Source: Fishing in Oregon: The Complete Oregon Fishing Guide (11th Edition) by Madelynne Diness Sheehan
The Southwest Zone includes all waters draining directly to the Pacific Ocean south to the Oregon-California border, and north to and including the Umpqua River drainage. It also includes those portions of the Klamath River drainage in Jackson County.
The following are among the best fishing rivers and bays in the northern half of the Southwest Zone:
The Oregon Coast’s largest bay offers abundant fall chinook salmon as well as rockfish, perch and some of Oregon’s best crabbing and clamming. The first fall chinook arrive between the jetties about mid-August, and fishing in the bay is generally good in September and October.
By late October and early November, more fish push into tidewater areas of the Coos and Millicoma systems. There no longer is a coho hatchery run in Coos Bay, but some years strong wild runs justify a limited wild harvest.
Crabbing is popular from boats and off the Charleston docks, where anglers also jig for herring, smelt and anchovies. Good clam flats run along North Spit.
Lingcod, rockfish and surf perch are caught along jetties and bridge pilings. Perch also are caught from nearby ocean beaches, where anglers occasionally hook a striped bass. Few stripers are caught inside Coos Bay these days.
Boats heading out from Charleston catch salmon, halibut and albacore tuna in season and lings and other bottom fish year-round.
This river flows through the towns of Myrtle Point and Coquille before entering the ocean at Bandon. It has strong runs of fall chinook and winter steelhead, along with a small number of spring chinook, healthy wild coho and a decent shot at striped bass.
A small run of springers come through in late spring and early summer, but salmon fishing begins in earnest in August when the fall run begins. In years when the wild coho runs are very strong, a modest harvest season on these silvers is allowed.
Winter steelhead first appear in late November, with peak fishing in January and February. Only fin-clipped (hatchery) steelhead may be kept, although there is good catch-and-release fishing for wild steelhead. Striped bass fishing has been improving for fish at least 24 inches in length (keeper size).
Sea-run cutthroat trout appear in late summer and early fall. Besides salmon, Coquille Bay is fished for perch, smelt and good numbers of Dungeness crab. Dig softshell clams on the flats near the Bandon Treatment Plant.
This tributary of the lower Umpqua River, joining the Umpqua at Winchester Bay, is one of Oregon’s few good places to reliably catch striped bass. Spring and fall are the best times to catch stripers in the Smith.
The river also has fair populations of wild fall chinook and coho salmon and winter steelhead. The occasional hatchery steelhead strays into the system, but the majority of steelhead have their adipose fin intact and must be released.
Fall chinook can be kept in tidewater below Spencer Creek. Wild coho are doing well here, but they must be released. Steelhead must be fin-clipped to retain, and since there is no hatchery program here, only the occasional adipose fin-clipped stray is legal for the table.
The Umpqua has one of the most varied river fisheries in Oregon, including a world-class smallmouth bass fishery and strong runs of spring and fall chinook. The Umpqua’s north and south forks come together northwest of Roseburg, and the mainstem flows more than 100 miles northwest to Winchester Bay.
Smallmouth bass fishing begins at the top of tidewater and continues up to the forks and into the South Umpqua. Late winter and early spring offer trophy fishing for the Umpqua’s largest bass, while the warm summers bring fishing so fast and furious that an angler could tally 200 fish in a very busy day.
Spring chinook are fished from late March into July, with best catches usually in April and May. Fall chinook start moving up in August and September, although the bigger fishery for them is in Winchester Bay (see below).
Hatchery coho are planted in the South Fork and move through the mainstem quickly after the first fall rains. Both winter and summer steelhead fishing can be good, with summer fish peaking in June and July on their way to the North Umpqua.
The larger winter run sometimes includes a fishery for wild steelhead, and hatchery fish on their way to the South Umpqua are present in good numbers. There is usually good steelhead fishing from December into March.
The Umpqua also has a good run of shad that arrives in May and June. Shad are fished from Scottsburg upstream, including popular spots at Sawyer Rapids, Yellow Creek and the forks.
Umpqua River, North Fork
Treasured for its good runs of wild and hatchery summer steelhead, the gorgeous North Umpqua is also fished for wild winter steelhead, spring chinook and fin-clipped coho, and it offers fine trout fishing above Soda Springs Reservoir.
A mix of hatchery and wild summer steelhead enters the North Umpqua in June, with catches high in July and August and again in October and November after the water cools. The river’s winter run gets going well in January but these days is primarily wild fish.
Spring chinook are present from April through October, with peak catches in May through July. Trout fishing is best above Soda Springs Reservoir for both rainbows and browns. There is a popular fly fishing-only stretch in the 31 miles of river below the reservoir’s dam.
The Umpqua River’s bay at Reedsport and Gardiner is a great producer of fall chinook salmon, and it also has good numbers of fin-clipped coho salmon, sturgeon, striped bass, perch, crabs and softshell clams.
Fall chinook fishing is very popular, providing catches from July through September. Hatchery coho – along with lots of wild fish – are caught in good numbers in late summer and early fall.
Fishing for white sturgeon is good in winter into spring. Striped bass move between Winchester Bay and the lower Smith River, with some good bay fishing from June to October. Perch and rockfish are caught in numerous locations from boats, jetties and docks.
Crabbing is popular from boats and a pier in Half Moon Bay. Softshell clams are abundant on the flats off Bolon Island and elsewhere. Boats from the ports also access offshore fishing for salmon and other species.
Sturgeon Fishing in Winchester Bay and Lower Umpqua River