Fishing in Oregon

Oregon has some of the most diverse waters of anywhere in America. Sport fishermen in the state can expect to catch significant quantities of salmon, bass, and trout.

Oregon is the 9th largest state in the US so for non-residents, this can make settling on a fishing spot a little intimidating. Allow us to help soothe your anxiety. We have narrowed the countless fishing spots in Oregon down to five of the absolute best. We’ll be reviewing each of them in this article.

How to Get a Fishing License in Oregon

Sport fishing in Oregon requires a license from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Residents of the state can obtain an annual fishing license for $41. Non-residents can buy one for $103.50. Annual licenses are active from January 1st to December 31st of the year they are issued.

Day licenses are also available for those who don’t need a full year’s license. A one-day fishing license costs $21. This price is the same for residents and non-residents of the state. A two-day license can be bought for $38, while a three-day license goes for $58. If you’re planning a full week of fishing in Oregon, then you can get a seven-day fishing license for $84.50.

In certain situations, a license is not necessary for fishing in Oregon. For example, children under 12 are free to fish without prior approval from the ODFW. In addition, Oregon hosts an annual Free Fishing Weekend. This takes place every June, usually over the first weekend of the month. During this time, residents and non-residents alike are free to fish, clam, and crab throughout Oregon without a license. It’s important to remember that bag and size limits still apply.

Best Fishing Spots

There are hundreds of fishing locations throughout Oregon. Some however are more productive than others. Below you’ll find a number of the most promising ponds, rivers, and lakes for sport fishing in the Beaver State.

Vernonia Pond

Vernonia Pond

Vernonia Pond is a man-made reservoir in the Columbia County city of Vernonia. With its high productivity, Vernonia Pond is among Oregon’s best spots for novices. Its popularity is increased by its superior accessibility. Its piers, campground, and toilets are all wheelchair accessible.

Trout are abundant here in Vernonia Pond. The ODFW actually stocks rainbow trout in the pond at the end of every winter. These fish are easiest to catch throughout the spring, but they can also be found during the early summer months. As the weather and water get warmer, Vernonia Pond also becomes home to bluegill, crappie, and largemouth bass.

South Twin Lake

If you want some fishing time during a family vacation in Oregon, then South Twin Lake is the place to go. This lake is home to several breeds of fish, including largemouth bass and brown trout. But its best known for its rainbow trout. The lake is loaded with these colorful creatures, which grow up to 15 inches in length.

A wholesome fishing destination, South Twin Lake offers plenty for your family to do while you fish. Facilities in the Twin Lakes Resort include a campground, a picnic area, and boat rentals.

Wilson River

Wilson River Oregon

The Wilson River reaches the height of its activity during the summer months. In July and August, you can find trout and salmon swimming in its waters. The river’s steelhead numbers are good throughout the year. An experienced fisherman can expect a few catches even in the dead of winter.

The Wilson River is particularly popular among tourists because it’s just 70 miles removed from the Portland area. It can be accessed from a number of locations which include Fall Creek, Zig Zag Creek, and Kansas Creek Bridge. There are a number of supply stores, restaurants, and hotels across the Wilson River that cater to visitors.

Willow Valley Reservoir

For those who crave solitude, there is Willow Valley Reservoir. This reservoir sits in the wilderness of the Oregon/California border. The area surrounding the reservoir is sparsely populated and tourists are rare. Some may find the absence of other humans a little eerie. However, it’s nothing but a positive when it comes to fishing. The fish here have little qualms about swimming close to the shore. This of course makes them a lot easier to catch.

Because Willow Valley Reservoir is not as popular as Oregon’s other fishing spots, its fish live longer and grow larger. Largemouth bass in the reservoir have been known to weigh more than six pounds. Other fish in Willow Valley Reservoir include crappie, bluegill, and yellow perch.

John Day River

John Day River Catch

The John Day River has the distinction of being the third-largest free-flowing river in the continental United States. Because of its size, it’s the site of many different water activities. But it’s particularly noteworthy for its fishing.

The John Day River is home to a variety of fish, including smallmouth bass and steelhead. The former are most common between May and September, while the latter can be caught from October to December.

The ODFW occasionally releases hatchery steelhead into the river, which fishermen are encouraged to catch and keep. However, it’s prohibited to remove wild fish from the river. Although they may be caught, they should be returned to the water unharmed. You can tell hatchery steelheads from their wild counterparts by examining their adipose fin. A hatchery steelhead will have a clipped adipose fin while a wild fish will have it intact.


In Oregon, you can cast your line all year long and enjoy some degree of success. During the state’s highly active summer months, even a novice fisherman has a good chance of catching trout, steelhead, and bass, among other breeds of fish.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife actively encourages fishing. Its annual Free Fishing Weekend allows newcomers to experience the thrill of a catch without a license. Meanwhile, by allowing children under 12 years old to fish for free, Oregon provides the perfect environment for children to fall in love with the hobby.