Abundant rainfall feeds the massive Willamette River watershed, tamed by a system of reservoirs that are stocked annually with hundreds of thousands of rainbow trout. Some of these reservoirs also grow trophy-size largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as bluegill, brown bullhead and crappies. Smaller lakes and ponds nearer the valley floor provide springtime trout fishing close to home. Salmon and steelhead navigate the Willamette River and its tributaries, many of which are also home to rainbow and cutthroat trout.
Lakes and ponds: five fish per day, 8-inch minimum size, open all year
Rivers and streams: catch-and-release only, open May 22-Oct. 31
Two adult salmon/steelhead per day (in aggregate), seasons vary – see regulations for the waterbody you’d like to fish
Five fish per day, no more than three over 15-inches
Spring Chinook begin to arrive in the Sandy and Clackamas rivers as early as April and fishing can continue into June or July. In the upper Willamette Valley – the Mckenzie and Santiam – spring Chinook fishing is a June/July sport.
Beginning in September, coho can create a great fall fishery in the Willamette, Clackamas, Sandy and Santiam rivers. Many anglers in the Willamette Zone also are within easy reach of salmon fisheries in the lower Columbia River. See the Columbia River Zone for more details.
There are both winter and summer steelhead runs in this zone, and in some rivers steelhead may be available almost every day of the year.
Trout stocking begins in lakes and ponds on the valley floor as early as January and continues through May when warm temperatures and the growth of aquatic vegetation make fishing (and fish survival) tough. Beginning in June/July much of the trout stocking shifts to cooler, higher elevation water bodies on the flanks of the Cascades.
There is terrific smallmouth bass fishing throughout the Willamette Valley, from small neighborhood ponds to large reservoirs. Many rivers also boast vibrant bass fisheries, especially the Willamette and nearby Columbia.