The Trask River near Tillamook is primarily known as a salmon-fishing river, with robust runs of both fall and spring Chinook and a hatchery-produced run of fin-clipped coho salmon.
However, the Trask also sports an excellent run of big, native winter steelhead (along with occasional hatchery strays you can keep) and a very nice population of cutthroat trout.
Chinook salmon are a big deal here.
Fall Chinook tend to run extra large in the Trask, and catching the fish of a lifetime is possible here. As salmon runs are highly cyclical, this run can vary wildly year to year. Typically a handful of great runs are followed by a few years with modest or even poor years.
Sometimes the catch is less than 1,000, while other years it’s over 3,000.
A few fall Chinook start appearing in September, especially in the tidewater section in Tillamook, but usually October is the peak of fishing in this river. November, especially earlier in the month, can continue to be quite productive before the run tapers off.
The Trask also has an excellent hatchery spring Chinook run, with catches in the 1,000 to 2,000 fish range pretty standard. Better or worse runs can move that number around a fair bit though, so watch in-season reports.
The first spring Chinook typically show up in April, but bay and tidewater fishing is your best bet early. In a typical year, river fishing is most productive in May and June and often into early July.
Learn much more about fishing for both Chinook runs in Trask River Chinook Salmon Fishing.
Coho salmon are raised in the Trask’s hatchery and return in good numbers here. The hatchery is the driver of Tillamook Bay’s moderate annual harvest of fin-clipped “silvers,” as they’re often known locally. Wild coho must be released in these parts, except in the rare cases of a special wild coho harvest season during exceptionally good run years.
Coho don’t bite as well as Chinook once they reach fresh water, and they tend to race to the hatchery in huge bunches with early fall rains hit in late September or in October, so annual catches are modest, often a few hundred fish and sometimes under 100.
With all salmon, make sure the check regulations before fishing. Sometimes the ODFW giveth, as in the case of some wild coho harvests in certain years. And sometimes the ODFW taketh away, which might include requiring release of wild Chinook.
Unlike the nearby Wilson River, the Trask isn’t planted with steelhead from either winter or summer stocks.
However, with the hatchery on the Trask, the river is prone to some straying, especially of winter steelhead. Several hundred of these strays may be caught in the Trask during the winter season, with best catches in January, February and potentially in early March.
But more impressive for many steelheaders here are the wild winter fish, which regularly run to impressive double-digit sizes in weight and put up a fantastic fight. These wild fish, which have an in-tact adipose fin on the top just up from the tail, must be released unharmed. You’ll probably want to let them go anyway, because they can be magnificent fish.
Wild steelhead tend to start arriving in good numbers in January, with excellent odds for catch-and-release anglers continuing in February and early March before they start to spawn.
The lower sections of the main forks, the North and South forks, are open seasonally to retain hatchery steelhead and catch and release the natives. Consult the regulations linked below for the deadlines and other details before fishing.
A handful of summer-run steelhead will stray into the Trask instead of the Wilson River or other rivers where they are planted. Summer steelhead aren’t native here, and if you catch a fin-clipped steelhead you can keep it under state regulations if properly licensed.
The very modest number of summer steelhead that are caught here typically come in summer and early fall, often caught by anglers fishing for salmon or trout.
Coastal cutthroat trout are native on the Trask and area streams, and this river can provide excellent action for these feisty fish.
At this writing, the Trask mainstem and its East Fork have openers for trout in late May, and at that time the upper river and this tributary would be good bets for resident cutthroat. Note no-bait rules for many coastal streams and tributaries, although bait is legal in the mainstem Trask.
From mid-summer into early fall, sea-run cutthroat begin to return to the river after foraging and fattening up in nearby saltwater areas. You’ll find this more silvery version of the cutthroat in the Trask’s nice tidewater stretch starting about July and continuing for the rest of summer.
Trolling or casting with bait, lures and flies can be productive, and a modest harvest of these “harvest trout” is allowed.
If you’re looking for more bank-fishing options, lower and middle sections of the free-flowing river also will be places to intercept sea-runs, especially in very late summer and into early fall. Casting lures and flies or drifting bait such as shrimp or worms will catch these fish, although artificial lures and flies are best if you plan to release them because they result in fewer fatal hook-sets.