The Willamette River flows northward for 183 miles past the cities of Corvallis, Albany, Salem, Oregon City, and Downtown Portland, then it will enter the Columbia River, where it rises in three separate forks in the mountains south and southeast of Eugene, at the southern end of the Willamette Valley.

Formed by the confluence of its Middle and Coast forks near Springfield, the main stem meanders generally north for 187 miles to the Columbia. The river’s two most significant course deviations occur at Newberg, where it turns sharply east, and about 18 miles downriver from Newberg, where it turns north again.

Near its mouth north of downtown Portland, the river splits into two channels that flow around Sauvie Island.The main channel enters the Columbia about 101 miles from the larger stream’s mouth on the Pacific Ocean, and the smaller Multnomah Channel, a tributary, enters the Columbia about 14.5 miles further downstream near St. Helens in Columbia County.

Arising at 438 feet above sea level, the main stem loses 428 feet in elevation between source and mouth, or about 2.3 feet per mile. The gradient is slightly steeper from the source to Albany than from Albany to Oregon City. At Willamette Falls, between West Linn and Oregon City, the river plunges about 40 feet. For the rest of its course, the river is extremely low-gradient and is influenced by Pacific Ocean tidal effects from the Columbia. The main stem of the Willamette River varies in width from about 330 to 660 feet.

What kind of fish are in the Willamette River?

I’ve been fishing in the Willamette River my whole life, and it’s one of the best places to go fishing in the entire world. The river is full of all kinds of fish, including salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, walleye, panfish, crappie, bass, and perch. If you’re looking for a fishing trip that is both beautiful and bountiful, the Willamette River should be your next destination.

As a fishing guide, I’ve learned that you can’t beat the Willamette for panfish like bass and crappie. They’re more active, and easier to catch, when the river’s warmer. I’ve always had my best luck in the spring and summer, when the river’s at its warmest. If you want to fish for panfish, the Willamette is the place to go.

Willamette River spring salmon.

Every spring, I take my clients out on the Willamette River to fish for salmon. Year after year, I’m amazed at how the delicious flavor and firm texture of spring Chinook salmon make it so popular among fishermen. I’m not surprised that it’s one of the most sought-after fish in the river. It’s always my favorite time of year.

Generally, people and fishing guides like me will start fishing the Willamette River for salmon in late March. We will continue this fishery all the way through the early part of July. Salmon fishing on the Willamette River is limited to only hatchery salmon may be harvested. When fishing the Willamette River, I like to keep an eye on the turbidity.  When the turbidity is down six or seven, it is great fishing. However, it is still fishable at 10 and 12.  One of the most popular fisheries on the river is spring Chinook salmon fishing, where the most popular months are April and May.

Sturgeon fishing Willamette River.

The Willamette River has some great sturgeon fishing, but keep in mind that most of it is catch-and-release only. Sturgeon are bottom feeders, so the turbidity of the water doesn’t impact it like it does salmon. With that being said, if you want to go sturgeon fishing, the Willamette is a great place to go year-round.

Panfish, like perch bass, are year-round, However, in the spring and summer, when the river is warmer, they offer better opportunities.

Make sure you check with Oregon Department and Fish and Wildlife’s website to see the current regulations before you go fishing.

Marvin’s guide service would be happy to hook you up for salmon, sturgeon or walleye on the Willamette River Give me a call or simply fill out this form, and I’m happy to call you.


Client standing with a Sturgeon she just caught on the Willamette river

Fishing guide Marvin and his client caught a sturgeon.

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Last Updated on by Marvin




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