout

Many zone rivers and streams open for trout on the fourth Saturday of this month. The first few weeks can be very good, often with good numbers of early fish higher in the systems and tributaries (where open to angling).

Meanwhile, many lakes continue to get visited by stocking trucks full of hatchery rainbow trout. See the ODFW’s stocking schedule linked below for current details.

Salmon

Oregon Coast spring Chinook salmon arrive in pretty good numbers as this month progresses at Tillamook Bay and in the Trask and Nestucca rivers.

Note that the lower ends of Big Creek, Gnat Creek and the Klaskanine River, all on the lower Columbia River, some years will pump out very strong numbers of springers in May.

Steelhead

May is when summer steelhead success leaps ahead of the winter-runs, although it’s still too early for great fishing. (Pencil in June for that.)

The northwest coast’s strongest steelhead runs are in the Nestucca and Siletz rivers, and the Wilson has a moderate run. Some wild and broodstock winters will still be around, but many will be on spawning beds.

Bass and Panfish

This is prime time for largemouth basscrappie and other warmwater species, which often will still be found near cover in shallower sections of coastal lakes. Warmer weather stretches will push the “on” button.

Southwest Zone

Salmon

This is often the best catching month for spring Chinook on the Umpqua River, which has produced stellar runs in recent years. Snowmelt and/or heavy rain can knock it out of commission, so look for a dropping river for best success.

May is also when fishable numbers of springers start arriving in the North Umpqua.

The middle and upper sections of the Rogue River (up to Lost Creek Dam) are another good bet in May.

Trout

Most local rivers open to trout fishing on the fourth Saturday of this month, and angling usually starts out pretty good. Watch for catch-and-release and other special regulations on streams. 

Diamond Lake will start to be very productive a few weeks after ice-out, which often occurs this month.

Stocking begins on the Rogue River above Lost Creek Lake around the Memorial Day holiday and continues all summer.

Area ponds and lakes continue to get fresh stockers as well, and Lost Creek Reservoir, Fish Lake and Willow Lake are among waters that may get some larger trout this month.

Bass and Panfish

Umpqua River smallmouth bass are likely to be guarding their visible nests for a good part of the month and will attack jigs and other lures tossed nearby. 

Other good spots for smallmouth include Lost Creek Lake, Emigrant Lake and Coquille River. 

Largemouth bass anglers would do well to try their favorite weedy and woody waters, including Tenmile Lakes and Selmac Lake. Most warmer lakes also will be good for panfish and bullhead catfish.

Willamette Zone

Trout

Many additional rivers and the North Fork Reservoir (Clackamas River) open for trout fishing on the fourth Saturday in May, and fishing is usually very good early on.

The Tualatin and Yamhill systems are open for modest harvests of wild cutthroat trout starting with the May opener.

Along with lakes and reservoirs, a nice bunch of streams in the central and southern valley are stocked, including heavy plantings in the McKenzie River and nearby streams.

In the north, where stocked streams are rarer, a stretch of the South Fork Yamhill is one place you can catch spring stockers in moving water.

Caddis hatches are likely to delight fly anglers on the McKenzie River and elsewhere.

Find more Willamette Valley trout stocking locations here.

Salmon

The springer run is usually still excellent in early May and holds up fairly well all month on the Willamette River, both below and above the falls, and very good numbers are well into smaller rivers.

The Clackamas and Sandy rivers are good Portland-area options, and the Santiam forks, McKenzie and Middle Fork Willamette have excellent fishing farther up the valley.

Steelhead

Summer steelhead numbers build quickly during May. The major Willamette Valley tributary rivers mentioned above for spring Chinook salmon also have strong steelhead runs (often better than the salmon runs).

Bass and Panfish

Crappie fishing can be extremely good in May. Look for them suspended in schools near pilings, docks, fallen trees and similar structure in the Willamette River and various lakes, including Fern Ridge Reservoir near Eugene

Smallmouth bass should be aggressive and easy to catch on soft plastics, crankbaits and other lures near rocks and rip-rap, especially in the lower Willamette River and Henry Hagg Lake.

If you want to land a big largemouth bass in western Oregon, this is a good month to get after it. Stick to the region’s lakes and Willamette River sloughs and ply the shallower water around weeds, downed trees and other woody structure.

Kokanee

You can start chasing kokanee at Green Peter Reservoir earlier, because access is good almost all year, but catch rates are likely to start improving by the latter weeks of this month.

Shad

Angling for these oversized herring cousins gets going strong this month in the Willamette River, with good fishing using coming later in the month and into June near the mouth of the Clackamas River and below Willamette Falls.

Central Zone

Trout

The Lower Deschutes River is world-famous for its native redside trout, and the most famous hatch is this month’s salmonfly hatch. Fly anglers shouldn’t miss it.

Stocking expands to more waters this month … depending on access due to snow.

North and South Twin and other lakes are likely to get fish. Roads to higher lakes like East, Paulina and Three Creek may be open enough for the trucks.

Paulina Lake and East Lake are usually quite good for large brown trout during the weeks of and immediately following ice-out.

Farther north, Clear, Frog, Laurance, Lost and Olallie lakes will be stocked this month or maybe in early June, if late snow isn’t blocking access.

Huge mackinaw are a bit easier to catch because they aren’t yet running deep at Odell Lake.

