Clackamas River Fishing

Last updated on November 29th, 2020

The Clackamas River is a tributary, about 83 miles long, of the Willamette River in northwestern Oregon in the United States. The river drains an area of about 940 square miles. In its upper reaches, it passes through mostly forested, rugged mountainous terrain, while in its lower third, it passes through agricultural and urban areas.

The river rises in eastern Marion County, about 55 miles (89 km) east-southeast of Salem. The headwaters are in the Mount Hood National Forest in the Cascades, on the slopes of Olallie Butte at an elevation of 4,909 feet, about 10 miles north of Mt. Jefferson.

It then flows briefly north, then northwest through the mountains, passing through the North Fork Reservoir, then Estacada and emerging from the mountains southeast of Portland. It joins the Willamette near Oregon City and forms the boundary between Oregon City and Gladstone.

The river supports runs of Coho salmon, spring and fall Chinook salmon, and summer and winter steelhead. It is a popular destination for recreational fishing and whitewater rafting. It also provides hydroelectric power and drinking water for some of the Portland metropolitan area.

Chinook Salmon Fishing Clackamas River

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Clackamas River Fishing Techniques

Steelhead, Coho Salmon, Chinook Salmon, and Trout are all caught by fly fishers in the Clackamas River. Eagle Creek is the primary fly fishing tributary for winter Steelhead. Fly fishing for summer Steelhead and spring Chinook is mostly in the main river after the water drops in late spring.

Dark-colored patterns work well for coho and steelhead in the low water season with brighter more flashy patterns fished deep in the winter months. An 8 or 9 weight fly rod will cover most situations here and long casts may be mandatory on this large river so bring a quality fly line.

The upper river trout fishery is as typical as it gets with the most common patterns such as wooly worms or buggers, bead head nymphs, hoppers, and variations of elk hair caddis all working fine throughout the season.

The first warm weekend of the trout season brings a great flying ant hatch at most of the lakes in the system but trolling a woolly worm on a sinking line from a float tube is always a good choice if nothing else is hatching. Olive or black & red wooly worms fished on a 5 or 6 weight system will do the trick.

You can increase your catch by twitching the fly line creating an action that will entice the trout into biting. The lakes are open all year but can be snowbound in the winter and not be accessible until April or May.

Fish of the Clackamas River

The Clackamas River has some of the best fishing in the pacific northwest. The Clackamas River boasts large runs of Spring Chinook Salmon, Fall Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, Winter and Summer Steelhead and Rainbow Trout.

The River has been through many changes and currently has 2 fish hatcheries to supplement the river’s fish runs. Eagle Creek fish hatchery currently produces winter Steelhead and coho salmon that can return in great numbers some years.

Another hatchery located within Milo McIver park, the Clackamas hatchery, releases spring Chinook, summer Steelhead and also contributes to the river’s winter broodstock program.

In recent years acclimation areas have been created in spots along the Clackamas River. It is thought that by acclimating the fish in these lower river locations they will not swim directly to the hatchery after entering the river. This should create better opportunities for anglers.