This is when the later hatchery runs start to get rolling on the north and central coast. These clipped fish arrive alongside most of the wild steelhead.
There are still some spots listed on Northwest Oregon’s Best Small Streams for Steelhead Fishing that will produce in February, particularly the North Fork Alsea, Lake Creek on the Siuslaw, and at times Three Rivers on the Nestucca.
The North Fork Nehalem likely already peaked but often produces good early February catches.
Don’t ignore catch-and-release fishing for wild steelhead. The Trask River has a strong native run and occasionally gives up a hatchery stray.
Tillamook Bay has a nice winter sturgeon catch-and-release fishery, and this is something to consider when the rivers are running high and muddy, which hurts river steelheading but puts the sturgeon down in the bay on the bite.
Coastal lakes in the Florence and Newport areas often get their first hatchery rainbow trout of the year during February. Check the ODFW’s stocking report or its weekly recreational report linked below for a current list of planted waters.
Farther north, trout stocking often waits until March, but some north coast ponds and lakes may get some surplus hatchery winter steelhead, which in stillwaters are regulated like large trout. These plantings are typically noted in the weekly recreational report as well.
Farther up the coast, don’t ignore the Coquille River, and in particular its South Fork, which can be red hot this time of year.
The other forks of the Coquille, along with the south fork of the Coos River and east and west forks of the Millicoma River, can be fair alternatives in the area.
The mainstem Umpqua River is a good place to try when other rivers are too low, while its South Fork drops earlier and has a pretty good hatchery run near Roseburg. Consider the North Umpqua for catch-and-release wild steelhead.
Lost Creek Lake, Lake Selmac and Tenmile Lakes can offer decent trout fishing all winter. All have good holdover prospects from last year, and the stocking trucks sometimes get rolling at the end of February (and certainly into March).
If fresh stockers are your target, consult the ODFW Recreation Report or trout stocking schedule linked at the bottom of this article.
The first handfuls of spring Chinook salmon are being landed near Portland, but it always gets better in March and usually far better in April.
Honestly, steelhead and maybe sturgeon are higher-percentage gambles for big-fish chasers in this zone right now.
Sometimes the Clackamas and Sandy rivers will experience a steelheading lull in the action in February, as the early hatchery run winds down and the later broodstock fish are really just getting started.
But as the month progresses, there will be more and more of the latter.
Eagle Creek has an earlier run and can start out pretty good in February but typically fades by month’s end.
A handful of steelies will be landed on the lower Willamette River, particularly by plunkers set up near the Clackamas River mouth.
ODFW has largely restricted Willamette River sturgeon fishing to catch and release in recent years, but keep tabs on the agency’s website just in case there is a chance. If so, this is a good time to catch them.
The Willamette holds lots of the lower Columbia River’s white sturgeon population during the cold season, and catch-and-release fishing often is action-packed.
Lots of valley ponds will be stocked this month, many of them from Salem south to Eugene.
Keep tabs on current fishing opportunities through the ODFW Recreation Report or trout stocking schedule, which we have linked for you at the bottom of this article.
Stocked trout hold over well at Detroit Lake, but the reservoir is drawn down during winter and, following big rainfalls, can be off color.
Fly anglers will find hatches and some great winter fishing on the lower McKenzie River when drier weather lets the river drop into shape.
Hardy anglers can chase large lake trout (mackinaw) and brown trout at Crescent Lake, with winter access at the resort.
There will be a few remnants of the Deschutes River’s summer steelhead run left over around Maupin and elsewhere on the lower river, where fishing is allowed.
Hood River also will see fair fishing for bright winter steelhead, along with colored-up summer fish still in the system.
Up for ice fishing? Quite a few lakes may have ice thick enough to fish from this month. Thief Valley and Unity reservoirs and Yellowjacket Lake are among those that can be quite good for trout.
Hate standing on frozen water? Assuming the road conditions allow you to get to Ana Reservoir or Ana River below the reservoir, they will have water temperatures well above freezing.
Given a fair shake on the weather forecast, February can be bring a rebound on several northeastern rivers for what are actually summer-run steelhead.
The Wallowa River can be a very good option, and the Grande Ronde River can be quite good some years. The Imnaha River, though farther off for most Oregon anglers, also is a good bet if water levels are moderate.
If you can handle the temperatures, Wallowa Lake can put out a modest number of trout in the late winter. It’s often (but not always) ice-free.
Snake River Zone
There will still be summer steelhead below Hells Canyon Dam and possibly some surplus hatchery fish dumped into Hells Canyon Reservoir, where trout regulations apply (you can keep one over 20 inches per day).
Columbia River Zone
The Bonneville Pool has been more widely discovered as a winter go-to spot for these big fish, especially since white sturgeon numbers here are more stable than lower-river populations.
This area typically reopens for recreational sturgeon harvests in January with a second opening later in the year. In the winter, fishing is often better in the lower pool out of Cascade Locks and Hood River.
The Columbia River below Bonneville Dam is likely open for catch and release sturgeon fishing, but winter fishing usually is fair at best there.
The reservoirs farther upriver likely have fish left under annual harvest guidelines.
Check the ODFW website for in-season updates for all Columbia sturgeon options.
(Sturgeon anglers near the Portland area also may want to check for possible winter retention dates on the lower Willamette River, but this would be a rarity these days.)
Yes, you’ll start to see folks getting after spring Chinook salmon, and a modest number will be caught. It’s pretty tough this early, though. More fish will be around in March and, if it stays open, even more in April.
This isn’t a big winter fishery on the big river. Boat anglers may get a few, with late-run summer steelhead an option some years in The Dalles Pool and a smattering of winter hatchery fish, mostly in the lower river.
Fishing can be slow, and the weather brutal, but some of the year’s bigger walleye are caught in the late winter months. Read our article on walleye fishing in the Dalles Pool for more details.
This is completely weather-dependent, but there likely will be a few fine windows in an otherwise stormy season. When those opportunities open, rockfish and lingcod will fall in good numbers from charter and private boats.
Also when weather allows, some big lingcod will be around jetties and other shoreline rocks for their winter spawn.
Late-winter bay crabbing can be tough. Crabs often move out of bays when rivers are really pumping, but prolonged dry spells can improve matters.
Ocean crabbing is open but you’ll need a big boat (or be on a chartered fishing trip that includes a crab pot drop) and reasonable weather.
Razor clamming is coming into its best months. Look for minus tides and relatively mild wave forecasts and hit the Clatsop County beaches.
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