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Oregon Fishing: The Complete Guide

May 26, 2023 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Looking to indulge in some of the finest angling the Pacific Northwest has to offer? Then go fishing in Oregon! The “Beaver State” boasts more than 350 miles of coastline, providing ample opportunity for you to cast a line in the deep waters of the Pacific. You can also explore one of the many bays closer to shore. On top of that, famous fish-filled rivers such as the Columbia wind their way through the state.

A view of Cannon Beach in Oregon, with a shoreline road to the left of the photo and the ocean to the right, with several rock formations sticking out of the water.

Whether you’re looking to bottom fish the ocean for huge Halibut, explore the bays on a crabbing adventure, or fish the rivers for Salmon, there really is something for every type of angler in Oregon. The sheer diversity of fishing grounds on offer means that knowing where to start is often the hardest part! Don’t worry, though. Below, we’ll cover all you need to know about casting a line here. Let’s dive in…

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Top Fish Species in Oregon

Between its coursing rivers and the Pacific Ocean, Oregon has enough variety to suit all types of anglers. And the species you’ll encounter in the state’s waters are no less impressive. So let’s check out some of the fish you’ll get to wrestle with.

Best Freshwater Targets in Oregon

A man in a hat smiling and leaning back while holding a sizeable Steelhead he caught fishing in Oregon, with the river and shoreline foliage behind him.

Oregon’s freshwater scene is nothing short of world-class. Its network of rivers connects to the ocean, thereby providing the perfect habitat for both purely freshwater and anadromous fish. Here are some you can expect to catch:

  • Chinook Salmon: Chinook Salmon are the undisputed kings of Oregon’s fishing scene, and are tightly woven into the culture of this state. As anadromous fish, they inhabit fresh, brackish, and salt waters. This means you can hook ’em pretty much anywhere you cast a line. There are many options to choose from when fishing for King Salmon in Oregon. Rivers such as the Rogue, Willamette, Wilson, and Umpqua are a few you can consider hitting.
  • Coho Salmon: While all Salmon species battle with great intensity, it’s often Coho Salmon that anglers praise as the best fighters in the family. Because of this (and their divine taste), they’re held in extremely high regard among fish catchers and fish eaters alike. Much like Chinooks, Coho Salmon can be found in various rivers in Oregon, as well as the coast, typically between July and November.
  • Steelhead: If there’s a fish in the Pacific Northwest that can go toe to toe with Salmon, it’s probably Rainbow Trout. This is because Rainbows here migrate to the ocean and back, turning into their supercharged Steelhead versions in the process. Once they’ve put on the muscle, these fish will grace you with an exciting battle. And in Oregon, you can catch Steelhead almost the entire year, because they make their runs in both winter and summer.
  • Sturgeon: Winding its way from British Columbia all the way through Oregon, the famous Columbia River is home to a veritable monster – White Sturgeon. Capable of growing several feet long and reaching weights measured in hundreds of pounds, these fish present one of the toughest freshwater challenges on the planet. They’ll bite in Oregon year-round, but the best fishing takes place during the colder months.
  • Bass: Can a fishery truly be called world-class if there’s no Bass? Luckily there’s no need to ponder the answer since you’ll get to catch both Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass in Oregon. You’ll find them in the local rivers and in Oregon’s lakes. The Tenmile Lakes are famous for their Bass action, together with Siltcoos, Tahkenitch, Henry Hagg, and Lost Creek, to name a few.

The fish we’ve highlighted so far are naturally not the only freshwater species you’ll see in Oregon. Besides Chinook and Coho, Sockeye, Chum, and Pink Salmon also make their runs through the state’s rivers. There are also Cutthroat Trout, Striped Bass, and even Walleye swimming about. With such a lineup, there’ll always be something to fish for.

Best Saltwater Targets in Oregon

A man in sunglasses and a hat smiling and holding a large Halibut he caught fishing on an Oregon charter boat, with the waters and the shore visible in the distance.

