This is a tiny stream near Astoria but it has a hatchery and can be a go-to destination for both winter steelhead and spring Chinook salmon.
Gnat Creek is a great one to have in your repertoire if you fish the north coast, especially in the wintertime, because every winter steelheader knows that heavy rains often push their favorite rivers out of fishing shape. A stream like the Wilson River can take until well beyond the coming weekend to drop back into reasonable fishing condition after a deluge, so it’s nice to have a backup plan.
Gnat Creek is typically the first area stream with hatchery steelhead to return to fishable condition during soggy stretches. However, the flip side also is true, and the small stream usually is the first to become gin-clear during dry stretches, and such clear water tends to put wary steelhead off the bite.
The winter run typically starts up in December and winds up in February, with January often logging the best catches. Annual catches are typically around a couple hundred steelhead, and while that seems modest, there simply aren’t nearly as many anglers as you’d find on a larger river with a hatchery run. There is not a summer steelhead run here.
Gnat Creek is on our list of Best Small Steelhead Fishing Streams in Northwest Oregon.
Locals know that Gnat Creek can also be a good little spot to tag a spring Chinook salmon. These big fish enter the system as early as April, but fishing is likely to be most productive in May and June, with a small catch in July as well.
Gnat Creek isn’t the best destination for fall salmon fishing. Catches of fall Chinook and coho salmon are usually very small here and you would do better spending your time elsewhere. There are no hatchery plants of those fish.
There are native cutthroat trout (including some sea-runs) in Gnat Creek as well, but they don’t get a lot of attention here.
Review Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations (linked below) before fishing for any species here. For example, at this writing there is a no-bait rule in effect in the upper creek above the falls, where there is no salmon and steelhead fishing but where trout anglers might go.
Look for bank access at the hatchery just off Highway 30, near the highway itself, and downstream about a mile at Gnat Creek Campground.
Plan for short casts and using a bit of stealth here to improve your odds.
Gnat Creek is located about five miles east of Knappa. Knappa is home to Big Creek, another good winter steelhead fishing option that also has fishable runs of fall Chinook and coho salmon thanks in large part to its hatchery.
Figure about an hour and a half drive from the Portland area on Highway 30.