With strong summer and winter runs of steelhead, and catches throughout the year, it’s not unusual for the Siletz River’s anglers to take home about 4,000 hatchery fish in a calendar year.
The Siletz enters the Pacific Ocean at Lincoln City, a popular beach town within easy reach of Salem and Portland.
The harvest from summer and winter runs can often be similar, perhaps 2,000 fish harvested from each in a pretty good year.
Winter Steelhead Fishing
In the winter, hatchery fish released into the Siletz River are from a broodstock program that uses wild steelhead to produce fin-clipped runs for harvest.
These fish carry on their parents’ habit of returning later than fish reared in hatcheries for many generations.
When to Fish Winter Steelhead
Therefore, while the very first fish may arrive around Thanksgiving, and catches can be made at Christmas most years, expect the very best fishing to be from January through March.
Winter fish will be caught in small numbers in April, which also is the month the first summer-run fish generally are caught.
Summer Steelhead Fishing
Numbers of summer steelhead build in spring and catches often are best in June and July, until the river gets very low and warm in mid- to late summer.
Fishing for summer steelhead often picks up again in late September and well into fall, when cooler temperatures and rainfall can turn a sluggish summer fish into an aggressive biter.
Where to Catch Summer Steelhead
When trying to catch a hatchery steelhead (with adipose fins clipped) to take home from either run, Moonshine County Park is a good place to start. Drive up Logsden Road and then up Moonshine Park Road to get there.
There are ponds near here where young steelhead (smolts) from the winter strain are acclimated before being released into the river, and this is where many of the adults tend to return.
Summer-run smolts also are released in three locations in this general area. So this stretch often has good numbers of adult steelhead.
Particularly in the summer, steelhead will stray into the gorge upriver from Moonshine Park, looking for cooler water.
Weekend access (and often less crowded fishing conditions) can be found upriver on the privately owned Siletz Gorge Road.
These summer fish also are trapped up at Siletz Falls and trucked back to Moonshine Park to give anglers additional chances to catch them, biologist Derek Wilson said.
Below Moonshine Park, there is plenty of private property, so respect owners’ rights. But a bit of access can be found at pull-offs, boat ramps and other spots for anglers willing to explore.
Best Boat Drifts
Drift boaters will find several good runs.
To fish in the upper river by boat, they can put in at Moonshine Park and drift down to Twin Bridges.
Starting at Twin Bridges and floating to Illahee Park on the south side of the town of Siletz is another drift.
Yet another good one to consider, with the added bonus of not needing a second vehicle, is what’s known as the Town Drift right at Siletz.
For this one, boaters put in at Illahee and drift a long (about five miles) loop to Mill Park on the north side of town, then make a short walk through town to get back to their truck.
Early in the run, and after rains bring in fresh fish, boaters also might work a bit lower on the river, a few miles down from Siletz, from Ojalla (at the first steel bridge) down to Morgan Park.
Best Water Levels
Particularly in the winter, the Siletz River should be in OK steelhead fishing shape if the gauge at Siletz reads between 4 and a bit over 7 feet, especially if the level is dropping.
The absolute ideal level is very close to 5.5 feet.
Plunking with bait is more often successful in higher, off-color water up to 8.5 feet, with ideal conditions for this method in the 7- or 7.5-foot neighborhood.
In much of summer and often into early fall, the level will almost always be low, but fish can be taken.
Note: The Siletz River also has good fall Chinook salmon fishing.
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