The Siuslaw is known as one of Oregon’s best fall Chinook systems. But it’s no slouch for winter steelhead and is a popular spot for Eugene area anglers. The mainstem will produce 1,000 to 2,000 hatchery winter steelhead in a decent season, and its Lake Creek tributary typically adds a few hundred to the basin’s catch.
On the Siuslaw itself, ODFW releases a large number of smolts near the campground at Whittaker Creek, so many returning adults aim for that part of the river. The mainstem is open for retention of fin-clipped steelhead above Whittaker Creek only between December 1 and March 31. (Whittaker Creek is closed.)
To reach Whittaker Creek from Highway 126 between Florence and Eugene-Springfield, turn south on County Road 4390 (also known as Siuslaw Road or Austa Road) near the tiny community of Austa. It’s within two miles of the turn. This is a popular spot for both the winter steelhead and the bank and boat anglers who pursue them. Fortunately, the highway or smaller roads follow the river downstream from there and offer enough pull-offs for anglers to find a place to cast.
Boaters float from Whittaker to Wildcat or from Wildcat down to Linslaw to chase winter steelies.
Lake Creek (which flows down from Triangle Lake) has good steelhead fishing in the lower four miles down to Swisshome, and is one of northwest Oregon’s top small winter steelhead streams. One of the best options is below Green Creek near Deadwood, which is a smolt release site. (You can’t fish in the smaller Green Creek itself, so stick to Lake Creek below that point.) Lake Creek is open farther up, and old-timers might remember that ODFW previously released smolts upstream from Greenleaf Creek, but these days fewer winter fish stray above Deadwood.
A small number of hatchery fish also are caught in the North Fork, open January through March. Wild (unclipped) steelhead must be released basin-wide.
While the first fish and anglers arrive by December, the Siuslaw River and Lake Creek steelhead run peaks in January and February and can be good in the first weeks of March. Steelhead fishing closes after March 31.
Best River Levels
The Siuslaw generally fishes pretty well at river levels between about 5 and 8 feet for typical steelhead methods. If it’s on the high side, try closest to the Whittaker Creek deadline and in lower Lake Creek. For plunking, higher water is good, typically best in 9 to 11 feet.