The Willamette Valley is full of fishing fun, but it’s not always easy for a beginner to find.
In this article, we’ll suggest a variety of kid-friendly fishing opportunities close to home if you live in the mid- and upper Willamette Valley area.
The areas covered include the majority of Marion County (Salem), Linn County (Albany), Benton County (Corvallis), Polk County (Dallas) and Yamhill County (McMinnville).
If you want to explore other areas with similar fishing experiences for kids, check out our Where to Take Kids Fishing Near Portland and Where to Take Kids Fishing Near Eugene and Springfield.
Our Best Fishing in America website already provides a bunch of details about many of the fishing spots that we list here, but we figured this would serve as a good starting place for anyone looking for great youth fishing spots.
Of course, we’ll give you links to more detailed articles on this website that you can use when you want to explore a spot in more depth. And at the bottom you also will find quick links to resources such as fishing regulations, trout-stocking schedules and more.
While this article is aimed at ideal fishing spots for children, it’s a resource for any angler looking for an easy fishing trip near you.
Moreover, quite a few of the locations mentioned in this article also provide excellent options for people with disabilities or other mobility challenges, because the access to many of them quite good and so is the fishing (at least seasonally).
Does my child need a fishing license in Oregon?
If your child is under age 12, no you won’t need to worry about this in Oregon.
If any of your anglers are ages 12 through 17, however, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) requires a youth license that is currently priced at $10 per year. By the way, that license also is good for crabbing, clamming, and even hunting.
We narrowed down our huge list of fishing spots by looking for the following attributes:
Easy to catch fish
This article will lean heavily on waters that are stocked at least seasonally with hatchery rainbow trout, as well as several that have good populations of bass and panfish species.
Generally, those types of fish are willing biters, they don’t require extensive or expensive fishing tackle, and you won’t have to bring a boat to have a good chance at catching them.
To catch the trout, we suggest you read through our own article, Trout Fishing: Basic How-To Techniques and Tips, which supplies the basic information for catching these fish if you don’t have a lot of experience.
Also for hatchery trout, be sure to check out the ODFW’s annual stocking schedule and weekly recreation reports to best time your trip. Trout fishing in these locations is by far easiest in the first week after a water is stocked.
For bass and panfish, a simple hook baited with a worm and fished beneath a bobber or on the bottom, or a number of readily available artificial lures, is all it will take to catch them.
Editor’s note: We recognize that many young (and not so young) anglers are capable of catching larger fish, such as salmon, steelhead or sturgeon. Or maybe you’re even ready for the challenge of fly fishing. If that’s the case, by all means use the search function on this website to unlock a trove of free fishing information.
Easy to access
These are spots that are close to home, often within minutes and definitely within an hour or so from just about anywhere in the mid-Willamette Valley. Quite a few of these locations also have decent parking and water within a short and easy walk or roll from the car.
Some of these spots have paved trails and fishing spots good for strollers or wheelchairs.
We don’t want anyone to get hurt or lost. The majority of waters we are recommending here are smaller lakes and ponds.
We have listed a few rivers and creeks in this article, but we’re sticking with smaller streams safe for somewhat independent children. We’ve left the bigger rivers with potentially dangerous currents out of this list.
We also chose spots that aren’t too close to other potential hazards, such as fast vehicle traffic. Also, most of these locations are at least popular enough that you won’t be completely alone.
More fun things to do
Many of these ponds are in park-like settings ideal for picnics and playing. Some of our options also have hiking, swimming and other active pursuits.
Best Kid-Friendly Fishing
In order to help you zero in on fishing spots closest to your home or destination, we have divided up our selections by county. Feel free to stroll down and check out the spots near you.
Remember, some of these location blurbs also are linked to a full-length article about that fishing spot, with tips about where, when and how to catch fish there. Please take advantage of all the free information on this website.
Where to Take Kids Fishing in Marion County
This is a big county with lots of fishing close to Salem as well as cities such as Keizer, Silverton, Stayton, Sweet Home and Woodburn. Listed alphabetically, here’s a few we’d like to point out:
It’s called a river but it’s basically a creek that flows into the northwest corner of Detroit Lake.
