You want to be there when the run is at its peak and the fish are biting. This year we did the scouting for you, for the biggest fish and the hottest bites. Here are our picks for your best Northwest fishing trips — three for each month. Get out your calendar, clean out your tackle boxes and put fresh line on the reels — it’s time to go fishing!
Cowlitz River, WA
Early in the year, you can find great steelheading from the mouth up to Blue Creek and beyond.
Side-drifting helps you make a natural presentation of your bait in front of steelhead for a maximum amount of time.
Every angler on the boat should use the same rod, reel, line and weight to keep baits drifting in unison. Use 48 inches of ten-pound leader, knotted to a No. 2 or 4 single red hook. At the hook, use an egg loop knot with yarn or a cork drifter for color.
Your baits should be positioned upstream of the boat. When the strike comes, it will be a gentle tap-tap-tap as the fish takes the bait, or a tap and jerk as the fish grabs the bait and runs.
For a guided trip, call Mike Pallas at Bear’s Fishing (360-740-0583).
Olympic Peninsula Rivers, WA
The Sol Duc, Calawah, Hoh, Bogachiel and Queets offer some of Washington’s best steelhead action from late November through April. Fin-clipped steelhead average 6 to 8 pounds and wild fish run a little bigger.
Time the trip to hit the water after two days of rain when the water is “steelhead green” and dropping, with a visibility of 3 to 5 feet.
From a boat, side-drifting is a favorite technique. Bank anglers score with flies, spinners or a jig-and-float.
Clackamas River, OR
Just minutes from Portland, the Clack is one of Oregon’s most productive streams and the winter run is the main event.
By March, fish are spread throughout the river up to Estacada. One of the most popular floats is Barton to Carver. A jighead tipped with a pink plastic worm is a favorite bait.
Tie a leadhead jig to 2 feet of leader with a float positioned above the swivel. Slide a bubblegum-pink plastic worm on the hook. Adjust the float so the worm runs at the level of the fish. Set the jig to run 18 inches off the bottom. Cast across and upstream, keep your rod high, and let the current take the lure through the run.
For stream flows and local information, stop in at Fisherman’s Marine in Oregon City. For a guided trip, call Rob Crandall (503-704-6449).
Willamette River, OR
The action in April takes place in 10 miles of river below the falls at Oregon City. “It’s never about whether the fish are there or not. It is all temperature,” guide Lance Fisher said. The peak hits between April and early June. Fisher likes it best when the water temperature runs under 56 degrees.
As to bait, Fisher recommends using prawns when the water is lower and herring in higher water. Some of the best water is in the Oregon City area, at Sellwood, near the Port area and at the head of the Multnomah Channel. Use a depthfinder and look for shelves and depressions where salmon can rest on the way upstream.
Check out page two for top Washington/Oregon fishing options for May, June, July and August