Columbia River Steelhead Trout Fishing

The Columbia River is a major river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It flows roughly 1,243 miles from its source in the Rocky Mountains near Three Forks, Montana, to its mouth on the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon. The watershed encompasses five U.S. states and two Canadian provinces – Washington, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alberta.

But as great as all that sound, the best part lies in fishing. Columbia River has some of the best Steelhead Trout fishing Oregon has to offer. It is a perfect place for you to fish the best steelhead trout with your friends and family.

The river is known for being home to some of the finest trout fishing on the planet. The steelhead trout are migratory fish that travel from rivers and streams up into cooler water during summer months, then back down again when winter comes around.

Steelhead trouts are a much different species than other trout because they spend their entire lives in saltwater. They swim upriver as adults to spawn but also make short journeys from time to time back into the ocean or nearby rivers. Let’s explore steelhead trout fishing at the Columbia River.

Why Steelhead Trout Fishing in Columbia River is Great

Big Fish, Lots of Action

The Columbia River is home to some of the biggest steelhead trout in the world! You can expect to catch an average size fish that ranges from 8-14 inches long. But because this often becomes a year-round activity, many anglers seek out even bigger steelhead during winter months when they are easier to find.

You’ll Catch a Variety of Trout Species in the Same Place

You can expect to catch and release many different trout species in this area, including rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout. They may grow slightly smaller than the steelhead, but you’ll still have a great chance of catching many different kinds of fish in one place.

Fly Fishing is Great for Columbia River

Fly fishing is an excellent option for river fishing because it usually improves your chances of catching that elusive “fish of a lifetime” with every cast! This technique also gives you the chance to bring in that trophy-sized steelhead with every cast, so it’s great for serious trout anglers. The river also has sections where fishing is permitted from boats. This is an excellent option if you’d like to try something different than standing on the shore.

Very Few People Fish Here

The Columbia River is located in an isolated area where very few people manage to venture, so it’s an excellent chance for you to fish without the crowds. There are many different species to catch in one place, and it feels like you’re miles away from civilization.

Everything You Need to Know about Fishing for Steelhead Trout Fishing Near Columbia River in Oregon

The Best Time to Catch Steelhead Trout

The best time of year to go steelhead fishing is between December and April. They move upriver from the ocean back into freshwater during this time, where it’s much easier to catch them. This is also a great time because access to many rivers is open for fishing, so very few people fish for steelhead during this time, so it’s a great option for anglers visiting from out of town.

The Best Ways to Catch Steelhead Trout

The best way to catch steelhead trout is by using a safety pin or circle hook with a live or dead smelt. You can use this rod and reel combination with a lighter line between 2-6 lbs. Try using 3-4 lb test for more success because it’s easier to catch steelhead with finesse techniques, including fly fishing.

Gear and Tackle for Catching Steelhead

One of the best ways to catch steelhead trout is with a 7 ft medium-heavy action rod, a 7/8 or 5/6 size reel with a 20 lb test line. This combination works well because the steelhead is usually quite strong, and you’ll need a medium-heavy action rod to have enough backbone to set the hook. 

Common Techniques Used to Catch Steelhead Trout Fishing


Still Fishing

Still fishing for steelhead trout is just like it sounds. You’ll need either a drift boat or canoe to use this technique, and you’ll run your bait in the current downstream. It can be very effective in rivers where there are no obstructions but usually only yields small fish.


Drift Boats for Fishing

Drift boats are long flat bottomed fishing boats used for drifting or floating down a river. You can use a drift boat to fish your line downstream, but you’ll need a guide to make this effective.


Bank Fishing

Bank fishing usually involves standing on the river bank and letting your hook drift downstream into the water where you can fish for steelhead trout using fly fishing techniques. It’s a very effective way to catch steelhead trout but usually only works when there are no currents or obstructions in the river. You’ll do best if you find an area with some depth so you can cast your line.

Fly Fishing for Steelhead Trout 

Fly fishing is one of the most effective ways to catch large steelhead trout! It can take a bit of practice, but it’s gratifying once you learn what you’re doing. The best time to use this technique is in the winter when steelheads migrate from the ocean back into freshwater.

Why You Should Choose Columbia River for Your Next Guided Steelhead Trout Fishing Trip

Columbia River is one of the best spots to catch trophy-sized steelhead trout because it has many deep sections, and you can use a drift boat, canoe, or bank fishing to target these large fish. What’s great about this location is that very few anglers choose to go here because there aren’t any other fish in this river, so you’re much more likely to catch a steelhead trout.

Book Now

11 + 12 =

Contact Us
Phone: (503) 575-8755

Portland Oregon King Salmon Fishing Guide Services