Oregon and SW Washington Fisheries Update

Columbia Set to Re-Open, Coho in the Clackamas, Sandy

Willamette Valley/Metro – Fishery managers from Oregon and Washington met by phone today (Thursday, September 17th) to discuss the opportunity for additional time to pursue Chinook on the mainstem Columbia, prior to the pre-season plan on September 23rd. Managers decided to let the fishery prosecute starting this Saturday, September 19th for a 2-fish bag limit, of which one may be a Chinook. Here are the official regulations but we’re off again, starting Saturday!

Effective Saturday September 19 through Thursday December 31, 2020, retention of Chinook and Coho salmon is allowed in the mainstem Columbia River from Buoy 10 to the Highway 395 Bridge near Pasco, WA. All Coho retained downstream of the Hood River Bridge must be hatchery-origin. All steelhead must be released. The daily adult bag limit is two salmon of which only one may be a Chinook. All other permanent regulations remain in effect.

Coho salmon are starting to return to metro area rivers but returns are expected to be moderate. The Sandy and Clackamas Rivers will give up the bulk of the action, but the mainstem Willamette can also offer up some limited opportunities, around the mouth of the Clackamas as well as tributary mouths upstream of Willamette Falls. To date, coho counts for the month of September are unavailable at Willamette Falls, but the fishery improves in October anyway.

Pro guide Jeff Stoeger (503-704-7920) of O2BFISHN reports, ” Hello All. My report is going to be short today for the weather and fires have raised many health issues. The state has asked everyone to stay inside for health reasons and to keep as many people safe from the fires that have popped up. The Sandy River area hasn’t seen any fires so far this year as in year’s past. The smoke is extremely thick and has caused many health issues. Here is my latest report for the Sandy. The springer season has all but ended for this year, but you will find one here and there. The summer steelhead are still around but you will have to fish the upper river to find them. Coho should start showing up in with the rain that is forecasted and will only get better as time passes. Please be safe and stay home until the weather changes and smoke clears out. So wishing everyone tight lines and best of luck. So a heart felt prayer goes out to those who have lost everything. Please be safe. PS If you catch a coho and take a picture of this year fish, send it to me and I will try my best to get it published here on The Guides Forecast.”

Jason from Fisherman’s Marine and Outdoor in Oregon City stated that the coho are starting to show on the Clackamas River. Jason reported a good day at the Bowling Alley Hole on Tuesday but the action slowed yesterday, indicating that fish are on the move. The upcoming rain event will no doubt have a positive impact on opportunity as early as this weekend. No doubt not matter how much rain the district receives, will soak into the thirsty ground that remains both parched and torched as many of you know. We’re not sure what to expect for water quality since this is such an unprecedented situation.

North Coast Fishing Report – After a fair start on the 3-day extension for Chinook in the Buoy 10 area, success faded fast with slower reports by the last day (Sunday) and most recently coho fishing has slowed as well. Anglers will have more Chinook opportunity after the 23rd on the lower Columbia, but it will remain a coho focus through mid-October on the lower river.

Meanwhile, fall Chinook fishing is well underway on all other north coast systems but after some great fishing last week, action has slowed. Despite dramatically foggy conditions for much of the north coast, anglers are venturing out on a very friendly ocean, only to find low success rates but that could change at any time.

Tillamook has been slow recently and with the strong tide series we’re currently on, Tillamook Bay itself has been largely unfishable due to the copious amounts of seaweed and eelgrass inundating anglers lines for much of the peak incoming and outgoing tide. The upper bay has been slightly more tolerable but most anglers are seeking a reprieve by fishing in the ocean.

Nehalem Bay remains challenging, even as it enters peak season for the fall return. Wild coho are starting to show in good numbers, but no consumptive fishery exists for this year’s return.

The Nestucca and sister river the Salmon both have fish and access is slowly opening back up after the devasting fires that racked the area, but the bite has been challenging at times. Stronger tides dictate better options for upriver anglers as well as bank anglers where access exists. The Salmon River in particular peaks this time of year but it doesn’t look like it will be an overwhelming return.

The Siletz and Alsea are also producing fair-at-best results for Chinook anglers, but be prepared to have to put in hours and work hard for success. Stronger tide are making for better tidewater fishing.

Rain is in the forecast, but for as parched as the lands are, not much will make it to the rivers. None-the-less, it will be an improvement as water temperatures are likely to cool.

Crabbing in Tillamook Bay is good, as well as other north coast estuaries. Bay crab seem to be in better shape than ocean-caught crab, with many still in a soft-shelled state.

