This major fork forms the mainstem Willamette River where it joins with the Middle Fork Willamette near Eugene and Springfield.
Among anglers, it was long the forgotten sibling to the Middle Fork but starting in 2014 will boast its very own run of hatchery-reared spring Chinook salmon.
The stream also has modest fisheries for trout, especially planted rainbows in the lower river and native cutthroats that are most common above Cottage Grove Reservoir and in the Row River, a tributary that flows into Dorena Reservoir.
This article will briefly discuss the river system’s two major fisheries:
Spring Chinook Salmon
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2012 started diverting a portion of the hatchery-marked (fin-clipped) spring Chinook that had been released in the McKenzie River and instead planted them in the Coast Fork and Row River, its major tributary. (If you want to say Row like the locals, rhyme it with “wow.”)
The planted salmon have been returning as adults in the spring, but catches have been very modest most years compared to other tributaries including the Middle Fork Willamette River.
ODFW has planted smolts in the mainstem Coast Fork at Cottage Grove Speedway, Saginaw Road, Creswell and at the Highway 58 bridge. Smolts also were planted at East Regional Park on the Row River in Cottage Grove. Several of those spots should be top locations on a river with limited options for bank anglers, while anglers with small boats will have plenty of access.
Anglers are still figuring out the best spots, but ODFW fish biologist Jeff Ziller said that early favorite spots include access points between the Creswell and Cottage Grove areas and also on the Row River at the Row River Road bridge.
It’s worth mentioning that summer steelhead are not planted in the Coast Fork, but a few always stray into the system, most likely from nearby hatchery runs, and may be found up to the dams on the Coast Fork and Row rivers. They should be caught occasionally and are open to harvest if they have a clipped fin (or even without a clipped fin if they are at least 24 inches).
Stocked Trout: The Coast Fork has been stocked several times each year in the town of Cottage Grove. Lately ODFW has put these fish into the stream a handful of times between April and July.
These are modest plantings and most of those hatchery rainbows will be caught in a matter of weeks after a planting. Other nearby stocked waters include Cottage Grove Reservoir, Dorena Reservoir and Cottage Grove and Creswell ponds.
Wild Trout: Native cutthroat trout are common in Willamette Valley waters, and they are the dominant species in many smaller streams, most of which are not stocked with hatchery fish.
In the Coast Fork, cutthroat are most common above Cottage Grove Reservoir south of Cottage Grove and the tributaries in that area, in the general vicinity of the community of London. You’ll have to scout around to find public access. The Row River and its tribs above Dorena Reservoir are much the same story.
These upper rivers are not stocked, but it’s possible these rivers could see an occasional hatchery-born rainbow trout make its way upriver after being stocked in the reservoirs.
Due to naturally occurring mercury found in these watersheds, there is an advisory about eating too many resident fish (those that spent their entire lives there) caught in these areas. Migratory fish such as salmon and steelhead, as well as hatchery-stocked trout, generally have very safe mercury levels and pose little concern. For specifics, see the fish advisory page in the annual regulations (linked below).
These streams have limits of two wild trout per day, with an 8-inch minimum. The Coast Fork also has a limit of five hatchery trout per day. They are open year round, but you may only fish with bait from the fourth Saturday in April through the end of October.
Below their respective dams, the mainstems of the Coast Fork and Row rivers are open to harvest of fin-clipped Chinook salmon and steelhead (plus non-clipped steelhead longer than 24 inches) all year. Check regulations carefully for tributaries.
Return to Oregon Trout Fishing page