Best Small Steelhead Streams in Northwest Oregon: Little Coast Rivers Recover Quickly for Fishing After Winter Rains

In the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Northwest Zone, there are plenty of small streams to try when bigger rivers on the north coast and central coast are running too high.

Listed north to south, here are some of the best:

Astoria Area Winter Steelhead Streams

Though technically Columbia River tributaries rather than “coastal streams,” these three trickles are a short migration up the big river. Access is available below the hatchery on each river, with runs peaking in December and January.

  • Gnat Creek In late summer, you practically can walk across this tiny stream that crosses beneath U.S. 30 about 15 miles east of Astoria without getting your ankles wet. Even in winter, this is a place of fishing stealth and short casts.
  • Big Creek – About five miles west of Gnat Creek, near Knappa, the slightly bigger Big Creek has a slightly larger run of hatchery steelhead and is well-used by local anglers. There also is access at Big Creek County Park.
  • North Fork Klaskanine River – On the other side of Astoria, spilling into Young’s Bay near the community of Olney on Highway 202, this isn’t a big numbers fishery but it is off many anglers’ radar and can be very productive.

Necanicum River Near Seaside

Paralleled by U.S. 26 and U.S. 101 for the length of its open water, the Necanicum is a pretty stream with limited access. It has a nice run of hatchery fish that arrive in the first half of winter and a good wild run that follows. Gain access at Klootchie Creek Park (the “Big Spruce Hole”) and upriver a couple of miles at Black’s Bridge, the highest point steelhead smolts are planted.

Kilchis River Near Tillamook

Though not as big or as popular as the nearby Wilson, the Kilchis recovers quickly after a heavy rain. Catches are up and down and access is limited in the lower river. Look for bank and boat access at the Mapes Creek launch, or bank access at Kilchis Park or along Kilchis Forest Road up to the forks.

Three Rivers Near Hebo

This small Nestucca River tributary regularly outfishes many of the bigger rivers along the coast, including the Nestucca itself. Not only that, but it has both an early run in December and January but a later brood-stock run. Access is available at Cedar Creek Hatchery, the “Heart Attack Hole” on the south side, and by the sewage treatment plant and S curve near Hebo.

Big Elk Creek Near Newport and Toledo

Big Elk Creek enters the Yaquina River near the small community of Elk City, upriver from Toledo and Newport. It is strictly a bank fishery. The best access and catches are below Grant Creek, near the smolt release site, and for several miles downstream.

Lake Creek Near Florence

This popular tributary of the Siuslaw River now gets its annual release of steelhead smolts in lower Green Creek, which flows into Lake Creek 4.3 miles up from the Siuslaw near the community of Deadwood. Green Creek is closed to angling, but fishing access is good in Lake Creek near the release site. (Previously smolt releases were upstream in Greenleaf Creek, but starting in 2009-10 adult hatchery fish will be more likely to congregate below Green Creek.)

Other Small Streams Have Big Native Steelhead

Many of these little streams in Northwest Oregon also have good runs of wild steelhead. So do a number of creeks and small rivers without hatchery steelhead programs, according to ODFW.

Some of the latter category include:

  • Lewis and Clark and Young’s rivers near Astoria,
  • Salmonberry River (Nehalem River tributary)
  • Miami River near Garibaldi
  • the Little North Fork of the Wilson River
  • North and South forks of the Trask River
  • Salmon River north of Lincoln City
  • Drift Creek (Siletz Bay)
  • Drift Creek (Alsea River)
  • Yachats River and three creeks south of Yachats – Cummings, Tenmile and Big.

Additional Resources for Smaller Streams With Winter Steelhead

  • Fishing in Oregon: The Complete Oregon Fishing Guide (Flying Pencil Publications, Scappoose, Oregon), by MadelynneDiness Sheehan
  • The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website
Donald S. Cochran

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