Fishing from the Mountains to the Ocean

by Wendy on May 17, 2016

Information and photographs provided by Travel Lane County and the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
Online at:


Driftboat and Fly Fishing on the McKenzie River by Jamie Hooper

You could, if you wanted, get up at dawn at a lake high in the Cascades, set a hook and catch a trout for breakfast, then head down out of the mountains to a valley floor where you could pull a bass out of a river for your lunch. After that you might have just enough time to cross over the Coast Range and head for coastal waters in search of a nice fat salmon for your dinner. And all the while you will have never left Lane County.

Those clear lakes and running streams hold bass and trout and bluegill. The streams and rivers have salmon, sturgeon, bullhead, yellow perch, crappie and kokanee. In summer months more than a half million sockeye salmon make their spawning runs up the Columbia River and its tributaries. Chinook salmon run up the coastal rivers in spring and fall; steelhead make their runs in summer and winter.

Many coastal streams have resident native coastal cutthroat trout as well as sea run cutthroat that migrate to and from the ocean. Sea-runs typically start returning to coastal rivers in July and August. Coho salmon follow a few months later. All of those fish can be caught from dry land, but boats can be rented in most of the prime locations.

Water conditions and seasonal restrictions vary every year, so it’s wise to check the state Fish & Wildlife Department regulations posted online at or call the regional office for the area you plan to visit to get their latest updates.

The river system in Lane County alone offers more prime fishing holes than we can list, but here’s a few highlighted areas you should explore.


Mainstem Willamette River

This is a beautiful stretch of river that flows northward through the urban Eugene-Springfield area. Slow waters, riffles and small rapids offer plenty of places for fish to hole up. Trout fishing between the mouth of the McKenzie River and the town of Harrisburg can be good during spring months. Late spring through early fall are great months to fish for steelhead and salmon, with or without a boat. Bicycle and foot paths line the river from Island Park in Springfield to north Eugene, providing easy river access at multiple sites.


Coast Fork Willamette River

South of Springfield, the Coast Fork is a nice pontoon fishery with a few significant navigational challenges; hard-frame boats need higher flows. Bank access is limited because it flows mostly through private land. Target the bedrock slots and pools, soft water at edges and deeper holes for trout in the spring. Salmon and steelhead are occasionally caught here in the late spring and early fall.


Middle Fork Willamette River

The Middle Fork of the Willamette has several outstanding fishing opportunities for both boat and bank anglers, although bank angling can be limited due to access. Trout fishing is good to great in spring and summer. Steelhead and salmon fishing begins in May and runs through early fall.

There are some boating navigation challenges, but the river has a nice remote feel while still close to town. Boaters can choose floats of varying lengths. There are multiple access points at pullouts, bridges and campgrounds, as well as hiking to waterfalls and mountain biking. Visit ODFW’s Willamette Hatchery along the way.


North Fork Willamette River

A beautiful and remote-feeling river in a deep canyon. Fly fishing with barbless hooks only. Access from pullouts along FS Rd. 19; the lower 12 miles offer particularly good water. Although this is also a popular summer swimming stream, fishing pressure is light.


Waldo Lake

One of the largest, deepest and clearest lakes in Oregon, the remarkably pure waters of Waldo Lake have historically been well-stocked with a variety of trout species. The lake is now carefully protected from overuse by fishers and campers; water quality and the sounds of the wilderness are maintained by a ban on all gas-powered motors, although electric motors are permitted. The most productive fishing is generally at the north and south ends of the lake, accessed from multiple boat ramps. Bank access is limited.


McKenzie River

The McKenzie is famous for adventurous trout and steelhead fishing in beautiful locations within easy reach of the Eugene-Springfield urban area. Late spring brings good steelhead fishing and while trout fishing can be good nearly year- round, it is truly great from late spring through fall. The upper river can be accessed via several campgrounds, boat launches and the McKenzie River Trail.

The lower river offers diverse fishing opportunity and less technical water for boating. Salmon fishing heats up in late spring and early summer. Just as it is on the upper reaches of the McKenzie, trout fishing is fine year-round and great in both late spring and early fall.


Siuslaw River

The Siuslaw hosts top-notch fisheries for Chinook, Coho, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat trout in a beautiful coastal river setting. Easy access can be found along much of Hwy 36 inland from the Port of Florence, where you’ll also find a half dozen trout-bearing freshwater lakes nestled among sand dunes and coastal pines. A wide variety of recreational opportunities exist with options for the whole family; bank access at the coastal lakes is mostly limited to boat ramp areas. Camping is available within state parks.

That’s just a small taste of one small region in Oregon. The Columbia River and the Rogue River offer world-class fishing to the north and south of Lane County. In fact, wherever you find yourself in western Oregon, you’ll also find a nice fishing hole nearby….

Common Fish


Every kind of fishing can be found around Oregon

Pristine high mountain lakes, feeding their water into creeks that swell and become streams, flowing into rivers that wind their way down to the sea. Migratory routes for dozens of fish species. A wide variety of fishing runs and catch seasons throughout the year for anglers to test their skill or try their luck. That’s just a little of what Oregon has to offer those who carry a rod and reel when they travel.

Fresh water that comes down off the western slopes of the Cascade Range flows out to the Pacific Ocean, and folks who love to fish follow those waters into rich feeding grounds offshore where migratory fish mix with saltwater species. Ocean fishery remains a thriving business in Oregon with plenty of experienced skippers and comfortable boats available for charter. Halibut, albacore, ocean salmon, ling cod and rockfish all have seasons where they can be found in abundance. With eight major ports and nine smaller ones, deep-water anglers have easy access from anywhere on the coast.


What you need

•     A fishing license if you are older than 13
•     A fishing rod, tackle, lures
•     A copy of the Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations
•     Licenses and regulations are available at license agents and online.


More fishing resources available at

•     Trout stocking schedules
•     Fishing tips and techniques
•     Weekly Recreation Report



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