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Fishing in Oregon
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Learn to Fish

What you’ll need, how to do it and where to go

There are several ways to begin your trout fishing journey – you can join a friend or family member on their fishing trip, you can attend a free ODFW fishing event or you can strike out on your own (don’t worry, you can do it!).

Learn to Fish

Our video series – How to Fish for Trout in Oregon -- will show you everything you need to know to get started.

Or, just continue reading:

What you’ll need:

  • A fishing license.  
    If you’re ready to dive in with both feet, an annual fishing license is the most economical. If you’re not sure fishing will be your thing you can opt for a daily license.
    • You can buy your license on-line.
    • Children under age 12 do not need a license to fish for trout in Oregon.
    • Free Fishing Weekend is always the first full weekend in June --no license is required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon. Go on your own, or join one of the many events that weekend where all the equipment and instruction is provided. 
  • A copy of the sport fishing regulations.
    There are rules for fishing in Oregon so be sure to check the regulations before you head out. First, read the general rules for the zone you’ll be fishing in, and then check to see if there are any special rules for the lake, river, stream or pond you plan to fish in that zone.
General regulations for trout fishing

At first glance, Oregon’s fishing regulations (which cover trout, salmon, steelhead and warmwater fish) can appear a bit overwhelming. However, the regulations for trout fishing alone are relatively straight forward and most depend on whether you’re on the east or west side of the Cascade crest.

Western Oregon

  • Most lakes are open year-round, and most allow bait.
  • On most lakes you can keep five trout per day.
  • Most rivers open in late May, and are restricted to artificial flies and lures only.
  • Most rivers are catch and release only, unless noted by special regulations

Eastern Oregon

  • Many lakes open in late April, and most allow bait.
  • On most lakes you can keep five trout per day.
  • Most rivers open in late April, and are restricted to artificial flies and lures only.
  • On most rivers you can keep two trout per day, unless noted by special regulations.

These are general guidelines. ALWAYS check the regulations (book or on-line) for any special regulations for the place you will be fishing.

  • Rod, reel and tackle.
    Ok, you’ve decided to go fishing– now you’re going to need some gear.
Rods, reels and lines
Rods and reels
Spincaster reels (top) are great for beginners. Spinning reels (bottom)are versatile and, with practice, allow you to cast farther and more accurately.
The use of these products as examples does not represent endorsement of specific products.

Most modern rods are made of graphite and come in a variety of lengths and actions. Longer heavy action rods are good for casting large lures to large fish, while shorter lighter action rods excel at putting smaller lures in front of small fish.

A 5.5 to 6-foot, light action rod designed for 4 to 6-lb test line is a good all-around choice for most trout fishing. (It will be a great rod for warmwater fishing as well).

You’ll want to pair your rod with a matched reel. Consider one of these types:

Spincaster reels are closed-faced spinning reels with an easy-to-use thumb button that opens the bail for easing casting. These are a great choice for kids or other novice anglers.

Spinning reels are versatile, open-faced reels with an exposed “bale” you have to open and close when casting. These reels also are easy to use and can be good choice for beginners. As you become a better caster, you may find you can cast longer and more accurately with a spinning reel than with a spincaster reel.

Load your reel with 4 to 6-lb test line monofilament line. If you purchase your gear somewhere with a well-stocked fishing section they will probably put the line on the reel for you.

You also can find “outfits” that include the rod, reel and line all in one package.

Bait and lures

In Oregon, some water bodies allow the use of bait and others are restricted to artificial flies and lures. Be sure to check the regulations before you go fishing.

Bait includes worms, salmon eggs, crickets and grasshoppers, and dough-like baits (such as PowerBait). “Bait” also includes soft plastic or rubber imitations of worms or eggs, or other rubber or soft plastic imitations.

Popular trout baits include PowerBait, Pautzkes Balls O’ Fire salmon eggs, and nightcrawlers.

The use of live minnows or other live bait is illegal in Oregon.

Artificial flies and lures include spinners, spoons, jigs and hard-plastic imitations of minnows, leeches other favorite trout foods.

Popular trout lures include spinners such as Rooster Tails, Panther Martins and Blue Foxes (1/8 and 1/16 ounce size) and spoons such as Kastmasters, Krocodiles and Dick Nites in smaller sizes.

Spinners
Examples of popular bait products.
The use of these products as examples does not represent endorsement of specific products.
Spinners
Spinners and spoons mimic minnows, leeches
and other trout food.
The use of these products as examples does not represent endorsement of specific products.
Weights, bobbers, hooks and swivels
Weights, bobbers, hooks and swivels
A few additional tackle items will help you
put all the pieces together.
The use of these products as examples does not represent endorsement of specific products.

