: Santiam River by Brown W. Cannon III

Easy Family Fishing in Oregon

May 6, 2019

I’ll never forget it — and I know he won’t, either. It was a beautiful bluebird day on Mt. Hood’s Lost Lake: Sunshine, barely a breeze, a snowy peak rising into the clear sky and reflecting in the ripples of the lake. My son, Spencer, and I coasted in a kayak along a shadowy drop-off near the shore, a fishing pole gripped in his hands, a line trailing silently behind.

The bite struck hard, jolting us both. I yelled. Spence yelled. He jerked on the line and reeled in as fast as his little 6-year-old hands could reel. And then, there it was — a beautiful rainbow trout, all olive and silvery and flopping around on the end of the line. Cheers and applause broke out from nearby boaters and other anglers on shore. It was Spencer’s first fish, and the first of many fishing memories to come. 

That’s in part because fishing with kids in Oregon is such an easy and fun way to make the great outdoors even greater. Whether it’s a day of casting from the shores of Trillium Lake, packing the poles for a longer camping excursion or hopping on a guided trip or charter, opportunities abound to make fishing a part of your next family adventure. Here’s how to take those first steps.

Lost Lake by Jon Bell

Baiting the hook

Never taken the kids fishing before? Don’t worry. Not only is fishing fairly simple and affordable to get into, but it’s also intriguing enough to lure kids away from their screens and into the outdoors. What’s more, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife offers a wealth of resources to show you the way.

For starters, consider dipping your toes into the waters of trout fishing, which is readily available at lakes, ponds and rivers all across Oregon. A video series — “How to fish for trout in Oregon” — shows you everything you need to know about just that, including equipment — rods, reels, tackle and bait — licensing and even how to clean your catch and turn it into a tasty meal. In Oregon, kids 11 and under don’t need a license, while those aged 12 to 17 years old just need a $10 youth license.

In addition, ODFW hosts dozens of free Family Fishing Events around the state every year. At each event, staff and volunteers are on hand with gear and tips to turn anyone into a successful angler. Specific events also offer instruction in fly fishing.

ODFW family fishing event

Ripe rivers (and ponds and lakes)

Oregon is a family fishing paradise, with hundreds of lakes, ponds, rivers and streams teeming with hungry fish. An easy way to try out some fishing favorites is to visit one of the free fishing events, which span from Dundas Pond in Siletz and Yaquina Bay on the Oregon Coast to the Crooked River in Central Oregon and Fish Lake on the west side of Steens Mountain. Sign up now for the next events during two statewide free fishing weekends (June 1-2, 2019 and Aug. 17-18, 2019).

ODWF has also divided up the state into nine geographic regions and asked its own biologists for their favorite angling spots around the state. The result: An expansive list of more than 100 prime fishing holes in Oregon that cover everything from trout and bass to bluegill, salmon and steelhead. Visitors can find everything they need in one place — “Easy Angling in Oregon” — a guide that contains detailed information about top spots, including what to fish for and what amenities (picnic areas, docks, campgrounds and boat ramps) are available.

McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge by Celeste Noche

Stocking year-round

 There’s no denying that fishing is more rewarding when you actually catch a fish. ODFW and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers up the odds for anglers by stocking reservoirs, lakes and ponds around Oregon with millions of trout throughout the year. A quick search of ODFW’s weekly trout stocking schedule can tell you not only when a particular body of water will be stocked, but how many fish will be released.

Trillium Lake by Clayton Cotterell

Fishing for everyone

Another beauty of fishing is that anyone can do it. Young, old, outgoing or shy — there’s no one who can’t at least try their hand and give a cast or two. ODFW has gone a step further to make sure fishing is available to everyone by including information about accessible facilities at fishing spots around the state. Beyond that, it’s also compiled an interactive map that lists accessible fishing areas across Oregon. A few favorite accessible spots include Hebo Lake in Tillamook County, Henry Hagg Lake west of Portland and Gerber Reservoireast of Klamath Falls.

Another easy and convenient way to get your fish on is by booking an excursion with a guide. Doing so takes care of everything — equipment, bait, location and more — in one fell swoop. There are hundreds of fishing guides and charter services in Oregon, including dozens who ply the waters of the Oregon Coast helping first-timers and veterans alike make the catch.


If you go:

For those who want to take their fishing adventures even farther, consider giving clamming or crabbing a go, as well. Both activities are as easy, fun and rewarding as fishing. ODFW has loaded its website with resources for crabbing and clamming, including tips on how to crab, when to crab and where to crab to crab, and how to razor-clam in Oregon at favorite spots including Nehalem Bay, Tillamook Bay and the Coquille River, near the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.

About The

Jon Bell
Jon Bell is an Oregon writer and author of the book, On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon’s Perilous Peak. He writes about the outdoors, travel, business, the environment and many other areas from his home in Lake Oswego, where he lives with his wife, two children and black Lab.

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