The stream is regularly stocked with hatchery trout from late spring through a good part of summer in multiple locations (often at bridge crossings and campgrounds) several miles a nicely paved road from the community of Detroit Lake.
There are trails in these locations down to the creek, although keep in mind that this location is best suited for someone who can walk over uneven terrain including tree roots, rocks and up and down somewhat steep banks.
This is about as far as we’d suggest for this article, being nearly an hour’s drive eastward from Stayton, but it’s a favorite of ours and makes a (literally) cool getaway in the summer months.
More information: Fishing the Breitenbush River
St. Louis Ponds
This is a complex of seven manmade ponds located just across Interstate 5 from Gervais, just south of Woodburn and a half hour’s drive from Salem and Keizer.
The ponds hold warmwater fish species such as largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish all year long, although these types of fish definitely bite best from mid-spring through summer and into early fall.
On top of that, the pond nearest the parking area is typically stocked on quite a few occasions, especially in the late winter through spring and often again in the late summer and early fall.
The ponds are in a park-like setting great for picnics, with an extensive trail system great for walking and bike-riding. Some of the trails are paved and there are several accessible fishing docks and platforms.
There have been a few issues with car break-ins, particularly when fewer people are around before the gates open and anglers park along the road and walk in.
More information: Fishing at St. Louis Ponds
Silver Creek Reservoir
This smallish municipal water reservoir is also called Silverton Reservoir and gets its name from the community right next door.
The reservoir is generously stocked, typically just during the spring months.
By far, during the stocking period will provide the best fishing for trout.
At other times of the year, you’ll usually find some bullhead catfish willing to bite a worm or other bait fished on the bottom.
More information: Silver Creek Reservoir Fishing
Walter Wirth Lake and Walling Pond
Editor’s Note: At the time of our most recent update, we do not currently recommend taking kids to Walter Wirth Lake due to a large encampment for homeless people located in the park. ODFW has discontinued trout stocking and shifted those fish to Walling Pond. Check ODFW’s weekly recreation report for updates.
These two spots are right in Salem and not far from each other.
The ponds are quite generously stocked with trout during a long period of cooler weather stretching from fall through winter and well into spring.
While trout-fishing won’t be good here in the summer, these ponds have a typical assortment of bass and panfish that will bite during hotter weather.
Walter Wirth in particular is in a park setting with lots of other opportunities for energetic kids to run around and then refuel at a picnic.
More information: Fishing at Walter Wirth Lake and Walling Pond
Where to Take Kids Fishing in Linn County
This is another giant county with some of the valley’s best fishing rivers, lakes and ponds.
The fishing spots we mention here will be close to anyone living in Albany, Brownsville, Lebanon and Sweet Home, among cities and communities.
This pond is within a city park in the Lebanon and has good bank-fishing access.
The pond is not generally stocked with trout but can have pretty good fishing for bluegill, bass, crappie and catfish.
Fishing for these species usually gets good in the second half of spring and into summer, although anglers have reported some issues with aquatic vegetation hampering fishing access by late summer.
Freeway, Timber-Linn and Waverly Lakes
These ponds are in and near Albany and offer excellent seasonal fishing for stocked rainbow trout as well as fair to good warm weather fishing for resident species such as largemouth bass, bluegill and bullhead catfish.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tends to generously plant all three lakes with trout during the late winter and spring months, while Timber-Linn and Waverly also may get some good batches of trout again in the fall.
Timber-Linn and Waverly are both located in Albany city parks while Freeway Lakes are near I-5 just south of the city.
More information: Fishing at Freeway, Timber-Linn and Waverly Lakes
This is a small pond located within Sunnyside County Park, which in turn is located on the banks of Foster Reservoir.
While Foster Reservoir offers very good rainbow trout-fishing and some other species as well, Sunnyside also is stocked with trout and is smaller and easier to fish with kids.
Sunnyside is likely to be stocked a couple times per month starting in late winter and continuing through much of the spring.
It also has a modest population of bass and panfish that will bite well, especially during late spring and summer after the trout-fishing has tapered off or ended completely.
There’s more on the general area here: Foster Reservoir Fishing
This is another smallish stream that is frequently stocked with pan-sized hatchery rainbow trout during the spring and early summer.
