Free Fishing Weekend has for years been a tradition in Oregon, but starting in 2016 the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife upped their game by adding more free fishing days to the annual calendar.
Free fishing means that anglers don’t need a license, tag or endorsement to go fishing, crabbing or clamming anywhere in Oregon on those designated days.
However, you still must follow all of the other rules including catch limits. So our best advice is to study up on statewide, zone and specific water regulations before heading out.
The long-standing traditional Free Fishing Weekend is held the first Saturday and Sunday in June, which also is when the Oregon State Parks traditionally waives fees at its many locations as well.
These days ODFW typically designates additional free fishing days at other times of the year, with good bets in recent years including near President’s Day in February or just after Thanksgiving in November.
In previous years, the department has allowed free fishing at other times, so check your regulations for specific dates each year as they easily could change.
The Oregon State Legislature authorized the additional free fishing opportunities to help introduce more anglers to the sport.
ODFW often stocks a boatload of hatchery raised trout in waters across Oregon during the spring, especially ahead of June’s free fishing weekend.
They also plan a substantial number of events at family-friendly fishing sites to help inexperienced anglers learn to fish, although those events can be canceled as needed.
In June, trout fishing is excellent across Oregon for both stocked and wild fish.
Many of those same species, except it would be fall Chinook and no shad, can offer excellent action in early September, which Oregon’s weather is typically close to perfect.
ODFW likely won’t stock as many waters during fall and winter free fishing days, but looking at a recent stocking plan for November shows several Willamette Valley ponds getting some good doses of stocked trout just ahead of the Thanksgiving free fishing days.
Some likely spots to get stocked around then include Walter Wirth Lake and Walling Pond (Salem), Waverly and Timber-Linn Lakes (Albany), and Junction City Pond. Check the link to the Weekly Recreation Report at the bottom of this page for current conditions.
Additionally, several reservoirs around the state are nicely stocked a little earlier in the fall and would still be very good options by Black Friday.
A few reservoirs we’d suggest for good fall trout fishing include Lost Creek Lake in Southern Oregon, Cottage Grove Reservoir and Dorena Reservoir in the southern Willamette Valley, Foster Reservoir in the Central Willamette Valley and Henry Hagg Lake near Forest Grove, west of Portland.
The reservoirs listed above are not only nicely stocked in the fall, they often are planted with extra-large trout.
Consult ODFW’s website for updates related to free fishing, often in the form of news releases and through the weekly recreation report. You can find up-to-date regulations online as well.
To help you choose your fishing spots on free fishing days and all year long, check out our Oregon home page for links to the best fishing in every Oregon county for opportunities near you. Another good resource is our month-by-month Oregon Fishing Calendar.
Either of those sources will take you to additional pages chock full of fishing information tailored to your interests, location and time of year.
Here are some quick suggestions (with more more of this website’s resource pages linked) to consider around each free fishing time:
In late November, in addition to some select trout fishing opportunities, there are some reasonable opportunities to catch fall Chinook or coho salmon, a late summer or early winter steelhead, Willamette River sturgeon, and good bay crabbing.
Switching into the winter season, a fair number of Willamette Valley waters are stocked with trout, and there are some other fisheries that can be fair to good. Ice fishing might be a safe option if the weather has been cold enough in the Cascade Range and Eastern Oregon.