Don’t let spring Chinook salmon get too distracting quite yet. March is prime time for coastal steelhead fishing.
Wild steelhead coming on strong in most rivers, making for excellent catch-and-release fishing. And where those wild fish are used as broodstock for hatchery runs, you have an excellent shot at bringing home a keeper this month.
Look for some of the best hatchery steelhead catches of the year on the Nestucca, Siletz and Wilson rivers. The Alsea and Siuslaw can also hold up quite well. Note that some streams close for steelhead at month’s end.
Tillamook Bay at times can be good in March for catch and release sturgeon fishing, and a handful may be landed in other bays, including Siuslaw and Yaquina.
This is the month that North Coast lakes start getting truckloads of stocked rainbow trout.
And Devil’s Lake in Lincoln City gets thousands of fresh stockers for Spring Break.
Coastal lakes farther south, including Big Creek Reservoir 1 and 2 in Newport and Olalla Reservoir close by near Toledo, probably started seeing stocked fish in February and continue to get more this month.
Cleawox and Carter lakes are among the most heavily planted in this region.
Check for zone updates ODFW’s stocking report or its weekly recreational report for waters in your area.
March is too early for the North Coast’s spring Chinook runs. Scroll back up to steelhead and trout!
Razor clamming is a late-winter option during minus tides. Look for good tide series through early summer.
The first spring Chinook salmon of the year will appear in the lower Rogue and Umpqua rivers this month, although catch rates go up in April.
The bulk of the Rogue River’s hatchery run will be upstream from Grave’s Creek and into the Grants Pass area by now.
While most district hatchery runs are starting to fall off, the Applegate, Chetco and Elk on the south coast and farther north the Coquille (especially the South Fork) and South Umpqua remain reasonable bets this month.
The North Umpqua has good wild steelhead fishing and the occasional stray fin-clipped cousin, and the latter you can keep.
Note that many streams close for steelheading after March 31.
Lost Creek Lake usually gets its first five-figure rainbow trout stocking of the year this month.
Arizona Pond on the South Coast can fish well for the under-18 anglers.
Streams remain closed to trout fishing.
For updates, check the ODFW Recreation Report or trout stocking schedule linked at the bottom of this article.
You aren’t likely to catch many, but this is when some of the really big ones bite.
Late winter crabbing at times can be reasonably good in Coos Bay.
March is when spring Chinook salmon anglers really get serious on the lower Willamette River.
In a good year, several thousand hatchery marked springers will go home for dinner this month, although that number likely will increase several-fold in April.
March is often the very best month for winter steelhead on the Clackamas and Sandy rivers as hatchery fish spawned with wild broodstock parents return in their highest numbers.
Eagle Creek’s run is mostly done.
Check with ODFW for updates, but Willamette River sturgeon fishing typically will be relegated to catch-and-release angling this month. But it still can be very good.
Henry Hagg Lake is now open year-round but may be getting a good dose of hatchery rainbows for early angling.
Benson Lake, Blue Lake, Commonwealth Lake, Progress Lake, Bethany Pond, Canby Pond, Dorman Pond, Huddleston Pond, Mt. Hood Pond, West Salish Pond, Sheridan Pond and St. Louis Ponds are smaller waters in the northern valley that may be stocked this month, especially before Spring Break.
Farther south, stocking will be going strong. Look for some of the largest plantings at Blue River, Cottage Grove, Dexter, Dorena and Foster reservoirs in the foothills, Walter Wirth Lake and Walling Pond in Salem and Alton Baker Canoe Canal in Eugene.
Find recent stocking updates on the ODFW Recreation Report or trout stocking schedule, linked for your convenience at the bottom of this article.
The lower McKenzie River is open year-round and can have good catch-and-release angling for wild redsides and cutthroat trout during nice weather, especially with the March browns coming on.
Several other streams in this region also have year-round C & R fishing, making for a nice outing in improving weather.
The Metolius Arm of Lake Billy Chinook reopens to fishing on March 1, if you have a tribal permit, giving anglers additional access to some of the best bull trout in Oregon’s only harvest fishery for this species.
However, many people let them go anyway and eat the more numerous and tastier kokanee.
Odell Lake is closed until late April, but if you want a shot at a big Mackinaw (lake trout), this is a good time to try Crescent Lake. Trout stocking comes later in this zone.
Hood River often peaks for hatchery winter steelhead in March, and the first of its summer run also makes its debut.
Owyhee River fishing below the reservoir (south of Ontario) is best for nice rainbow and brown trout when the weather is cool but not frozen. March often fits that bill.
Another river option might be the Donner und Blitzen River, a.k.a. the Blitzen (south of Burns).
The lakes listed last month for ice fishing may still be frozen, but they may also be getting dangerous. Use great care whenever ice fishing.
March is often the best month in Northeast Oregon’s top steelhead rivers. These are last year’s summer runs becoming more aggressive after the coldest months.
You can keep three fin-clipped fish per day in the main fisheries, but release all wild steelhead. Relatively moderate temperatures and reasonable waterflow make for better fishing starting this month.
The Wallowa River is a late-season star in this region, with more and more fish above Minam State Park as the month progresses.
On the Grande Ronde River below, more fish by now will be closer to the Wallowa mouth than the state line. Farther east, the Imnaha River also usually does its briskest business for keepers this month, while the John Day River is good for catch-and-release fishing on large wild fish.
Several of these northeast rivers are open through April 30, but check current regulations to make sure.
Smallmouth bass fishing is just getting started in the John Day River and elsewhere. Don’t expect big numbers of fish this early, but if you work at it, this is the start of the season for especially large fish.
Ice fishing is waning with a moderation in the weather, and you must be careful any month you might try it. Willow Creek Reservoir is often accessible without ice during the winter, with decent results possible.
Wallowa Lake starts attracting a few anglers who brave the March cold for early season kokanee, and this is also when serious anglers really start targeting Wallowa’s monster lake trout. There may be a little ice on the lake some years, but chances are good it’s not thick enough to fish through.
Snake River Zone
March can be a top month for late-season summer steelhead below Hells Canyon Dam.
Spawning usually begins this month at Brownlee Reservoir, prompting perch to bite for restless warmwater anglers.
Columbia River Zone
Sturgeon may start to move into the river above Portland into the gorge area this month, unless there are smelt and other food sources keeping them downriver. Fishing between I-5 and Bonneville Dam typically improves as spring wears on.
Upriver, the Bonneville Pool has some retention periods but not necessarily in March.
March is when effort for spring Chinook salmon kicks into higher gear on the Columbia. Success typically improves as the month wears on, and likely will be better still if it’s open into April.
Seasons are subject to closures and re-openings, although March is often open. Check first.
Winter fish will begin to be taken in the lower river in modest numbers, often by spring Chinook anglers working the early part of the season. Some late summer fish may be taken upriver in the reservoirs.
Fishing should be picking up, with most anglers focusing on the reservoirs along Oregon’s north-central border. Take a look at our article Walleye Fishing in The Dalles Pool for some good Columbia River tips.
Big lingcod remain close to shore and willing to bite when the weather allows safe fishing. Rockfish can be plentiful.
Offshore fishing from charter and private boats can be very productive when conditions allow.
Prime razor clamming begins this month and continues through spring with excellent low tides.
The vast majority of razor clams come from Clatsop County beaches from Seaside to the Columbia River’s south jetty.
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