Coho salmon, a.k.a. “silvers,” are an acrobatic fighting and tasty eating salmon, making them a favorite among Oregon anglers.
While the majority of Oregon’s coho salmon catch comes from the ocean and coastal bays, these fish also come almost right to anglers’ front doors in the Portland area.
Several fair to good fisheries are located less than an hour (sometimes far less) from the big city.
In freshwater, coho are well-known for serious cases of lockjaw when they are hard to catch.
But if you catch them just right, they can be aggressive biters during short periods.
The best freshwater fishing often immediately follows once a decent rainfall gets these fish racing up streams, and success in smaller streams often depends on keeping a close eye on the rainfall and getting to the river as it substantially rises out of its early fall lows.
Bank anglers cast a variety of lures (including spinners, spoons and jigs) and baits including cured salmon roe clusters.
Boat anglers troll or fish at anchor with wobbling plugs, spinners and other lures or bait.
(If you do want to try coho fishing in saltwater, where they are easier to catch, check out: Best Fishing Ports in Oregon or find information about opportunities statewide with the links on Oregon’s Best Salmon Fishing.)
But right near home, our favorite spots close to Portland are:
Sandy River Coho Fishing
Even when other rivers falter, the Sandy always seems to give anglers a fighting chance at fighting silvers.
This river near Gresham should be on the list for anyone serious about local coho.
Coho salmon typically arrive in good numbers on the Sandy sometime in September and the fishing usually is good well into October.
Coho tend to race up through the lower river near Troutdale and Gresham and then slow down as they near the hatchery at Cedar Creek not far from the city of Sandy. Bank anglers can walk in to find back access below the hatchery deadline, but be prepared for big crowds when the fishing is good.
Other upper river areas including Dodge Park can be good and perhaps not quite as crowded, although a good salmon run will bring out anglers to most accessible spots.
Boat anglers mostly concentrate farther downriver, but we don’t count the Sandy among the area’s best boat fishing for coho.
For an overview of this river: Sandy River Fishing.
Coho Fishing in the Clackamas River and Eagle Creek
The “Clack” and its primary fishing tributary offer a one-two punch for coho.
On the bigger river, most silvers tend to be caught in the lower river, from the mouth at the Willamette River upstream to the Carver Bridge, located just off Highway 224 about a mile from its split with Highway 212.
Drift boat anglers can get access to lots of fishing by launching just above the bridge (south side) or farther downstream at Riverside Park (north side).
Boaters fishing the lower river can take out at Riverside or downstream at Clackamette Park near the Willamette. If the Clackamette ramp isn’t open, boaters typically go slightly farther into the Willamette and take out on Meldrum Bar.
Bank anglers can find public access to the Clackamas River at those parks, at High Rocks City Park in Gladstone and a handful of locations.
Usually the bulk of the coho run comes into the Clackamas in September and October.
Eagle Creek has a short but occasionally very productive coho fishery.
The silvers tend to wait it out in the larger Willamette or Clackamas rivers until enough rain falls to allow them to go up Eagle Creek, where there is a hatchery.
Until the fall rains begin, often in October, Eagle Creek is typically a trickle and very few salmon attempt their migrations until conditions improve.
Public bank access is limited, but some areas you can get to the stream include near the community of Eagle Creek at Bonnie Lure Park (near the mouth), Eagle Fern Park and the fish ladder located about a half mile below Eagle Fern Park (park along Eagle Fern Road and note closed areas on either side of the ladder).
There also is fishing access well upstream, below the hatchery deadline, reached by hiking trails.
Learn more about Clackamas River Fishing.
Columbia River Coho Fishing
This is primarily a boat show, and to be honest mostly a secondary fishery to the fall Chinook fishery on the big river.
One really productive place where anglers catch coho on the Columbia River is upstream in the Bonneville Pool, particularly at the mouths of the Wind and Little White Salmon rivers on the Washington side.
The popular pool at the mouth of the Little White Salmon is known as Drano Lake. These areas get going in September but October is often best when fishing above Bonneville Dam.
Below Bonnevile, coho are often incidentally caught by Chinook anglers, but one place some people specifically target them is off the mouth of the Sandy River near Troutdale, where these fish often stage before running up the Sandy.
You’ll likely have your best chance at coho in the Columbia near Portland in September.
A bit farther beyond the Portland area, but within a reasonable drive, there is sometimes fantastic fishing for coho a couple hours northwest in the Buoy 10 area near Astoria in August and early September. See this article for details.
For general fishing information about the big river, read: Columbia River Fishing.
Coho Fishing in the Willamette River and North Fork Santiam River
A small number of coho are caught in the river below Willamette Falls, with some of them coming from the bank anglers who set up at the mouth of the Clackamas River to go after steelhead and salmon.
A more reliable fishery has developed upriver from the falls, where former hatchery runs of coho or strays from other systems have begun reproducing on their own in several tributaries.
The mouths of tributary streams are generally the best places to target. Try near the mouths of the Tualatin, Molalla and Yamhill rivers in September and October.
While those tributaries themselves don’t tend to be great for coho catches, bank anglers might want to venture southward to the North Fork Santiam River east of Salem, where there is a modest fishery for coho that starts in September or October and can stretch into November.
Summer steelhead are still present at that time as well.
Also read our broad look at Willamette River fishing.