While its freshwater fishing is definitely out of this world, Oregon also has plenty to offer on the saltwater front. The action mostly revolves around bottom fishing, though there are a few other game fish to catch, too. Let’s check them out…

  • Halibut: The main stars of Oregon’s seaside scene are Halibut. And rightfully so! These fish are extremely fun to catch, especially if you hook a big one. And they’re delicious to boot. Similarly to the rest of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon’s waters are abundant with Halibut. The prime fishing grounds lie about 20-30 miles offshore.
  • Lingcod: With huge mouths full of needle-like teeth, Lingcod have an appearance only their mothers could love. But what they may lack in looks, they compensate in taste, as Lingcod meat is considered a delicacy. Much like our previous entry, they like to lurk near the sea bottom and are often caught on the same trips as Halibut.
  • Rockfish: Besides the two bottom dwellers we’ve named so far, numerous other fish inhabit the ocean depths. On the West Coast, anglers broadly call them Rockfish and most of them belong to the Sebastes genus. Although there are many different types of these fish lurking about in Oregon’s waters, what most have in common is that they live close to the bottom and taste great.
  • Albacore Tuna: Starting in June, Oregon’s offshore anglers get a special treat – Albacore Tuna. These brawny fish represent some of the finest saltwater fighters out there, even though they don’t get quite as large as Bluefins. Oregon’s Albacore Tuna lurk anywhere between 20 to 50 miles offshore and you can catch them all the way until October.
  • Crab: Okay, you may not be able to cast for them with a rod and reel, but not mentioning Oregon’s fantastic crabbing scene would be doing this state a massive disservice. Crabbing here is a year-round event, with both Dungeness and Red Rock varieties available. You’ll find them in the area’s many bays and estuaries, with locations such as piers, beaches, docks, and jetties being especially popular crabbing spots.

While the sea dwellers we listed will likely be your main targets when fishing in Oregon, there are some other fish you’ll also come across. For example, running into a hungry Thresher Shark is always a possibility. There are also different types of Surfperch you can catch in – you guessed it – the surf. All in all, there are plenty of fish in the sea to hunt for.

Oregon Fishing Seasons

Two men in sunglasses and hats posing with a huge Salmon they reeled in fishing in Oregon, holding it at chest height, with the ocean behind them.
Photo courtesy of Premier Guide Service.

Whether you’re a freshwater or saltwater angler, Oregon will give you something to fish for no matter when you visit. The fish bite year-round, but the opportunities you’ll have change depending on the season. Weather plays a big role in where and how you’ll be able to fish. Oregon’s winters are rainy, which can hinder your attempts at fishing the state’s winding rivers.

Because of that, the prime freshwater fishing season in Oregon takes place from mid-spring to late fall. It’s when most of the fish will be biting and it’s also when the weather is the most favorable. Salmon and Trout will be making their runs, and you’ll also be able to catch Walleye and Bass. Meanwhile, although winter fishing can be unpredictable, it’s a great time to reel in White Sturgeon and it’s also when Steelhead will be making one of their runs. Have a look at our month-by-month breakdown:

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Chinook Salmon Closed Closed Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Closed Closed
Coho Salmon Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Great Great Great Great Good Closed
Sockeye Salmon Closed Closed Closed Closed Closed Good Great Great Good Closed Closed Closed
Rainbow Trout Great Great Good Good Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great
Cutthroat Trout Weak Weak Weak Good Great Great Good Weak Weak Great Great Good
Sturgeon Great Great Great Good Good Good Good Good Good Great Great Great
Bass Weak Weak Weak Great Great Good Good Good Great Great Good Weak
Walleye Good Good Great Great Good Good Good Good Great Great Good Good

With Halibut serving as the main draw on the Oregon seaside, it’s no surprise the saltwater action picks up when their season opens. This usually happens in May, and you can expect local fishing charters to run trips daily until the season closes in October. Coincidentally, summer is also when you’ll get your best shot at reeling in Albacore Tuna and coastal Salmon. In the fall, Oregon’s Salmon action moves to the famous Buoy 10 region of the Columbia River, setting the stage for epic fishing.

