Favorite Fishing Spots in Gilliam County
Gilliam County is small and sparsely populated, but from an angling perspective it has access to excellent fishing in the Columbia and John Day rivers.
This series of articles simply aims to introduce some of the better fishing spots around. If you’re looking for details, try clicking links found in this article and at the bottom of the page.
The neighboring county links below will take you to nearby angling options.
For regulations, look to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Columbia River Zone for the big river and the Northeast Zone for other county waters.
Incorporated cities in Gilliam County are Arlington, Condon and Lonerock. Unincorporated communities include Blalock, Mikkalo, Olex and Rock Creek.
Listed alphabetically, here are the best fishing spots in Gilliam County:
Columbia River (John Day Pool)
The John Day Pool, also known as Lake Umatilla, is part of a long the stretch of Columbia River best known for its fantastic fisheries for walleye and smallmouth bass.
Walleye grow big here. The state record taken locally is just under 20 pounds, and many anglers believe there are larger ones out there.
The smallmouth attract bassers from all over, and the Columbia has been ranked on national lists for this fishery.
Warmwater anglers also catch plenty of crappie is in this pool, including in off-channel areas such as boat basins. Other panfish and catfish also are caught less frequently.
Salmon and steelhead pass through this pool on the way to upriver tributaries.
Most often caught are fall Chinook salmon and summer steelhead. The Chinook tend to rush through in September and October while the steelies are more spread out, although you’ll find them in decent numbers alongside the Chinook.
Sturgeon are available for retention on a limited quota basis, usually starting fresh with each new year, but check with ODFW before fishing.
Shad also pass through and can be caught locally.
For more on mid-Columbia River fisheries, check this article.
Or to take a broad look at the big river’s angling opportunities, read Columbia River Fishing.
John Day River
The lower John Day River forms the western border of Gilliam County and is famous for its excellent smallmouth bass fishing.
While fish populations are high, access is a little challenging in this part.
Boaters with suitable craft and multiple free days float the river from above down to Cottonwood Canyon to reach tons of fish.
Look for limited road crossings and public areas for bank access.
For more about smallmouth bass fishing in the John Day River, see our tips for spring and summer fishing here. We also included the John Day among our best smallmouth bass waters in Central and Eastern Oregon.
Also, the lower 10 miles below Tumwater Falls is known as the John Day Arm, where the Columbia River backs into the lower tributary. It provides a variety of angling opportunities, including smallmouth bass, channel catfish and crappie.
Campers with a boat can head upstream to Albert Philippi Park about three miles from the mouth at Le Page Park.
The arm also provides a fishery for summer steelhead, which don’t arrive here until mid-fall when the water cools and sometimes fall to trolled plugs or other lures.
Do check fishing regulations carefully before fishing for steelhead in the Arm, because ODFW in recent years has often established a no-fishing refuge to protect these fish toward the end of the calendar year.
Some of those steelhead also climb the falls and are caught in the main river above during fall and again in late winter, although most of those are the John Day’s wild run that must be released.
Hatchery strays may be kept, but there aren’t that many.
The John Day is listed among our best fishing waters in the part of the Northeast Zone that drains into the Columbia River.
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Morrow County: To the east, includes excellent fishing for many species in the Columbia River, plus some good trout fishing farther south.
Wheeler County: To the south, prime access to some of the John Day River’s best smallmouth bass fishing.
Wasco County: To the southwest, this larger county offers access to much of the best trout, steelhead and salmon fishing on the Deschutes River plus good fishing in the Columbia River near The Dalles.
Sherman County: To the west, a small county with access to the tremendous fisheries of the Columbia, Deschutes and John Day rivers.
More Fishing Resources:
In addition to other sources, the following websites were very helpful while compiling these county fishing pages, and the information there is valuable to all Oregon anglers.
For current regulations, trout stocking, weekly angling reports and more, find links on the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fishing Resources Page.
For boating information about these waters, see the Oregon State Marine Board’s launch locator map.