Albacore anglers continue to return to port disappointed. Albie’s seem to be stuffed with squid, indicating they are concentrating on deep-water forage and not coming too close to the surface. A few offshore anglers have reported sightings of large blue-fin.

Central and Eastern Oregon Fishing Reports – From avid angler Tim Moran:

This report is going to be pretty short for obvious reasons.  The devastation that has befallen the McKenzie, Santiam, upper Clackamas, N. Umpqua and Rogue drainages is unprecedented.  In many areas, the rivers in the fire locations are burnt right to the water’s edge for miles.  Unfortunately, the rain we need to put these monsters out will undoubtedly cause mudslides that will make for a really rough time for our fish in many, if not all of these drainages.  We also have unprecedented low water in the Deschutes River above Lake Billy Chinook. 

The Lions head fire is now moving slowly northeast with the SW winds and is burning on Warm Springs Reservation lands in the direction more or less of Lower Bridge on the Metolius, putting this river drainage once again in harm’s way.  

The east side of the state is bound to stay smoky through the weekend and generally it will suck to be outside.  That said, There is good trout fishing to be had on Deschutes from Trout Creek to Mack’s Canyon. 

East and Paulina Lakes were above the smoke to some degree and fished well over the weekend. 

I didn’t get many reports or information from my sources this week due to the fires and smoke.  Hopefully things will be better next week and I can talk to more people.  Stay safe and please don’t travel too far this weekend.

SW Oregon – From avid angler Tim Moran:

I covered all the devastation in the Eastern report but suffice to say the Archie Fire on the N. Umpqua near Glide along with the Thielsen Fire, and the Obenchain Fire and Two Four Two Fire in the Rogue drainage east of Medford are serious fires.  Parts of these rivers are fishable but it’s best to avoid the areas within 10 miles of the road closures to allow fire crews and machinery to access the area.  All in All it’s going to be pretty awful conditions anyway.

The bright spot is the coast, with westerly winds pushing the smoke east and opening up the skies!  There are fish abound down there too with good reports lately from the Rogue Bay and the Coos River estuary where Guide Martin Thurber has put clients on limits every day for two weeks. I am heading down this weekend so I’ll have a personal report to share with you all next week.   

Jim Martin with a nice Coos Bay Chinook from September 9th

Have a great weekend and hope, pray or do whatever it is you do’ for our great state, our rivers and our fish!  Stay safe ya’ll! 

SW Washington –  Terry Otto has put together another smashing report for SW Washington. What you will read below is an abbreviated version of what Terry’s “FULL VERSION” report will look like in the months ahead. Sign Up for Terry’s PAID version that started last week. With this level of detail, you won’t want to miss a single week! It’s JUST $0.32 cents per week! Here’s Terry’s summary for this week. SUBSCRIBE to the full SW Washington version HERE!

Vancouver Metro Area

Smoky air has kept most sportsmen locked inside trying to draw a clean breath. A few die-hards have been out on the water, and for them the fishing has been improving. Chinook numbers crossing Bonneville Dam have been very good, and the best news is the 36,000 plus Chinook jacks that have crossed over so far. Will that translate into better fishing in the years to come? A possible return to good runs and longer, more liberal seasons? We can only hope.

Early salmon are entering the tributaries and high-country trout lakes are still producing. Warm water species are biting well, too. The biggest challenge to fishermen over the next week may be the smoke. Rains are forecast for the area for Friday, and that may make for better conditions this weekend.

Lewis and Washougal Fishing Report

John Thompson of the Sportsmen’s Warehouse in Vancouver, (360) 604-8000, reports that anglers are doing better in all of the tributaries. The brightest spot may be the generous catches of large Chinook jacks being caught in the North Fork Lewis. The early coho are now starting to show in decent numbers, too, and coho jack numbers are strong. The action has been good in Woodland and around the Golf course. Bank anglers are getting some fish at the hatchery.

Fishing is improving in the Washougal River, too. Anglers are getting Chinook in the lower river, and not just tules. There are some very nice bright Chinook showing in the catch. While the river gets a late run of hatchery coho, some early coho have also been taken in the lower river.

Merwin and Yale Lakes Fishing Report

Only a few anglers have been fishing for kokanee due to the smoke, and reports have been few. The fish are beginning to color up and the quality will decline over the next few weeks as the larger kokanee begin their spawning run. The fish are still deep, although the heavy skies may bring them closer to the surface. Anglers continue to catch huge tiger muskies by throwing big baits.

