Oregon is home to many pristine waterways and a long list of trophy Fish destinations. Anglers travel to the state for their chance at catching a once in the lifetime steelhead or to feel the power of native redband rainbow trout.
The Regulations put forth by the state of Oregon plays a major role in why the fishing has continued to be phenomenal. They work hard to protect their waterways and you should do the same.
Before you embark on your Oregon fishing adventure make sure you have the proper license. And know the regulations for the region you will be fishing.
License are available online and at licensing agents. All anglers, over the age of 12 need to possess a fishing license.
If you will be fishing for Salmon, steelhead halibut, or sturgeon, you will need a combined angling tag in addition to your license. This also applies to anglers under 12 who otherwise do not need a license.
Basic licenses and tags available in Oregon are:
If you are going to be fishing within the Columbia River Basin be sure to buy a Columbia River Basin Endorsement if you need it. For additional information on other license options, check out the Oregon online regulations.
Bag and size limits
Statewide bag and size limits exist for certain fish species and some even have annual limits rather than daily. If you are Halibut fishing, your yearly limit is six fish.
Steelhead and salmon anglers can only keep 20 fish per year. The 20 salmon and steelhead are not counted if they are recorded on a hatchery tag.
The size regulations for steelhead is a minimum of 20” unless you are in the Northwest or Southwest zone. In that case, the minimum size to keep a fish is only 16”.
Salmon length limits are a little more confusing. There are jack length limits and adult fish limits. Jacks are male fish that have spent only one year in the ocean before returning to spawn, making them much smaller than adult salmon.
For regulations purposes, the salmon are classified as such:
- Jack: 15”-20”
- Adults: longer than 20”
Chinook, pink and chum salmon
- Jack: 15”-24
- Adults: longer than 24”
- All sockeye salmon are classified as adult for regulations purposes
Many new anglers will confuse chinook and coho salmon with one another. There are several ways to determine if a fish is a chinook or coho salmon. Make sure you know them before you are on the water. Also, be sure to check the regulations and tag limits for both steelhead and salmon before harvesting.
Statewide size regulations for trout are a little different in Oregon than other states. Rather than a minimum size limit, they have a maximum.
If you are fishing in the northwest or southwest region of the state, any trout under 16 inches can be kept. Anywhere else in the state the fish must be under 20 inches.
Anti-snagging gear restrictions
Most anglers who have not targeted salmon or steelhead have never dealt with anti-snagging regulations. In the past, it was commonplace for an angler to use heavily-weighted treble hooks and drag them across the bottom, snagging any salmon or steelhead as they move up the river.
While effective, this method lacks a certain level of sportsmanship. It’s now frowned upon by anglers and advocates of healthy fish populations. To stop snagging; leader length, hook size, and weight restrictions have been put in place. Currently, Oregon’s regulations state that salmon and steelhead anglers must abide by the following criteria:
- Use of artificial fly, or lure with one hook point
- Hook gap must be 3/4” or less
- Hook must be attached to or below any bait
- Weights must be between 18” and 36” of the lowest hook attached to the leader
- The leader must remain vertical in the water column and not continuously dragging along the bottom.
Some areas may have additional regulations in an effort to stop snagging and protect spawning fish. One of the most common is a leader length limit. Before fishing a river for salmon or steelhead, be sure to check the regulations that apply to the specific body of water.
Oregon also labels many other fishing practices as unlawful that may be accepted in other areas. For example, it is illegal to angle for trout, salmon, shad, steelhead, whitefish, or sturgeon in non-daylight hours. This means you can legally only fish waters with these fish an hour before light until and an hour after dark.
You can’t use a gaff, spear or gig to catch any freshwater fish. Gaffs are also not allowed when landing steelhead or salmon. A net is the only landing aid allowed for use when fish are hooked with traditional angling methods.
Oregon obviously has many laws to protect their fish. It is why the state has remained the fishing destination it has been for so long. Abiding by the laws and regulations you can help preserve these special fisheries for generations to come.
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