Willamette River

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Fishing in Willamette River

If you’re looking to cast your line in some fish-filled freshwaters, head to Oregon for a Willamette River fishing adventure. A major tributary of the world-famous Columbia River, this location is bustling with freshwater species all year. On land, there are plenty of experienced guides just waiting to take you on the trip of a lifetime!
So what do these waters hold for freshwater fishing enthusiasts? Well, firstly, there’s the prehistoric Sturgeon. This feisty fish is especially plentiful in the 26-mile stretch between Portland and Willamette Falls (plan to cast your line there between May and December). 
Want to hook something more conventional but just as exciting? The Willamette River is home to Salmon and Steelhead, too. Steelhead make both summer and winter runs to the River, and can be found in the smaller waterways and tributaries year-round. Look for Chinook Salmon around the lower part of the river in spring. Coho varieties can be found throughout the year in the many tributaries around Willamette Falls. 
Generally, charter guides along the Willamette River offer two types of trips – half day and full day options. The only real difference is the length of time, with longer trips allowing you to target a variety of species (Salmon and Sturgeon combo, anyone?). All you need to do is choose how long you want to be out on the water and get ready to cast off  along the Willamette River for an incredible freshwater fishing adventure!

Rules & Regulations

This river is the largest in the state of Oregon, so casting your line alongside an experienced guide is invaluable! All you have to bring is a valid Oregon fishing license. Note that Sturgeon is highly regulated in these waters, and the specific rules tend to change annually – but generally, they’re limited to catch and release throughout the river.  
Willamette River
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Willamette River Fishing Seasons


Visit in the middle of January, and you’ll be in good company – this is when the Steelhead make their annual winter run to the river!


Sturgeon can be found in these waters year-round, so if you want to battle these prehistoric beasts when the river is quieter, February is the perfect time to visit.


A larger number of anglers start flocking to the Willamette River – the Chinook Salmon spring run is almost upon us, after all! This month is peak season for Steelhead, and Sturgeon can be found throughout the river.


It’s time to hook yourself some Chinook! April is considered to be far and away the best month to hook these freshwater favorites. Steelhead can still be caught all throughout April in the lower part of the river.


 Although they can be found in these waters year-round, May signals the real start of Sturgeon season. Come hook yourself a prehistoric beast! You’ll still be able to battle Chinook and Steelhead, too.


Depending on water and weather conditions, you may still be able to target the last remaining Chinook Salmon – head to the waters close to Downtown Portland for the best chance. Sturgeon fishing remains strong.


As temperatures rise on land, why not head to the Willamette River to experience another kind of heat – the bite of a majestic Sturgeon! You’ll find this prehistoric fish all throughout the river.


This is the perfect time to battle some summer Steelhead – this species is particularly feisty during this month! Sturgeon fishing remains strong, too.


If you’re looking to hook the river’s small but mighty population of Coho Salmon, September is the time to do it! Head to the lower section of the river, near the Tulatin and Santiam tributaries, for your best shot.


Head to the lower section of the river for a Sturgeon bonanza – this is considered one of the best months to target them, thanks to their love of muddy waters. You can hook the last of the Coho around this area, too.


Sturgeon fishing remains seriously strong in November – and the wetter the weather, the better! Stay close to the lower Willamette River, where you’ll find this species gathering in large numbers.


Why not finish your year off with some incredible freshwater fishing? Sturgeon fishing is still some of the best you’ll find in the northwest, and midway through December, you’ll be able to target the Steelhead winter run.

Willamette River Fishing Calendar

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Top Targeted Species in Willamette River