Salmon Fishing in the Willamette River of Oregon

by Cicely A. Richard

The Willamette River travels approximately 300 miles northward from the Cascade Mountains near Eugene, Oregon and weaves through the Willamette Valley until it reaches the Columbia River in Portland. The river serves commercial and recreational purposes, including salmon fishing in spring and fall. Fishermen have access to the river from 19 Oregon cities and nine counties because of the number of tributaries, rivers and streams that connect to the Willamette River.

Salmon Fishing Areas

The Willamette River has numerous prime salmon fishing areas, including the Multnomah Channel, the Clackamas River, the Molalla River, the Yamhill River and Middle Fork. The 21-mile-long Multnomah Channel connects the Willamette and the Columbia rivers. The Multnomah Channel has a boat ramp and fishing pier on Sauvie Island. The Willamette River Recreation Guide says the channel is a good place for spring fishing for Chinook salmon. The Clackamas River runs a total of 47 miles and connects the Willamette River to Oregon City, according to National Wild & Scenic Rivers. The rivers offers salmon fishing during spring and fall.

Fishing Licenses

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife requires fishing licenses of residents and nonresidents who plan to salmon fish the Willamette River and its tributaries. The fish and wildlife department provides annual angling fishing licenses for residents between the ages of 18 and 65, juvenile angling licenses for 14- to 17-year-old residents and nonresidents, and senior citizen licenses for residents older than 65. Fishermen are also able to purchase 1-, 2-, 3-, 4- or 7-day fishing licenses. The ODFW says Oregon residents cannot purchase the 7-day licenses. Applications are available on the ODFW website.

Angling Tags and Two-Rod Validations

The ODFW says that anyone fishing for salmon must purchase angling tags along with their licenses before casting a line. Fishermen record the fish they catch on these fishing tags in ballpoint pen. The department has combination annual license/angling tags for fishermen 14 years old and older. Children younger than 13 who plan to go on salmon fishing trips and cast a line must get Youth Under 14 Angling Licenses as well as angling tags. Adult and juvenile license holders who wish to cast two lines much purchase two-rod validations. Minors younger than 14 do not need two-rod validations.

Willamette River Boating Regulations

Fishermen boating on the Willamette River must follow boating regulations set out by the Oregon State Marine Board. In addition to salmon fishing, the river serves other water sports, including kayaking, canoeing, jet skiing and yachting. The Willamette River Recreation Guide says boats must check their boats to make sure they are seaworthy and leak free, they don't weigh the boat down with too many people or supplies, they watch for commercial boats, they understand buoys and water markers, they watch for swimmers and they remain aware of other boaters. Fishermen should avoid drinking alcohol, and should wear life jackets, never boat alone and avoid night fishing.

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