You’ll need a handful of other tackle items to put all the pieces together and make your bait or lure “fish” the way you want it to. You’ll see how everything goes together in the next section.

For bait fishing, pick up:

  • Hooks – obviously these hold your bait. They come in lots of styles, sizes and even colors. Remember, the larger the size number, the small the hook. Start with a package of size 8 bait hooks.
  • Bobbers – help suspend your bait in the water, and also bounce, wiggle, dive or otherwise indicate a fish is taking your bait. A couple of old-time red/white bobbers will do but other colors or styles are available.
  • Split shot – a couple attached to your line or leader will help hold your bait near the bottom, where fish often hang out. A package of #5 lead split shot should do.

For lure fishing, it’s a little simpler – get a package of size 7 or 9 swivels. These will allow your spinner or spoon to spin freely in the water without twisting up the fishing line.

Depending on how you rig your bait or lure, you might also need a leader. This is a piece of monofilament that goes from your main line to the hook or lure, often with a swivel in between. You can cut off a piece of your main line to use as a leader, or buy special leader material on a spool.

  • Our Gearing Up publication lists some basic gear – rod, real, tackle – for several kinds of fishing.

How to do it:

  • Attend a free Family Fishing Event.
    We’ll supply all the gear you’ll need to fish and even show you how to use it. Come by yourself or bring the whole family. Most events are held in the spring at locations throughout the state. There’s a calendar of family fishing events on-line.
  • Take yourself fishing.
    Can’t find a Family Fishing Event convenient for you? It’s easy to get started on your own. Here’s how:
Know some knots
  • Every angler should know how to tie at least two knots:

Riggings and fishing techniques for lakes and ponds

There are lots (and lots) of ways to fish for trout in lakes and ponds, but here are three popular ones:

Suspending bait under a bobber

Rigging it: (click image to enlarge)

Bobber Rig

Fishing it: Cast out to a likely looking spot and wait for the bobber to wiggle, dive or jerk –set the hook and reel in! This is a good technique when fish are cruising near the surface, or when you want to keep your bait suspended above a weed bed.

Fishing with the bait off the bottom

Rigging it:

Floating Bait Rig

Fishing it: Cast out to a likely looking spot. The weight will sink to the bottom while the bait will float up and hover 1.5 feet above the bottom. There’s no bobber to help you sense a strike, so when you feel a tug on the line – set the hook and reel in!

Casting/retrieving a spinner or spoon

Rigging it:

Spinner Rig

Fishing it: Cast a spinner to a likely looking spot. Let it sink for a minute and begin reeling it in (called retrieving). Vary the amount of time you let the spinner sink and the speed of your retrieve until you find the right combination. When fishing a spoon, lift and drop the rod tip so the spoon rises and falls—called jigging. When a fish strikes, set the hook and reel in!

Riggings and fishing techniques for rivers and streams

In rivers and streams, it is the current, not your retrieve, that will affect how your lure will move in the water. Some good trout fishing techniques for moving waters include:

Casting a spinner or spoon

Rigging it:

Spinner Rig

Fishing it: Begin by casting the spinner slightly upstream and reel in any slack line. As the current carries the spinner down river, use the rod to lift as much fishing line off the water as you can to achieve a “natural” drift. Once the spinner has swung toward the shore and is straight down river, begin a moderate retrieve. Spoons can be a good choice in deeper water where it can be “jigged” –after casting, lift the rod up and then let it down so the spoon rises and falls in the water. Be sure to keep your line slack free. When you retrieve a spoon, reel in a little lower to give the spoon better action.

Drifting bait near the bottom

Rigging it:

Floating Bait Rig

Fishing it: Cast slightly upriver with just enough split shot on the line to get the bait within a few inches of the bottom.  Once the bait has swung toward the shore and is straight down river, reel in and cast again. Sometimes adding a bobber will help you keep track of where the bait is drifting, and help you detect a strike.

  • Try something different.
    • Register for an ODFW Outdoor Skills workshop and learn to crab, clam and fish for steelhead or nearshore ocean species like rock fish or surf perch.

Where and when to go:

Many trout waters in Oregon are open from the fourth Friday in April or May through Oct. 31. However, there are several lakes, rivers and streams that are open year round. In fact, there is trout fishing available 365 days a year somewhere in Oregon.

  • Easy Angling Oregon describes 101 fisheries throughout the state selected especially for families and newcomers.

Have additional questions about where to go or what the regulations are? Don’t hesitate to call your local ODFW office – they’re there to help you.

Don’t see what you’re looking for here? We’ve got lots of additional information on the Fishing Resources page.

Our favorite web resources:

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