Fish the Willamette from Portland Oregon

The Willamette river offers world class fishing right in the Portland metro area. The Willamette is a very special place to fish. Not many places in the world offer a chance to catch a huge Sturgeon or a chrome bright Chinook Salmon in an urban setting like the Willamette provides. It truly is a gem of a river that is stacked with huge Sturgeon and gets multiple runs of Salmon and Steelhead each year. Willamette river Fishing guides offer fishing trips for Salmon and Sturgeon year round for up to 6 customers per day. Portland is known for its many breweries and great places to eat it also has great lodging opportunities that are just minutes from the boat ramps that we meet at!

People holding fish on a dock, smiling and enjoying their catch together with Columbia River fishing guide

Spring Chinook Fishing

The Willamette river is known for its fantastic Spring Chinook Salmon fishing. These fish will start showing in early February and fishing will peak in mid to late March. Spring Chinook are known for having the best tasting meat out of all the Salmon that return to the Columbia River Basin. Although not known for their size these fish are aggressive and fight until they have nothing left. The limit for “Springers” on the Willamette is 2 per person per day but they have to be a hatchery (fin clipped) Salmon. We typically target these Willamette river Salmon while trolling. Trolling prawn spinners or cut plug herring are the most effective ways to entice one of these awesome fish to bite. We are lucky to have such an amazing fishery just minutes from the Portland Airport.

Summer Salmon on the Willamette River

Late in May is a special time on the lower Willamette river. This time of year the Willamette river begins to see Columbia river Summer salmon that make their way into the lower Willamette river. The river has lots of Willamette river Spring chinook left in it this time of year as well. With water temps starting to rise the fish begin to go on more of a lure bite. We transition into fishing 360 flashers with spinners behind them. This method works better as we get warmer water temps, its a lot more flashy and “in their face” that’s what you need when they are more active. The summer fishery on the Willamette will last into late July on a good salmon run. The weather is great this time of year and the fishing is very good. We also offer trips where we Salmon fish and Sturgeon fish on the same day.

People holding fish on a dock, smiling and enjoying their catch together with Columbia River fishing guide
People holding fish on a dock, smiling and enjoying their catch together with Columbia River fishing guide

Catch and Release Sturgeon

The Willamette river offers one of Oregon’s best catch and release Sturgeon fisheries. Willamette River sturgeon fishing guides will tell you that the Willamette is by far their favorite catch and release Sturgeon Fishery. This fishery lasts a long time, while Sturgeon can be caught in the Willamette river year round November through March is the best time to catch them. The Willamette river has lots of deep holes and deep pockets up and down the whole river. These are the areas these giant Sturgeon call home! Catching upwards of 30 fish a day on the Willamette is not uncommon, if you find a good school and they are hungry the fishing is nothing short of amazing. It is a day of fishing that is fun for anyone who enjoys fishing or even just enjoys the outdoors! I would love to take you out and share this awesome fishery with you and your group!

For the Ultimate Portland Oregon Guided Fishing Trip

Salmon Fishing Season Notes

Everything You Need to Know about Willamette River Fishing in Winter

Winter’s icy grip transforms the landscape, but for dedicated anglers still interested in Willamette River Fishing, it opens a unique fishing window.  While the techniques and considerations differ from summer fishing, winter offers its own set of rewards – solitude on frozen lakes, the thrill of jigging for suspended fish, and the chance to catch trophy specimens less active in warmer months.

The key to successful winter Willamette River Fishing lies in proper preparation.  Safety is paramount.  Always check ice thickness before venturing out.  Multiple readings are recommended, and at least four inches of solid ice is considered the minimum for safe ice fishing. Thermal clothing and proper footwear are essential to withstand the biting cold.

The equipment also takes on a winter-specific twist.  Heavier lines are needed to handle larger fish through the ice holes.  Smaller jigs and lures with slower presentations entice fish with lower metabolisms in cold water.  Tip-ups, featuring flags that signal a bite, allow you to monitor multiple holes while staying mobile on the ice during Willamette River Fishing.

Patience becomes your greatest asset for Willamette River Fishing.  Fish are less active in winter, so slow and deliberate jigging techniques are most effective.  Targeting areas with potential warmth, like underwater springs or sun-warmed shallows, can increase your chances of success.

Winter fishing offers a unique challenge and a chance to experience the beauty of nature in a different light.  With the right preparation, knowledge, and a dash of perseverance, you can transform a frozen landscape into a winter wonderland of fishing possibilities.

