2024 Update: Chinook salmon fishing here hasn’t been what I would call light’s out, but it has fared a bit better than the nearby Tillamook Bay system in recent years.
In 2022, the most recent years for which catch statistics are available, Nestucca Bay and river anglers tagged roughly 1,300 fall Chinook and 1,500 spring Chinook.
In some years, the Nestucca River can be a powerhouse producer of fall Chinook salmon and a fair run of spring Chinook.
The fall run gets going in the bay near Pacific City and through tidewater up to Cloverdale in September.
The river above Cloverdale bridge doesn’t open for fall chinook until Sept. 16, but most years few of these big fish will head upriver until after that point, when heavier fall rains lift the river level. System-wide, the peak catch is typically in October, but November fishing can be pretty good and a handful are taken into early December.
Anglers troll in the narrow bay and out near the jetties early in the season and also use bobber and bait techniques in tidewater.
The brightest chinook in the system are generally caught below Beaver, said state fish biologist Robert Bradley.
Drift boat fishing is good from Beaver downriver to Cloverdale. There are good launches at First Bridge (Beaver), Farmer Creek, mouth of Three Rivers (near Hebo) and Cloverdale.
There is roughly two river miles between each of those popular launch sites. The lower few floats are often the very best when the river is in prime condition, although the stretch below Beaver can be a good option in higher flows, Bradley said.
Bank access is somewhat restricted on the lower Nestucca River, due to plentiful private property. The most popular spot to fish on foot is at the mouth of Three Rivers, reached from Hanson Road downstream from Hebo.
There also is some access upriver, including at Farmer Creek launch on Highway 101 and the Rock Hole (below Beaver, reached from Bixby Road).
There also are bank access points on Three Rivers. This fishery opens Oct. 1, but you’ll really want to wait for a good freshet to bring fish into the small stream, Bradley said. There’s a very popular hole below the hatchery.
The fall run is a mixture of wild and hatchery fish. The latter are raised by a STEP group and released at Farmer Creek, Cloverdale and the hatchery on Three Rivers.
This is a pure hatchery run that typically produces several hundred fish per year, with the best fishing from late May into the first half of July. Catch rates peak in June, and the mainstem closes after July 31. (Three Rivers closes a little earlier for springers.)
Spring chinook smolts are released as high as Farmer Creek on the mainstem and also in Three Rivers at the hatchery, and fishing is best from Beaver down.
Most anglers strictly targeting springers tend to work the river from Three Rivers down, or in the creek itself. The Nestucca River from Beaver down to Three Rivers (launching at First Bridge or Farmer Creek) can also be good for spring chinook and offers a bonus of some nice water for summer steelhead, which run at the same time as spring chinook.
Bank access points for spring chinook include the same ones used for fall chinook, listed above.
While the Nestucca River is often closed to coho fishing, this is a river system that may host a limited harvest fishery for wild silvers when the run forecasts are very good.
Be sure to check ODFW’s website for in-season changes (usually posted sometime in August) that affect the coming season in September and October, if there is one.
The harvest limit likely will be low, and there often are specific locations and even days of the week that allow coho fishing.
Best River Levels
The Nestucca is considered in prime shape when the river level is between about 4 and 5.5 feet at the gauge near Beaver. If the flows are near or above the high end of that range, consider fishing in Three Rivers or closer to Beaver.
For more Nestucca River fall chinook fishing tips from a local guide, click here.