If you visit during the off-season, expect dodgy ocean conditions. However, provided that the waters are calm enough, the Rockfish action will be stellar.

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Ocean Salmon Closed Closed Closed Closed Good Great Great Great Great Good Closed Closed
Halibut Closed Closed Closed Closed Great Great Great Great Great Great Closed Closed
Rockfish Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great
Lingcod Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great
Tuna Weak Weak Weak Weak Weak Good Great Great Great Weak Weak Weak
Crab Good Good Good Good Good Good Good Good Great Great Great Great

Top Oregon Fishing Spots

The Beaver State boasts famous rivers, multiple bays, and a long coastline, so narrowing down our list of hotspots was pretty tough. Nevertheless, here are some of our favorite fishing locations in Oregon:

Types of Fishing in Oregon

Now, let’s delve into a few ways to fish in the Beaver State. But rather than going into the techniques, of which there are many, we’ll focus on the different fishing kinds of fishing grounds to explore in Oregon.

  • River Fishing: Oregon’s rivers are a treasure trove of fish. There are probably at least a dozen of them that offer top-class action, whether you’re looking for Salmon, Trout, or Sturgeon. The Columbia and the Willamette Rivers are arguably the most iconic freshwater fisheries in Oregon. However, other rivers such as the Siletz, Umpqua, Rogue, McKenzie, and Deschutes also offer excellent angling, especially if you’re into fly fishing. The best time to explore them is between spring and late fall.
  • Lake Fishing: While it’s hard to take your eyes off the Salmon and Trout action in the rivers, Oregon’s lakes have a lot to offer on their own. The peak fishing season, like elsewhere, is spring through fall. However, lakes are also a solid option during the rainy season when rivers swell and turn muddy. Bass are typically the main draw, but many lakes also house the native Cutthroat Trout, as well as Rainbow Trout, Crappie, Yellow Perch, and more.
  • Saltwater Fishing: Finally, there’s Oregon’s portion of the Pacific Ocean to explore. It’s a bountiful fishery, especially if you’re into bottom fishing. Halibut, Rockfish, and Lingcod dwell in the depths both nearshore and offshore. For pelagics, such as the mighty Albacore Tuna, you’ll have to head on a deep sea fishing trip, sometimes as far as 50 miles offshore. And if you’re up for a delicacy, many Oregon charter captains also offer crabbing trips.

Fishing Trips in Oregon

The most popular way to go fishing in Oregon is on a charter vessel. This is especially true if you’re looking to deep sea or bottom fish. In these cases, a boat is a necessity. In addition, your experienced captain will be able to equip you with all the gear you need, as well as some invaluable local knowledge. If there’s a specific fish you want to target, they’ll be able to fill you in on the best techniques, as well as guide you to the best hotspots.

Your charter fishing adventure will differ depending on where you want to fish. If you want to hit the coast for some bottom fishing action, you’ll likely set off on a sport fishing vessel decked to the gills with all the latest angling equipment. Cruise the rivers and chances are you’ll step foot on a smaller vessel or drift boat, perfect for winding down skinnier waterways. Departure points are dotted all around the state, so finding a charter that perfectly suits your needs is a pretty easy task!

Oregon Fishing Regulations

Any angler age 12 and above needs to purchase a valid fishing license before casting a line in the Beaver State. Oregon takes conservation very seriously, and this is reflected in its licensing process. Luckily, anglers have plenty of license options to choose from, which you can read more about in our handy guide. Depending on where you’re fishing, you may also need to buy an additional endorsement. Both your license and any additional requirements can be easily purchased online.

Some species, such as Halibut and Sturgeon, are subject to strict open and closed seasons, as well as bag limitations. Although we’ve covered this above, these regulations can change annually, so keeping up to date with the Oregon DFW is a must. If you’re fishing alongside a local guide, they’ll be able to inform you of any changes to current rules and regulations, as well as what you can and can’t keep.

Oregon Fishing FAQ

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