You’ll find only hints of Linn County’s stature as an excellent fishing destination from Interstate 5.
For the real deal, head east into the Cascade Mountain foothills for some of the Willamette Valley’s best fishing, including strong runs of salmon and steelhead into the Santiam River system, lots of trout in Foster Reservoir, and scads of kokanee and smallmouth bass at Green Peter Reservoir.
The purpose of this article is to briefly introduce the best of Linn County’s fishing destinations.
A variety of links you will find within the article itself and at the bottom of the page will take you to more detailed information found on this website and elsewhere.
Among the links at the bottom of this article are paths to neighboring counties that also offer excellent fishing opportunities, often a short drive from Linn County.
The county shares popular fishing waters along part of the Santiam system, including the North Fork Santiam River and Detroit Lake, with Marion County to the north.
The waters in this area are regulated under the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Willamette Zone. Please note that fishing for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon in this zone’s rivers requires a Columbia River endorsement.
Incorporated cities in Linn County include (most of) Albany, Brownsville, Halsey, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Lyons, Millersburg, Scio, Sodaville, Sweet Home, Tangent, Waterloo and parts of Gates, Idanha and Mill City.
Unincorporated communities and landmarks in the county include Cascadia, Crabtree, Crawfordsville, Foster, Marion Forks, Riverside, Santiam Junction and Waterloo.
Listed alphabetically, here are some of the best fishing spots in Linn County:
Big Cliff Reservoir
This is the re-regulating reservoir is located on the boundary with Marion County and directly below Detroit Lake.
It has a modest fishery for rainbow trout and kokanee salmon, with some bank and primitive boat access.
Bond Butte Pond
This 35-acre pond sitting alongside I-5 in the southern part of the county at times has been the best place in western Oregon to reliably catch channel catfish.
Bond Butte Pond also may be fished for a smattering of warmwater species including largemouth bass, panfish and bullhead catfish.
Note the restricted limits on several fish species.
The pond is immediately east of the freeway at the Bond Butte Road overpass, but there is no exit.
From the Harrisburg exit three miles south, take Diamond Hill Drive a mile west, travel north on Rowland Road about three miles, and then turn east on Bond Butte Road. Right after going over I-5, turn left (north) to get to a parking area at the pond.
This Lebanon city park lake has lots of coves and other structure for warmwater fishing for bluegill, bass, crappie and bullhead catfish.
Bank access at Cheadle Lake is good and small boats with electric motors (gas motors are prohibited) or crafts such as float tubes or kayaks will help you reach more water.
Anglers report that weedy conditions can hamper fishing later in the season, so it’s likely to produce best in spring or early summer.
Highway 20 (South Santiam Highway) runs past the lake on the southeast side of town, but the best access is on River Drive (via Russell Drive).
Clear Lake and Carmen, Smith & Trail Bridge Reservoirs
This natural headwaters of the McKenzie River and three small impoundments are well-stocked with hatchery rainbow trout from late spring into the summer months.
Clear Lake also has non-native brook trout, which may be kept in any size and number.
Trail Bridge has some protected bull trout, a native species, which must be released unharmed if caught. For that reason, you may only use artificial flies and lures here, but the restriction can make this a nice spot for fly anglers.
(Note: Smith, Trail Bridge and Carmen reservoirs are currently undergoing construction, limiting public access and prompting ODFW to suspend trout stocking during construction. Local closures and suspension of trout stocking is now extended until an estimated 2024.)
This large reservoir on the North Santiam River (shared with Marion County) is one of Oregon’s most heavily stocked trout fisheries and one of western Oregon’s top lakes for fishing for kokanee (land-locked sockeye salmon), if not the very best these days.
Most people access Detroit Lake from Highway 22 the Marion County side of the line, which also includes the giant Detroit Lake State Park, the community of Detroit and the major marina facilities.
However, for less-crowded camping and fishing access, explore the Linn County side as well.
More: Detroit Lake Fishing.
This 1,200-acre reservoir on the South Santiam River, at the community of Foster just east of Sweet Home, is most popularly fished for the regular plantings of hatchery rainbow trout each spring.
There also are bass (both largemouth and smallmouth) and kokanee, although fishing for the latter is much better to the east in nearby Green Peter Reservoir.
There is good access, including the Calkins and Gadney Creek boat launches and where the Middle Santiam River flows in at Sunnyside County Park.
Trout also are stocked in that park’s Sunnyside Pond, which also has modest warmwater fishing.
More: Foster Reservoir Fishing.
These are three small lakes along I-5 just south of Albany, with the two on the east side having excellent public access, and one of those stocked with trout during the spring months.
The lakes also have crappie, bluegill and some bass to catch in warmer weather.
Green Peter Reservoir
This large reservoir (3,700 acres) on the Middle Santiam River northeast of Sweet Home has one of the largest populations of kokanee in Oregon (though they’ve been running small in recent years) and is on our overall list of Oregon’s best fisheries for kokanee.
We have a bunch of specific information about Green Peter’s kokanee fishery.
Green Peter also is generously stocked with rainbow trout every year to contribute to the good catches of kokanee, and there is growing interest in a burgeoning smallmouth bass fishery focused more on rocky structure closer to shore.
McKenzie River (upper)
The upper drainage of the famed McKenzie River, along Highway 126 south of Highway 20, isn’t as popular among anglers as farther downstream into Lane County, but it’s worth checking out.
This upper area requires fishing with artificial flies and lures. All wild fish including brook trout caught here must now be released unharmed.
For keeper trout nearby, see entries on this page including Clear Lake, North Fork Santiam and Quartzville Creek for several harvest options.
More: McKenzie River Fishing.
This tributary of Green Peter Reservoir is stocked with hatchery rainbow trout from about mid-spring to mid-summer.
