You’ll find only hints of Linn County’s stature as an excellent fishing destination from Interstate 5. For the real deal, head east into the Cascade Mountain foothills for some of the Willamette Valley’s best fishing, including strong runs of salmon and steelhead into the Santiam River system and some of Oregon’s best kokanee fishing at Green Peter Reservoir.
The purpose of this article is to briefly introduce the best of Linn County’s fishing destinations. A variety of links you will find within the article itself, at the bottom of the page and in the blue box will take you to more detailed information found on this website and elsewhere. Among the links at the bottom of this article are paths to neighboring counties that also offer excellent fishing opportunities, often a short drive from Linn County.
The county shares popular fishing waters along part of the Santiam system, including the North Fork Santiam River and Detroit Lake, with Marion County to the north.
The waters in this area are regulated under the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Willamette Zone. Please note that fishing for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon in this zone’s rivers requires a Columbia River endorsement.
Incorporated cities in Linn County include (most of) Albany, Brownsville, Halsey, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Lyons, Millersburg, Scio, Sodaville, Sweet Home, Tangent, Waterloo and parts of Gates, Idanha and Mill City. Unincorporated communities and landmarks in the county include Cascadia, Crabtree, Crawfordsville, Foster, Marion Forks, Riverside, Santiam Junction and Waterloo.
Listed alphabetically, here are some of the best fishing spots in Linn County:
Big Cliff Reservoir (shared with Marion County)
This is the re-regulating reservoir directly below Detroit Lake. It has a modest fishery for rainbow trout, with some bank and primitive boat access.
Bond Butte Pond
This 35-acre pond sitting alongside I-5 in the southern part of the county is perhaps the best place in western Oregon to reliably catch channel catfish. The pond also may be fished for a smattering of warmwater species including largemouth bass, panfish and bullhead catfish. Note the restricted limits on several fish species. It is immediately east of the freeway at the Bond Butte Road overpass, but there is no exit. From the Harrisburg exit three miles south, take Diamond Hill Drive a mile west, travel north on Rowland Road about three miles, and then turn east on Bond Butte Road. Right after going over I-5, turn left (north) to get to a parking area at the pond.
This Lebanon city park lake has lots of coves and other structure for warmwater fishing for bluegill, bass, crappie and bullhead catfish. Bank access is good and small boats with electric motors (gas motors prohibited) or crafts such as float tubes or kayaks will help you reach more water. Anglers report that weedy conditions can hamper fishing later in the season, so it’s likely to produce best in spring or early summer. Highway 20 (South Santiam Highway) runs past the lake on the southeast side of town, but the best access is on River Drive (via Russell Drive).
Clear Lake and Carmen, Smith & Trail Bridge Reservoirs
This natural headwaters of the McKenzie River and three small impoundments are well-stocked with hatchery rainbow trout from late spring into the summer months. Clear Lake also has non-native brook trout, which may be kept in any size and number. Trail Bridge has some protected bull trout, a native species, which must be released unharmed if caught. For that reason, you may only use artificial flies and lures here, but the restriction can make this a nice spot for fly anglers. (Note: Smith, Trail Bridge and Carmen reservoirs are currently undergoing construction, limiting public access and prompting ODFW to suspend trout stocking during construction. Carmen is entirely closed until at least late 2020. Several area campgrounds also are closed.) Also see: Clear Lake Fishing and Carmen Reservoir Fishing.
Detroit Lake (shared with Marion County)
This large reservoir on the North Santiam River is one of Oregon’s most heavily stocked trout fisheries. Trout fishing is best during the stocking periods but they can be caught here year-round. We have Detroit listed among Oregon’s best rainbow trout lakes. There also are modest fisheries for kokanee (sockeye) and land-locked chinook salmon, and there are plenty of bullhead catfish and a few other warmwater fish in here. Most people access Detroit Lake from Highway 22 the Marion County side of the line, which also includes the giant Detroit Lake State Park, the community of Detroit and the major marina facilities, but there is less-crowded camping and fishing access from the Linn County side as well. More: Detroit Lake Fishing.
This 1,200-acre reservoir on the South Santiam River, at the community of Foster just east of Sweet Home, is most popularly fished for the regular plantings of hatchery rainbow trout each spring. There also are bass (both largemouth and smallmouth) and kokanee, although fishing for the latter is much better to the east in nearby Green Peter Reservoir. There is good access, including the Calkins and Gadney Creek boat launches and where the Middle Santiam River flows in at Sunnyside County Park. Trout also are stocked in that park’s Sunnyside Pond, which also has modest warmwater fishing. More: Foster Reservoir Fishing.
These are three small lakes along I-5 just south of Albany, with the two on the east side having excellent public access, and one of those stocked with trout during the spring months. The lakes also have crappie, bluegill and some bass to catch in warmer weather. Read: Fishing at Freeway, Timber-Linn and Wavery Lakes in Albany.
Green Peter Reservoir
This large reservoir (3,700 acres) on the Middle Santiam River northeast of Sweet Home is simply one of Oregon’s best fisheries for kokanee (land-locked sockeye salmon). We have a bunch of specific information about that fishery here. Green Peter also is generously stocked with rainbow trout every year to contribute to the good catches of kokanee, and there is growing interest in a burgeoning smallmouth bass fishery focused more on rocky structure closer to shore. More: Green Peter Reservoir Fishing.