The stream is located above Green Peter Reservoir, and stocking generally occurs where the stream is easily accessed from bridges, pull-outs and campgrounds.
Like other stream settings, this one is probably better for kids and other anglers who are more adept at traversing rough trails safely.
More information: Quartzville Creek Fishing
Where to Take Kids Fishing in Benton County
This is a smaller county that includes Corvallis, Philomath and some smaller communities. It’s also home to the main campus of Oregon State University.
Here are a couple of very close options for Benton County residents, and you’ll also want to check out fishing opportunities in neighboring counties.
This pond is home to a variety of warmwater game fish and is easily accessible just behind the ODFW offices on the south side of the community of Adair Village.
It’s just off Highway 99 and only about 15 minutes north of Corvallis. It’s a similar driving heading south from Monmouth and Independence.
The pond is not stocked with trout but can offer good fishing for largemouth bass, bullhead catfish, lots of willing bluegill and the occasional channel catfish, which can top 10 pounds here.
E.E. Wilson Pond
This pond also is near Adair Village, except at the E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area, roughly 20 minutes north of Corvallis and a similar distance south from Polk County communities.
The pond is nicely stocked with rainbow trout from late winter into spring, and fishing is by far the most productive the week they are stocked.
There also is a modest population of warmwater fish, including red-ear sunfish, to provide some angling action in the summer, when trout fishing isn’t an option.
The pond has undergone some improvements recently, including better trails to and around the pond, fishing docks and even weed-reducing mats in spots on the bottom of the 8-acre pond.
Do note that this location does require a modest walk from your vehicle to the pond on a barrier-free trail, and also a permit to park at the refuge.
More information: E.E. Wilson Pond Fishing
Where to Take Kids Fishing in Polk County
Polk County is located just west of Salem and includes the cities of Dallas, Monmouth, Independence and the west part of Salem. It also includes Grand Ronde in its northwest corner, which many people may recognize for the giant tribal casino located there.
Polk County has a modest number of ideal youth fishing spots within its boundaries, but is within easy reach of great spots in Benton, Marion and Yamhill counties.
But here’s one we’d like to mention specifically:
South Fork Yamhill River
The South Fork Yamhill River headwaters in the rainy Coast Range mountains and flows through the Grand Ronde area near Highway 18.
The stocked section is from a couple miles downstream of the Grand Ronde Casino down to near the intersection of Highways 18 and 22. The best stream access is along Yamhill River Road in this area.
At this writing, the stocking has been modest, with about 1,000 trout added to easily accessed spots. The planting often occurs just before Memorial Day.
There also is some wild trout retention allowed in this and several other Polk County streams, which are home to native cutthroat trout, but be aware of harvest seasons and no-bait rules.
Where to Take Kids Fishing in Yamhill County
Among tourists, Yamhill County is much better known for vineyards and wineries and the tasting rooms and fancy restaurants that come with it, but residents who like to fish will find places with plenty of action.
McMinnville and Newberg are the larger cities in the county.
This 5-acre pond in the city of Willamina is frequently stocked with rainbow trout during the cool season, typically during the winter and spring months.
Located in Huddleston Park, it’s a nice spot for some bank fishing for trout when the weather cooperates. Some trout released here may be larger fish.
There also are bass, panfish and bullhead catfish that live year-round in the pond, but they tend to bite best from mid-spring into summer and early fall.
This Sheridan area (including Huddleston and Sheridan ponds) is a half hour or less driving southwest from McMinnville.
See: Huddleston Pond Fishing.
This is just a puddle of a pond at a little over 2 acres, but like nearby Huddleston Pond it is nicely stocked with hatchery rainbow trout in the winter and spring months.
It is nicely tucked off major roads and good for picnics, but bear in mind that it’s literally right next to the Federal Correctional Institution. If that bugs you, try Huddleston Pond.
See: Fishing in Sheridan Pond.
This is in the far reaches of Yamhill County, out in the Siuslaw National Forest closer to Hebo than much of the county.
But South Lake is a nice spot, recently fixed up, and gets good doses of trout a couple times in early spring.
Nearby North Lake, which is tiny, may get a few stocked trout as well, but not on the same order as South Lake.