Salmon

May is the best month to catch a spring Chinook on the Deschutes River, in years when the run forecast is good enough to allow a fishery.

Concentrate your effort below Sherar’s Falls downstream to the upper railroad trestle. This three-mile stretch is the only part open to bait fishing, and most salmon are caught here.

A modest number of springers will also be in Hood River, with harvest allowed during good run years.

Bass and Panfish

Largemouth bass fishing usually heats up at Davis Lake by mid-month. This is a fly-fishing only spot but has Central Oregon’s best largemouth fishing.

Other largemouth fisheries in the region include Crane Prairie, Wickiup and Prineville reservoirs.

Prineville Reservoir also can be quite good for crappie by May during strong years and is always loaded with bullhead catfish, some of fair size.

Kokanee

Most central oregon kokanee fisheries will start going fairly strong this month, unless they are plagued by a big snow year (East Lake and Paulina Lake are the most likely kokanee fishing candidates in the zone when it comes to lingering snow). 

Odell Lake, one of Oregon’s most consistent kokanee lakes, is among waters that typically gets rolling this month, especially for jig anglers.

Steelhead

Hood River should have a few summer and winter-run steelhead to catch.

Southeast Zone

Trout

Lake of the Woods should be well-stocked with rainbow trout this month, and the brown trout (and maybe largemouth bass) should be coming out of the long winter hungry.

Other spots likely to get planted are Thompson Valley, Yellowjacket, Malheur and Pole Creek reservoirs, Delintment Lake and other zone waters.

This is usually prime time to catch brown trout on the Wood River near Fort Klamath. The nearby Sycan River should be good for eager (but not usually huge) redband rainbows, while the Williamson River is an option but probably will be better into early summer.

Northeast Zone

Trout

Fishing should be excellent in many places, although access is likely to be an issue for high-mountain waters.

Trout stocking usually begins this month in several locations, including Wallowa Lake, where you also might score a large lake trout.

Thief Valley, Unity and Phillips reservoirs can be very good for rainbow trout.

Check the link below for freshly stocked hatchery trout, but many of these waters also have good numbers of holdover fish if the water conditions have been decent.

Bass and Panfish

Fish around the brush in the upper (southern) end of McKay Reservoir for crappie during the spring. The reservoir’s largemouth bass aren’t particularly big in numbers, but they can be large in size, and this is a good month to go after them.

Many years, the catch rates in the John Day River start to spike up during the second half of May, as the water warms.

Kokanee

Wallowa Lake kokanee often bite well in mid- to late spring.

Salmon

The Umatilla River may be putting out some spring Chinook salmon.

Snake River Zone

Bass and Panfish

This can be a very good month for smallmouth bass and crappie fishing, especially at Brownlee Reservoir. Conditions are comfortable and the fish are likely to be closer to shore than in the heat of summer. 

Catfish fishing is just getting underway and should be better in the months to come. (See: Best Months to Catch Oregon Bass, Walleye & Panfish.)

Columbia River Zone

Salmon

If fishing is allowed, the Columbia River can be very good for spring Chinook salmon well into May. But sport closures are common. Check regulation updates before every trip.

Steelhead

Summer steelhead numbers are beginning to build, with catches from boats and off beaches starting on the lower river if it’s open to fishing. Regulations permitting, it’ll get better in the coming few months.

Bass and Panfish

Expect very good smallmouth bass fishing from near Portland up through all the reservoirs. Smallmouth bass are likely to still be in their shallower springtime haunts, especially near rocks.

Largemouth will mostly be in backwaters near weeds and woody structure.

Sturgeon

Fish are widespread in the lower Columbia sturgeon fishery as many begin to work their way toward the estuary.

Shad

The first shad arrive below Bonneville Dam this month, with fair fishing in the latter part if the fishing is open. (This season often opens for the second half of the month, so check your regulations.)

Shad fishing may close if salmon fishing is halted, because they often bite similar lures.

Angling will be far better in June, when fishing is usually wide open.

Marine Zone

Halibut

Early May likely brings the first all-depth halibut fishing open days to a long stretch of central coastline. These limited days to fish deepwater Pacific halibut are the best Oregon has to offer for these jumbo flatfish.

There also should be more liberal nearshore fishing available on the central coast, and all-depth openers on the extreme north and south coasts.

Ocean conditions will greatly dictate success rates.

More Ocean Fishing

Spring will bring excellent offshore fishing for lingcod, black rockfish, cabezon and other bottomfish, when conditions allow.

Bays and near-shore rocky areas, along with open beaches, can be productive for perch, greenling and other species this month.

Salmon

Depending on the run size and regulations, Chinook salmon fishing could very well be a fair option this month as moderating weather improves odds for offshore angling.

Shellfish

Look for great (but crowded) razor clamming during extreme low tides during the spring months, and bay clamming will be good on those days as well. Crabbing is usually only fair in the spring.

For more information, try the following main pages:

Return to Oregon Fishing Calendar
Find the best Oregon fishing by regional zones
Find the best Oregon fishing by target species
Return to the Best Fishing in Oregon home page

Oregon Resources

ODFW trout stocking schedule
ODFW weekly recreation report and regulation updates
ODFW annual fishing regulations
National Weather Service forecasts