Central Oregon Coast’s Best Winter Steelhead Fishing Rivers

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The central coast, with popular tourist towns like Lincoln City, Newport and Florence, might be better known for sand castles and clam chowder, but it also offers very good fishing for winter steelhead.

The following three rivers are your best bets for winter steelheading, especially if you want to bring home a hatchery-reared fish for dinner.

Alsea River

This system has the capability of producing catches of more than 4,000 steelhead for winter anglers when runs are really good, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife catch records.

That’s better than several better-known rivers did that year, although the Alsea’s typical catches in a decent season are a still very good 2,000 or so hatchery steelhead. A few recent years have been sub-par.

Bank anglers get to excellent fishing below the fishing deadline at the hatchery on the north fork as well as at plenty of public parks on the mainstem Alsea as it flows toward Alsea on the coast. High-water fishing is best near the hatchery.

Guide Jon Payne says drift boaters should try floating either from launches at Mill Creek to Campbell or from Campbell to Salmonberry. These stretches have good steelhead fishing without as many hazards as other parts of the river that more seasoned anglers like Payne will fish.

Winter steelhead start showing in December, at the tail end of the Alsea’s fall Chinook salmon run. Steelheading often peaks in January and is worthwhile into March.

For more on steelhead fishing in this river:

Winter Steelhead Fishing on the Alsea River

Siletz River

The Siletz River flows into the Pacific Ocean just south of Lincoln City and offers prime winter steelhead fishing, even if the town itself is better known for flying kites and spending money at the outlet mall or casino.

When the runs are good, the Siletz will send more than 2,000 winter steelhead home to anglers’ tables, according to ODFW catch records. Slower years see roughly 1,000 of these hatchery fish harvested in the winter.

Hatchery fish released into the Siletz River are from a broodstock program that uses wild steelhead to produce fin-clipped runs for harvest.

These fish carry on their parents’ habit of returning later than fish reared in hatcheries for many generations. Therefore, while the first fish may arrive around Thanksgiving, expect the very best fishing to be from January through March.

When trying to catch a hatchery steelhead (with adipose fins clipped) to take home, Moonshine Park is a good place to start.

ODFW uses ponds here where young steelhead (smolts) are acclimated before being released into the river. So this is where they tend to return as adults, but it’s also where plenty of anglers return year after year.

Less crowded weekend access can be found upriver on the privately owned Siletz Gorge Road.

The Siletz also has popular runs of summer steelhead and fall Chinook salmon.

For more on steelhead fishing in this river:

Summer and Winter Steelhead Fishing on the Siletz River

Siuslaw River

The Siuslaw is known as one of Oregon’s best fall Chinook rivers. But it’s no slouch for winter steelhead and is a popular spot for Eugene area anglers.

The mainstem Siuslaw and its Lake Creek tributary frequently produce 1,000 or more hatchery steelhead in a typical winter season, which exceptions in both directions.

On the Siuslaw itself, ODFW releases a large number of smolts near the campground at Whitaker Creek.

Whitaker is a popular spot for both winter steelhead and the bank and boat anglers who pursue them to meet, so it can get crowded. Boats float from Whitaker to Wildcat or from Wildcat down to Linslaw.

Lake Creek has fair to good steelhead fishing and can be a backup plan if the bigger river is running high.

Stick to the lower four miles for hatchery fish, with one of the best options below Green Creek at Deadwood, another smolt release site.

The Siuslaw systems’s steelhead run peaks in the two months between mid-January and mid-March.

For more on steelhead fishing in this river:

Siuslaw River and Lake Creek Winter Steelhead Fishing

Also on this website, more winter steelhead fishing information:

Return to Oregon Steelhead Fishing page

Oregon Resources

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