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Portland Fishing Guide – Things to Know

4 nice Spring Chinook salmon.


Portland is unique in a variety of ways, most notably for anglers, the number of fishable rivers that can be found within the area. The mighty Columbia is fed by multiple tributaries, including the Willamette River, Clackamas River, and Lewis River. These rivers become an angler’s paradise, providing local fishing opportunities throughout the year. There aren’t many cities that can offer salmon, steelhead, and/or sturgeon fishing experiences for the majority of the calendar year, and it’s one of the reasons I love living here.

Salmon Fishing

Portland boasts several salmon runs each year, beginning with the Spring Chinook Salmon run. We begin running guided fishing trips in mid-March. ODFW and WDFW give us a short season on the Columbia River, and we continue fishing through May, sometimes even into June, on the Willamette River. Spring Chinook, also known as King Salmon, are the most prized of all of the salmon and anglers are anxious to take advantage of spring days on the rivers.

Summertime brings sockeye and chinook salmon, which are often found in the same areas of the Columbia River as our summer steelhead. Although smaller than the spring chinook, steelhead have delicious red fillets and can make for a fun day on the river as they put up a good fight. We usually chase both steelhead and salmon during our

The fall fishing season brings Coho Salmon, also known as silvers, as well as Chinook Salmon to the area. Portland can be beautiful in the fall, with the weather often remaining moderate through September, making it a great time to get out on the water for some choice salmon fishing.

Very happy woman with her spring chinook on the Columbia River.

Steelhead Fishing

While steelhead may appear similar to salmon, they are actually rainbow trout that have made the run to the ocean and back. The Portland area boasts 2 steelhead seasons. Summer steelhead average 6 – 12 lbs, while winter steelhead average 8 – 12 lbs. Depending on the season, we offer guided fishing trips for steelhead on the Clackamas, Columbia, Cowlitz, and Sandy, and Lewis Rivers. Although steelhead can be a little easier to hook than salmon, they can put up quite a fight when it comes to getting them into the net. Steelhead fishing is an active fishery, with a lot of hands-on experience during the day.

Sturgeon Fishing

Sturgeon are prehistoric looking fish that scrounge the depths of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers as bottom-feeders. They can grow up to 12 feet in length, often reaching 150 years of age. Sturgeon fishing in the Portland area takes place from November through June, and provides some action-packed days on the water. There’s nothing in the world like wrestling an oversized sturgeon, and that’s why many have this fishery on their bucket list. In the spring we offer combination trips, providing the opportunity to catch some fresh spring salmon while battling sturgeon during the day. Anglers of all ages and ability levels enjoy wrangling sturgeon on our guided fishing trips.

Couple holding a sturgeon before they release it

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a fishing license cost? Do we need tags as well?

Both Oregon and Washington fishing licenses can be used on the Columbia River, while Washington licenses are required for the Lewis River, and Oregon licenses are needed for the Willamette and Clackamas Rivers. Day licenses for either state run about $25 per person, and we’ll let you know exactly which licenses are needed for your trip.

Oregon Day Licenses can be purchased online and include your salmon/steelhead/sturgeon tag. Be sure to add the Columbia River Endorsement before you check out. We’ll include all of the details regarding licenses in your trip confirmation email.

Can kids fish?

Certainly! Fishing is a sport enjoyed by all ages, and the more the merrier. Kids can be quick to pick up on the motion of fishing, and by the end of your trip the kids may be teaching you a thing or two. A guided fishing trip allows you to simply enjoy the day with your kids or grandkids, while leaving all of the details to us. Just let us know how old your kids are and we’ll show you the best options available.

We’re from out of town. Where should we stay?

Portland is full of great places to stay, whether you prefer the larger chains or the smaller boutique hotels. Some people love the hustle and bustle of downtown while others prefer staying in one of Portland’s suburbs or closer to the Columbia River Gorge. If you’re planning to fish on the Lewis River, you may decide to stay in Vancouver. No matter where you chose to stay, a short drive will get you to your launch location the morning of your trip.

What is there to see/do in the Portland area?

There are numerous things to do while you’re visiting Portland. Here are a few of our favorites:


For more information on any of our fishing trips, don’t hesitate to contact us or give us a call. We’re here to help and want to make your fishing experience in the Portland area as seamless and enjoyable as possible.