Umatilla County includes access to some of the Columbia River’s major fisheries for walleye, smallmouth bass, salmon, steelhead and more, plus a variety of lakes and streams with good trout and warmwater angling. The Umatilla National Forest and Blue Mountains offer plenty of wilderness to escape it all.
The purpose of this article is simply to introduce some of the most important fisheries in Umatilla County. If you’re looking for more detail, try clicking links related to your search. You’ll find those in the article itself, at the bottom and in the blue box on this page. The list of neighboring counties down below also will link you to the many other possibilities within a reasonable drive.
If you need to brush up on the fishing regulations for this area, look in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Columbia River Zone for the big river and the Northeast Zone for the rest.
Incorporated cities in Umatilla County are Adams, Athena, Echo, Helix, Hermiston, Milton-Freewater, Pendleton, Pilot Rock, Stanfield, Ukiah, Umatilla and Weston.
Listed alphabetically, here are the best fishing spots in Umatilla County:
Cold Springs Reservoir
This reservoir just east of Hermiston has the potential to produce great numbers of crappie around submerged structure as well as good fishing for bullhead catfish. There are a few bass and other warmwater fish here as well. Access and extreme fluctuations of water level can hurt this fishery.
Columbia River (John Day and McNary Pools)
This area of the Columbia, just below and above McNary Dam, has excellent fishing for walleye and smallmouth bass. Crappie can also be found in good numbers, usually out of the current in backwater areas or marinas. Salmon and steelhead pass through this area, with a modest number turning up the Umatilla River while most head on up toward the upper Columbia and Snake River systems. Most of the catches are fall chinook and summer steelhead, but spring chinook and coho are landed in smaller numbers. Sturgeon can be kept in the pools based on annual quota systems. Check with ODFW for specifics. For more on mid-Columbia River fisheries, check this article. And for a broader look at the river’s opportunities, read Columbia River Fishing.
Hat Rock Pond
This 6-acre pond is stocked with trout a couple of times early in the spring. It is located in a state park of the same name along the Columbia River above McNary Dam, about a 15-minute drive northeast of Hermiston.
This is one of Oregon’s prime warmwater fisheries. The most popular fisheries are its largemouth bass and crappie. The largemouth bass aren’t necessarily numerous but can provide some good action and occasionally be quite large. In fact, this lake produced a past state record fish of just over 11 pounds in the 1980s. There also are some smallmouth bass. Crappie fishing can be quite good. Look for submerged trees, branches and plants to hold crappie, especially near creek channels. McKay also holds high numbers of yellow perch and bullhead catfish, both easy to catch, especially at the southern end of the reservoir. You also will find some sunfish. McKay produced the state record channel catfish, but this species is rare here. Note that McKay is part of a national wildlife refuge, and it is closed from October through February when waterfowl come in high numbers. We have this reservoir listed among this region’s best fisheries.
McNary Channel Ponds
This group of a half dozen ponds is popularly fished for both stocked trout and a variety of warmwater game fish. The trout are stocked in very good numbers several times from about March into May, and spring fishing is reliably good during that period. After that, attention will shift to warmwater species, especially bass. There also are some crappie, catfish and other panfish species. The ponds are located in a park that provides a excellent bank access from a trail network along the Columbia River. The park is between McNary Dam and Interstate 82 (Highway 395), just east of Umatilla.
Umatilla Forest Ponds
Several small ponds in the national forest, includng several on either side of Ukiah, are stocked with rainbow trout during the spring. Fishing will be best around May and June. The locations are too varied to mention them all here, so check ODFW’s map for directions to specific locations.
This stream has fair runs of spring chinook salmon and summer steelhead, along with a modest coho salmon fishery and a few fall chinook. Click the links for details on the two main runs. The river’s forks and tributaries above the Umatilla Indian Reservation can be good for catch-and-release trout fishing in the summer. Access is good in the Umatilla National Forest’s Blue Mountains area.
Walla Walla River
The upper reaches of this river system have headwaters in Oregon before flowing into Washington state. The Oregon section, in the Blue Mountains southeast of Milton-Freewater, is primarily fished for trout using artificial flies and lures. A few hatchery steelhead stray into the area, but check the regulations for retention rules applying to the mainstem.
This is a small pond is stocked with rainbow trout a couple of times each spring, and fishing will be good soon after plantings. This spot has good bank access next to an Oregon Department of Transportation yard, about a 15-mile drive east of Weston on the Weston-Elgin Highway (204).
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Wallowa County: To the northeast, lots of nice lakes (including record-breaking kokanee and massive lake trout in Wallowa Lake) plus steelhead, salmon, smallmouth bass and more.
Union County: To the southeast, a mountainous county full of great trout fishing.
Morrow County: To the west, excellent Columbia River fishing plus lots of trout water.
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.