McKenzie River (upper)
The upper drainage of the famed McKenzie River, along Highway 126 south of Highway 20, isn’t as popular among anglers as farther downstream into Lane County, but it’s worth checking out. This upper area requires artificial flies and lures. All wild fish including brook trout caught here must now be released unharmed. For keeper trout nearby, see entries on this page including Clear Lake, North Fork Santiam and Quartzville Creek for several harvest options. More: McKenzie River Fishing.
This tributary of Green Peter Reservoir is stocked with hatchery rainbow trout from about mid-spring to mid-summer. The creek is stocked at access points including several bridges and Old Miner’s Meadow for about a 10-mile stretch along Quartzville Road above the reservoir. More: Quartzville Creek Fishing.
Roaring River Park Pond
This small pond at the Roaring River Hatchery is periodically stocked with modest numbers of trout during the spring, including a few larger fish. It’s on Fish Hatchery Drive 17 miles due east of Albany.
Santiam River (shared with Marion County)
The mainstem Santiam isn’t as popular for fishing as its two main forks, but the salmon and steelhead all pass through here and a fair number of summer steelhead are caught in late spring and early summer. Smaller numbers of spring Chinook and winter steelhead also are taken. There can be good fishing for smallmouth bass in the lower river during the summer. More: Santiam River Fishing.
Santiam River, North Fork (shared with Marion County)
The lower river below Big Cliff Dam is one of the Willamette Valley’s favorite salmon and steelhead rivers. Summer steelhead are the biggest fishery, getting started about May and peaking in late spring to early summer, with opportunities continuing into fall. ODFW recently boosted daily limits here as well as the South Santiam and mainstem. Read more about the valley’s steelhead fisheries here. The North Fork also has a fairly good spring Chinook fishery, though not always as productive as the South Santiam. There are much smaller fisheries for coho salmon and winter steelhead. Starting in late May, the river below the dam also has a good but relatively unheralded fishery for mostly wild trout (must be fin-clipped to keep here). The river above Detroit Lake is regularly stocked with hatchery rainbow trout from late spring into the first half of summer. The stocking occurs from the Idanha area upstream at least 15 miles to around Downing Creek at bridges, campgrounds and other spots with easy truck and angler access to the stream. More: Santiam River Fishing.
Santiam River, South Fork
This stream from where it splits with the North Fork near Jefferson to just below Foster Reservoir, is easily one of the best summer steelhead rivers in the Willamette Valley and, in fact, across Oregon. It also has one of the most generous retention limits for these big sea-run rainbows. The first summers trickle in during April, but fishing improves in May and can be fantastic in June and July before tapering off. The hatchery below the dam often “recycles” steelhead by trucking them back downstream for another run, giving anglers more opportunity. Check out our Willamette Valley’s Best Summer Steelhead Fishing for more. The South Santiam also is one of the better valley tributaries for spring Chinook fishing from May into July. There’s more on valley springer fisheries in this article. Trout must be fin-clipped to keep but are not stocked in the lower river, other than young hatchery steelhead (rainbows) and possibly escapees from Foster Reservoir. There are trout fisheries in tributaries above the reservoirs. See the Quartzville Creek entry on this page. More: Santiam River Fishing.
This 11-acre lake in an Albany park of the same name is most popularly fished after regular plantings of hatchery rainbow trout from about March to May. The lake also has warmwater fishing for bass, panfish and bullhead catfish. Get more information here.
This very accessible lake is in the middle of Albany, between the main drag of Pacific Boulevard and Salem Avenue, and is regularly stocked with hatchery rainbow trout in the spring and fall. It also has plentiful sunfish and some bass, crappie and bullhead catfish. Read our full article.
This part of the Willamette River starts to transition from a lot of warmwater fishing in the lower river to more of a trout fishing stream above about Harrisburg. Trout include native redside rainbows that also reside in tributaries such as the Santiams and Lane County’s McKenzie River, as well as cutthroat trout. Smallmouth bass also are plentiful in the Willamette, especially from the area of the Santiam River mouth downstream. Salmon and steelhead migrate up the big river and often are caught near the mouths of tributaries, especially the Santiam in this area. Look for summer steelhead and spring Chinook to start showing in late April through June (steelhead continue after that) and try for coho in late September into October. Buena Vista in Polk County has a launch about a mile down the Willamette from the Santiam. Learn more about the many Willamette River fishing opportunities here.
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Marion County: To the north, shares the North Fork Santiam River’s steelhead and salmon runs plus is the gateway to Detroit Lake, one of Oregon’s top hatchery rainbow trout spots.
Jefferson County: To the northeast, includes Lake Billy Chinook’s great kokanee and bull trout fisheries plus trout meccas like the Deschutes (part) and Metolius rivers.
Deschutes County: To the southeast, some of the state’s favorite trophy trout and land-locked salmon fishing destinations, plus surprisingly good largemouth bass angling.
Lane County (east): To the south, with the McKenzie River and other fine trout fisheries and plenty of steelhead, salmon, bass and panfish.
Benton County: To the west, variety of wild and stocked rainbow trout and warmwater fish in the valley, plus the upper Alsea River’s excellent winter steelhead run.
Polk County: To the northwest, small streams with wild cutthroat trout and one with stocked rainbows.
More Fishing Resources:
In addition to other sources, the following websites were very helpful while compiling these county fishing pages, and the information there is valuable to all Oregon anglers.
For current regulations, trout stocking, weekly angling reports and more, find links on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fishing Resources Page.
For boating information about these waters, see the Oregon State Marine Board’s launch locator map.