Mastering Spring Chinook During Willamette River Fishing

Spring Chinook salmon, also known as “springers,” are prized catches for anglers in the Pacific Northwest. These powerful fish, returning from the ocean to their natal rivers to spawn, ignite a passionate pursuit among fishing enthusiasts. Mastering the art of catching spring Chinook requires a blend of knowledge, strategy, and respect for these magnificent creatures.

The first step is understanding the spring Chinook’s migration patterns during Willamette River Fishing. Water temperature plays a crucial role. As rivers begin to warm in spring, these salmon embark on their upstream journey. Studying historical migration data and monitoring current water temperatures can help you predict peak fishing times.

Once you’ve identified the prime window for Willamette River Fishing, tackle selection becomes crucial. Spring Chinook are aggressive feeders, so presentations that mimic baitfish are key. Herring, anchovies, and brightly colored lures can entice these salmon. Experiment with trolling techniques, adjusting speed and depth to match the river’s current and locate actively feeding fish.

Reading the water is another crucial skill. Spring Chinook often stage in areas with slower currents or near river bends. Look for areas with visible feeding activity, such as surface boils or birds diving for baitfish.

Finally, respect for the resource is paramount. Familiarize yourself with catch regulations and size limits during Willamette River Fishing.  Proper handling techniques ensure the safe release of any undersized or unwanted fish, allowing them to continue their spawning journey.

By understanding spring Chinook behavior during Willamette River Fishing, selecting the right tackle, and respecting the fishery, you can increase your chances of landing one of these magnificent creatures. Remember, the thrill of the fight and the connection with nature are just as rewarding as the catch itself.

Mastering Summer Chinook During Willamette River Fishing

Summer Chinook salmon, also known as “summer runs” or “brights” for their vibrant coloration, present a unique challenge for anglers in the Pacific Northwest. These fish, having spent extra time feeding in the ocean, return to rivers boasting increased size and a different set of behaviors compared to their spring counterparts. Mastering the art of catching them requires a shift in strategy and a deep understanding of their summer habits.

The key lies in comprehending the changing river conditions. Summer brings warmer water temperatures, which can push Chinook salmon to seek cooler depths or areas with stronger currents.  Identifying these thermal refuges – deeper pools, areas near dam releases, or shaded sections – becomes crucial for locating actively feeding fish.

Unlike spring Chinook, summer runs tend to be more lethargic feeders.  Lure selection and presentation need to adapt accordingly.  Downsizing your offerings, opting for smaller plugs, spoons, or flies with a slower, more erratic action, can entice these fish to strike.  Drift fishing techniques, allowing your lure to mimic the natural movement of food sources carried by the current, often prove more effective than aggressive trolling tactics.

Reading the water becomes even more critical during the summer months.  Observe areas with visible feeding activity like surface boils or diving birds – these can indicate the presence of baitfish and potentially feeding Chinook.  Look for underwater structures like submerged logs or drop-offs that might concentrate fish as they navigate the river.

man holding a fish on Willamette River Fishing

Mastering Fall Sturgeon During Willamette River Fishing

As summer wanes and autumn paints the landscape in vibrant hues, a different kind of challenge awaits anglers in the Pacific Northwest – the mighty fall sturgeon. These prehistoric giants, some reaching lengths exceeding ten feet, present a unique test of skill and endurance. Mastering the art of catching fall sturgeon requires a strategic approach, respect for their power, and a healthy dose of patience.

A man proudly holds a massive pike fish he caught while fishing in the Willamette River.

Unlike their salmon counterparts, sturgeon are not attracted to flashy lures or fast presentations. Bottom fishing reigns supreme when targeting these behemoths.  Heavy-duty tackle is a must – think sturdy rods and reels capable of handling immense pulling power.  Large bait choices, such as whole herring, lamprey eels, or commercially prepared sturgeon cocktails, are most effective in attracting these bottom feeders.

Technique is key.  Anchor your boat strategically in the chosen location and carefully lower your baited rig to the riverbed.  Sturgeon bites are often subtle – a slight tap, a slack line, or a slow, steady pull. Staying focused and maintaining a tight line are crucial to setting the hook on these powerful fish.

The fight itself is an unforgettable experience.  Sturgeon are renowned for their dogged determination, putting up a battle that can test your strength and stamina.  Be prepared for long, slow runs as the fish utilizes its immense size and power to escape.  Patience and a smooth, controlled approach are essential to eventually tiring the fish and bringing it alongside the boat for safe release.

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