Nice Catch
A large rainbow trout (steelhead) is caught in the landing net.
Steelhead are Easy![1]
Sunshine and blue skies make summer steelhead easier to catch than their winter relatives.
sandy angler copy
Sacirovic Mustafa of Portland changes his offering while fishing at the confluence of Cedar Creek with the Sandy River.
Summer steelhead season opens on May 16 between Tongue Point and the I-5 bridge.
Summer Steelhead Fishing Map

Notoriously elusive and much sought after, the Oregon steelhead is the subject of many a tale about icy winter rivers, overcast skies and hours lost to exasperating and fruitless effort.

Here’s a morale booster: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) wants to remind us that steelhead run in the summer, too. “Summer steelhead fishing is the exact opposite of winter. It’s sunny, it’s warm, and you can hang out at the beach,” said David Lane, ODFW marketing coordinator.

Summer steelhead season opens on May 16 between Tongue Point and the I-5 bridge. Starting June 16, the Astoria-Megler bridge to the Oregon-Washington border is open for steelhead fishing. ODFW, which considers the summer steelhead a stable fishery, estimates that nearly 400,000 will swim up the lower Columbia River this summer. Travel Oregon and ODFW have put together a helpful website for regional anglers complete with maps, fish counts, tide tables and fishing conditions ( The map recommends fishing spots from as far west as Jones Beach and as far east as the Deschutes River State Recreation Area. In the Portland Metro area you can cast from more than a dozen locations.

If you are new to steelhead fishing, Rick Sabol, owner of Deschutes Steelheader Co. and a fisherman since the age of four, said the best thing you can do is hire a guide. “There is so much to learn,” he said. After all, they call steelhead the fish of a thousand casts for a reason. “You will cut down on your time and make it more productive,” he said. Many guiding companies provide fishing gear, which is another plus.

Steelhead are born in freshwater, migrate to sea, and return to their birthplace to spawn. Only hatchery-raised steelhead may be kept, while wild fish must be released when caught. (You can tell a hatchery fish by its clipped adipose fin — the one on its back by the tail.)

Sabol agreed with Lane about the accessibility of summer time fishing. “If you have a spouse like mine who only likes fair weather fishing, summer steelhead is key,” he said.

To fish in Oregon’s rivers, you need a standard fishing license as well as a Combined Angling Tag. Check out the ODFW’swebsite for tips on cleaning, freezing and cooking steelhead and to purchase fishing licenses, find maps, weekly fishing reports and more.

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. vic says…

    It’s been a long time but I got turned on to mid summer steelhead fishing on the Santiam. Apparently there is a second run in July. It was hot but we both caught our limit within two hours. We fished the tail ins and tail outs with sand shrimp. Using a diving bass lure with the hooks removed and about 18 inches of leader to the shrimp. The lure kept the shrimp just off the bottom. Exactly where the steelhead were. What a day!!

    Written on May 19th, 2011 / Flag this Comment
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