Portland Fishing Report: Spring Chinook Rolling In

portland fishing

The rivers are hanging at near-perfect levels and the fish are biting!

This weekend is going to offer up some great opportunities here in the Portland Metro area. From Steelhead to Salmon to Smelt and Sturgeon…oh yeah, and some great weather! This weekend, anglers will be out in force, but for good reason!


Rivers are at perfect levels and will be slowly dropping but maintaining a little color as the snow begins to melt away. This will encourage both Summer and Winter steelhead to bite aggressively. Already this week, the coastal streams have been VERY productive. As for the Sandy and Clackamas, they both have plenty of Steelhead that are willing biters…and even the occasional early Spring Chinook!

Lean more towards the Clackamas river this weekend. The Sandy River is BLACK with Smelt, which can make steelhead fishing difficult. Trying to sneak your bait or lure through all of those Smelt is nearly impossible. As for the Clackamas, it has plenty of Steel to go around. Whether you backtroll or side drift eggs, you should be able to find a few aggressive fish! From the bank, plunk with bait on the inside seams or cast bobbers and Maxi Jigs. The lure that has been producing the best for me the last 2 weeks has been a Mag Lip 3.5 in Blue Pirate or Street Walker colors.

Spring Chinook

FINALLY! Reports of Spring Chinook are beginning to roll in. Today saw the best report for Springers I personally have heard all season…and it didn’t come from the Columbia! The Willamette River from the Sellwood Bridge to the Head of the Multnomah Channel saw dozens of fish caught in the last 2 days. Herring has been the go to bait, with prawns a close second. On the Columbia, your best bet is from the mouth of the Willamette downstream. You are still competing with Smelt, high flows and cooler water temps. Plunkers off the beaches are having limited success with large Spin N Glo’s. Silver with a chartreuse head is always a good bet. Flasher colors for trollers…anything with red and green on either river will be consistent. It’s early, the fish have yet to show in force, but they are on their way!


This Saturday, make your way to Troutdale, OR just off of I-84. The Sandy River is LOADED with smelt prime for dip netting. If you do not have a dip net, there are several retail stores in the area renting them out. The Sandy will be open from 6AM to Noon only this Saturday. With the number of Smelt in the Sandy, it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to get your limit! Simply walk up next to the bank, place your dip net in the water upstream of you, and swing the net downstream. Lift up and your net should be full!


Sturgeon fishing continues to be a great option for those just looking to do some catch and release fishing. Smelt is by far the bait of choice. If fishing from the bank, give each spot an hour at most, then move on. The fish are active and aggressive enough that when you find the schools, action should be fast. Same is true if fishing from a boat. Spend most of your time utilizing your electronics to find the fish! Once you find a good group, make sure to drop your anchor well above them, and simply let out line until you are 50-100’ above where you marked the fish. The scent trail from your baits will pull the fish up to you and ensure that you are putting your baits in the strike zone!

Now that you are filled in on the reports here in the Portland Metro area, get out and enjoy the first weekend of Spring!

Cody Herman
Cody has been a part of the outdoor industry for over a decade. He currently hosts the live TV show “Outdoor GPS” on Comcast. He has appeared in several shows airing on ESPN, WFN, Outdoor Channel as well as many local networks and has participated in two USO/AFE tours to Iraq supporting our Troops.
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