Steelhead Fishing Near Portland


Portland is known for its cool, rainy weather, along with the many fishing opportunities – including steelhead. It’s thanks to Portland’s rainy weather that brings both salmon and steelhead into the waters! But don’t worry about storms, because you can expect pleasant summer weather in Portland and its surrounding cities, with plenty of fish to go around.

Fishing - Visit Portland

Among those fish is the mighty steelhead, a must-catch among anglers! So, if you’re going steelhead fishing near Portland, there’s no best time to prepare than right now, starting with this guide.


A Guide to Steelhead Fishing Near Portland

Steelhead is deemed the ultimate game fish in Oregon state, as they can test your patience and persistence from their strength. Though it does take some work to reel in Steelhead, it will be worth the effort as you’ll be proud to have caught a strong fish known for its acrobatics!

Salmon or trout: What the heck is a steelhead, anyway? | CBC News

Now, the question is: How can you catch them? Here are effective tips and things to know when steelhead fishing near Portland:


When to Go Steelhead Fishing Near Portland

Oregon experiences two main steelhead runs, which we call summer and winter runs. As the names imply, the steelhead runs are determined by the season of the year the species enter freshwater. There are river systems that experience both runs, while others would only experience one.

Steelhead Trout | NOAA Fisheries

Either way, both steelhead runs will enter the river at different times and stages of reproductive maturity.

Summer steelhead runs will begin migrating to natal streams come March near the coast, or from October to November in eastern Oregon rivers. Steelhead will stay in the river for a few months before spawning. Steelhead that returns to rivers east of Cascade Mountains is summer run fish.

Winter runs are larger than summer runs. Winter steelhead will migrate into freshwater when closer to reproductive maturity. The migration begins in late fall to early winter, with some steelhead migrating even until spring. They will begin spawning after they enter natal streams.

Steelheads aren’t predetermined to die after spawning. They can live to spawn several times. After their eggs are deposited in the spring, the fry will emerge come summer, spending 1-3 years in freshwater before they migrate to the ocean.


What Fishing Techniques to Use

There are many different techniques you can try when steelhead fishing near Portland. That said, no matter what gear you use, there are three important tips for catching the species successfully, which are:

  • Spend more time on the water, so you get to know the area’s ins and outs and hone your chosen technique. This will allow you to land more fish compared to chasing every hot lead.
  • Cover the waters efficiently, keeping the bait or lure near the bottom and fishing every part of a run.
  • Stay positive and confident with where you’re fishing and the bait, lure, and technique you use.

WINTER STEELHEAD - Steelhead Outfitters

Here are some of the popular fishing techniques you can use when targeting steelhead:

  • Bobber and jib/bait – This is a great technique for bank ad beginner anglers. The technique will entail tying a weighed bait or jig below a floating bobber to drift in the current. Once you see the bobber dive or stop and wobble, you can set the hook and try reeling it in!
  • Drift fishing – Drift fishing involves your bait or lures bouncing along the bottom with significant weight. When following this technique, make sure you keep your bait near the bottom as it drifts along at the same speed as the current. This will be a challenge as you will need to get the natural presentation right and detect steelhead movement. However, its great effectiveness is a reason why it’s a popular fishing technique.
  • Plunking – Plunking involves a heavy weight holding your bait, or using a spinner-type bobber stationary in the current near the water bottom. We recommend using this technique when the water levels are high and the steelhead holds or travels in soft waters near a bank. It’s also suitable for beginners and those with limited ability.
  • Spinners – The cast-and-retrieve method is a popular technique, but cast-and-swing presentations will have more of a chance of reeling in steelhead. This technique involves casting your spinner slightly upstream, allowing it to drift naturally in the current, then swing towards the bank.
  • Pulling plugs – This is also known as hot-shotting or back trolling. Plugs are plastic lures that dive and wiggle in the current, which we usually pull behind a bat to further move and wiggle as the boat heads downstream. You can also cast plugs from the bank, which begin slowly swinging in the current.
  • Fly fishing – This is a challenging yet rewarding technique that entails using single or double-handed rods to swing flies through a current. Alternatively, you can swing a nymph or indicator rig to drift the nymph near the water bottom.

sandy river winter steelhead for Sale OFF 62%

Any License Requirements?

Besides possessing a fishing license in Oregon, you will also need to purchase a Combined Angling Tag, which covers steelhead, salmon, sturgeon, and Pacific halibut. If you plan to fish in the Columbia River Basin, you will need a Columbia River Basin Endorsement.

There are also fishing ethics to follow to ensure a fun and smooth fishing experience:

  • Give other anglers room when fishing from a boat and avoid anchoring in the middle of a hole.
  • Treat anglers the way you want to be treated. Be respectful!
  • New anglers would step into a pool or run upstream to other anglers’ positions. If you’re not sure where to place yourself, ask other anglers for guidance.


Wrapping It Up

For Oregon anglers, there are a ton of opportunities to catch steelhead all year long. Whether it’s the frigidly cold waters in January to sunny days come summer, there will always be a fun day out fishing. Just make sure you remember these tips as you prepare and set out to the waters! 

We hope this guide to steelhead fishing near Portland helped you out. Now that you know more about how to catch the species, why not also prepare for your trip by booking a fishing charter? Contact us for our services!

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