Local lakes Fishing Report

Trout continue to bite well in Swift reservoir, and local lowland lakes are picking up for hold-over trout. Battle Ground Lake has been the best producer so far. Merrill Lake, which is limited to fly fishing only is also fishing well. Lacamas Lake is giving up good sized largemouth bass and yellow perch.

Longview area

Cowlitz and Kalama River Fishing Report

Salmon are making a showing in the lower Cowlitz River, while a few summer steelhead are still being caught in the upper river. Anglers fishing the mouth of the river have been doing okay, according to Thompson, and a lot of those fish are headed up the Cowlitz. These fish are being joined by “dippers”, Chinook and coho that are seeking the colder waters of the Cowlitz to escape warmish temps in the Columbia. While most of the Chinook heading up the river are tules and of poor quality, there are plenty of bright Chinook in the mix. A few coho are in the mix as well, with over 300 showing up at the hatchery, although the main thrust of Cowlitz River silvers are late run fish.

A few summer steelhead are still coming to hand near Blue Creek, although the numbers and pressure are falling off as anglers turn to salmon.

Anglers found fairly slow fishing during the recent sturgeon retention fishery, with 31 boats/91 rods keeping five legal sturgeon while releasing 15 sub-legal fish.

Fishing in the lower Kalama River is getting better, according to Thompson. He has heard multiple reports that anglers fishing below the WDFW fish collection weir, about a quarter of a mile above the RV park, are doing well with Chinook. A few coho are also showing up. Spinners and bobber and bait have been the go-to methods.  

Local lakes Fishing report

Mayfield Lake is still producing good trout fishing, as is Mineral Lake. Coho fishing is still fair to good in Riffe Lake, while the impoundment’s smallmouth bass are biting well. Swofford Pond is still giving up nice channel catfish, while Kress and Silver Lake are good for largemouth bass.

Columbia River Gorge

Drano Lake and Wind River Fishing Report

Chinook are biting well in Drano, with both bank and boat anglers taking fish. Trolling with Pro-Trolls and spinners has been one of the best ways to get the fish, according to Carl Coolidge of the Klickitat Canyon Market, 509-369-4400. During the latest WDFW creel survey, eight bank anglers kept two Chinook and one Chinook jack. 66 boats/201 rods kept 36 Chinook, two Chinook jacks, three coho and released 11 Chinook.

Anglers are finding some success at the mouth of the Wind River, too, although the competition has not been as intense. Once again, trolling with Pro-Trolls and spinners or bait has been the go-to method.

Klickitat River

Carl Coolidge of the Klickitat Canyon Market  (509-369-4400), has been hearing reports of anglers taking some Chinook in the river, although conditions are not good. He said that visibility is only eight to ten inches. Most anglers have been taking their fish on bobber and eggs, although anglers throwing spinners are also getting a few. Most of the Chinook are being caught in the lower river, but a few can be found up into the canyon. 

Coolidge, who runs a shuttle service on the Klickitat, offers a daily fishing report on the market’s website and he strongly suggests anglers call the marketbefore heading out to fish to see if the river is in good condition.

Gorge Lakes Fishing report

Goose Lake continues to shine for trout anglers that are now catching the larger fall cutthroats and rainbows. Good bets include flies, spinners, and bait. Rowland Lake is still giving up largemouth bass and plenty of bluegill, yellow perch, and pumpkinseed.

Be sure to become a paid subscriber and get TWICE the information as you see here in the abbreviated version. Terry produces a weekly FORECAST, detailing how the fishing will be this weekend and into next week. You don’t want to miss this valuable information for just $0.32 cents per week! SIGN UP NOW!


  1. A friend Called odfw today and talked the head engineer in regards to the willamette falls fish ladder repair project that will cost close to 2m
    They have the fish ladder completely shut down because it’s not safe to work on with water flowing and are not working on the repairs because of the smoke.
    They don’t have a completion date and said they picked the best time of the year to do this project. You can look at the 10 year count average and see this is Close to prime Time coho migration.
    What is the next step to confront these people and expose their mistakes.
    Stan Herron

    1. Thanks for the input Stan, I wasn’t sure when that was happening. Although wild coho aren’t native to the upper basin, I believe fall Chinook may be. It would be interesting to see if the agency has a plan on passing this year’s salmonids to the upper basin or if they will be overlooked this year for reasons you have stated above. I hope to find out more information in the future, thanks for bringing this to our attention.

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