The creek is stocked at access points including several bridges and Old Miner’s Meadow for about a 10-mile stretch along Quartzville Road above the reservoir.
More: Quartzville Creek Fishing.
Roaring River Park Pond
This small pond at the Roaring River Hatchery is periodically stocked with modest numbers of trout during the spring, including a few larger fish.
The pond is located on Fish Hatchery Drive 17 miles due east of Albany.
The mainstem Santiam (shared with Marion County) isn’t as popular for fishing as its two main forks, but the salmon and steelhead all pass through here and a fair number of summer steelhead are caught in late spring and early summer.
Smaller numbers of spring Chinook salmon and winter steelhead also are taken.
There can be good fishing for smallmouth bass in the lower river during the summer.
More: Santiam River Fishing.
Santiam River, North Fork
The lower river below Big Cliff Dam (shared with Marion County) is one of the Willamette Valley’s favorite salmon and steelhead rivers.
Summer steelhead are the biggest fishery, getting started about May and peaking in late spring to early summer, with opportunities continuing into fall.
ODFW offers larger daily limits here as well as the South Santiam and mainstem, although the steelhead fisheries here haven’t been as robust in recent years.
Read more about the best summer steelhead fishing in the Willamette Valley.
The North Fork also has a fairly good spring Chinook fishery some years, though not always as productive as the South Santiam.
There are much smaller fisheries for coho salmon and winter steelhead.
Starting in late May, the river below the dam also has a good but relatively unheralded fishery for mostly wild trout (must be fin-clipped to keep here).
The river above Detroit Lake is regularly stocked with hatchery rainbow trout from late spring into the first half of summer and is a good bet if you’re looking for trout for dinner.
The stocking occurs from the Idanha area upstream at least 15 miles to around Downing Creek at bridges, campgrounds and other spots with easy truck and angler access to the stream.
More: Santiam River Fishing.
Santiam River, South Fork
This stream from where it splits with the North Fork near Jefferson to just below Foster Reservoir, some years has been one of the best summer steelhead rivers in the Willamette Valley and, in fact, across Oregon.
It also has one of the most generous retention limits for these big sea-run rainbows.
The first summers trickle in during April, but fishing improves in May and can be fantastic in June and July before tapering off.
The hatchery below the dam often “recycles” steelhead by trucking them back downstream for another run, giving anglers more opportunity.
Check out our Willamette Valley’s Best Summer Steelhead Fishing for more.
Unfortunately, returns into the Santiam system and other valley rivers in recent years have been somewhat depressed. There is an effort to reduce sea lion predation downriver at Willamette Falls that is showing early signs of improvement.
The South Santiam also is one of the better valley tributaries for spring Chinook salmon fishing from May into July, although these runs also have been weaker in recent years. There’s more on valley springer fisheries in this article.
Trout must be fin-clipped to keep but are not stocked in the lower river, other than young hatchery steelhead (rainbows) and possibly escapees from Foster Reservoir.
There are trout fisheries in tributaries above the reservoirs.
See the Quartzville Creek entry on this page for a good place to catch keepers.
More: Santiam River Fishing.
First and Second Lakes (Simpson Park)
These park ponds on the banks of the Willamette River near Waverly Lake are primarily fished for warm water species.
At times, the crappie fishing can be quite good here.
First Lake is nearest the parking lot located along Waverly Drive NE, and Second Lake is just to the north.
There are lots of walking paths for access and some anglers drop in a kayak or float tube.
Note that the lakes, oxbow ponds once used for log ponds, get very weedy into the summertime. Spring using offers the best fishing.
This 11-acre lake in an Albany park of the same name is most popularly fished after regular plantings of hatchery rainbow trout from about March to May.
The lake also has warmwater fishing for largemouth bass, panfish and bullhead catfish.
Get more information here.
This very accessible lake is in the middle of Albany, between the main drag of Pacific Boulevard and Salem Avenue, and is regularly stocked with hatchery rainbow trout in the spring and fall.
This city park pond also has plentiful sunfish and some bass, crappie and bullhead catfish.
Read our full article.
This part of the Willamette River starts to transition from a lot of warmwater fishing in the lower river to more of a trout fishing stream above about Harrisburg.
Trout include two native species, redside rainbows and cutthroat trout, that also reside in tributaries such as the Santiams and Lane County’s McKenzie River.
Smallmouth bass also are plentiful in the Willamette, especially from the area of the Santiam River mouth downstream.
Salmon and steelhead migrate up the big river and often are caught near the mouths of tributaries, especially the Santiam in this area.
Look for summer steelhead and spring Chinook salmon to start showing in late April through June (steelhead continue after that) and try for coho in late September into October.
Buena Vista in Polk County has a launch about a mile down the Willamette from the Santiam.
Learn more about the many types of fishing in the Willamette River.
Fishing in Neighboring Counties
Marion County: To the north, shares the North Fork Santiam River’s steelhead and salmon runs plus is the gateway to Detroit Lake, one of Oregon’s top hatchery rainbow trout spots.
Jefferson County: To the northeast, includes Lake Billy Chinook’s great kokanee and bull trout fisheries plus trout meccas like the Deschutes (part) and Metolius rivers.
Deschutes County: To the southeast, some of the state’s favorite trophy trout and land-locked salmon fishing destinations, plus surprisingly good largemouth bass angling.
Lane County (east): To the south, with the McKenzie River and other fine trout fisheries and plenty of steelhead, salmon, bass and panfish.
Benton County: To the west, variety of wild and stocked rainbow trout and warmwater fish in the valley, plus the upper Alsea River’s excellent winter steelhead run.
Polk County: To the northwest, small streams with wild cutthroat trout and one with stocked rainbows.