Driftboat fishing for salmon and steelhead on the north Oregon Coast

A guided driftboat trip for salmon or steelhead in the Tillamook area is one of the most majestic and sought after experiences a Tillamook fishing guide can offer. Drifting down one of the local rivers in Tillamook is simply magical. Our rivers are beautiful, lush and green, running bank-full with steelhead green water, waiting for your drifted baits or back trolled plugs, where the Tillamook’s largest salmon and steelhead return to our rivers. The Trask, Wilson and Kilchis Rivers are just 3 of the 5 rivers that drain into Tillamook Bay, all teeming with fresh, mint-bright salmon and steelhead for your Tillamook area guide to put you on top of.

Your Tillamook fishing guide rows you down the river, making for a very peaceful and productive experience in the Tillamook district. Without the distraction of a motor (motors are banned for expansive reaches on each of these Tillamook area rivers), your Tillamook fishing guide can stealthily put you on top of resting salmon and steelhead in any one of the scores of pools and riffles that these fish lie in wait. Hooking a Tillamook salmon or steelhead often offers explosive results, with fresh, silver-sided salmon or steelhead cartwheeling out of the water, trying to escape the angler’s grasp. It’s an experience so many fishermen long for, and one that will last the angler for a lifetime.

Many fishermen, including your Tillamook area fishing guides, caught their first salmon or steelhead on one of these Tillamook area streams. For Tillamook fishing guide Bob Rees, the Wilson River was responsible for giving up his first winter steelhead. After two years of effort, Bob caught his steelhead in pursuit of fall Chinook, using a large cluster of eggs just upstream of Sollie Smith Bridge. Bob’s first fall Chinook came from the Nestucca River tidewater, a whopping 35-pounder that took a casted spinner. Tillamook fishing guide Rob Gerlitz has had numerous memorable fishing days on Tillamook area streams. Rob has pursued winter steelhead and Chinook salmon on the Wilson, Kilchis and Trask River systems for decades, landing countless chrome bright fish throughout the year.

  • Tillamook fishing guide trips

    in the district have changed in recent years. Historically, steelhead started to run just on the heels of fall Chinook, jump starting around Thanksgiving.

  • The Tillamook steelhead programs

    had fish returning in earnest between Thanksgiving and mid-January, largely due to out-of-basin stocks of fish that had earlier return timing.

  • With the implementation of wild broodstock programs,

    Tillamook fishing guides and anglers catch authentically wild steelhead, transfer them into holding tanks until they are ready to spawn (usually April or May), rear their offspring in a local area hatchery, and release them as juveniles so anglers have a chance of catching them when they return as adults.

This effort has been a successful cooperative effort between Tillamook fishing guides and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to produce high quality steelhead that provide excellent Tillamook area steelhead opportunities throughout the winter and spring months. Hatchery steelhead to 20 pounds are once again a possibility, and have been a reality with the implementation of the wild broodstock programs, truly a success story.

Run timing for Tillamook area steelhead now goes from Thanksgiving on rivers such as the Nestucca (Three Rivers), Nehalem (North Fork Nehalem) and Wilson, through mid-April on these same rivers, along with the Trask, Kilchis, Miami and Tillamook Rivers. Your Tillamook fishing guide will often travel out of the district to rivers like the Necanicum near Seaside and Siletz near Lincoln City. Although winter steelhead on these Tillamook area streams runs for over 5 months out of the year, the peak months for winter steelhead are mid-January through mid-April, making for fantastic opportunity for Tillamook fishing guides to get their clients onto quality steelhead.

Fall Chinook are also running strong from mid-September through December and can offer a nice combination trip in November and December. A Tillamook guided fishing trip for fall Chinook and steelhead makes for the ultimate opportunity during these months, and can provide an incredible bounty for the catch and keep angler. Catching the Tillamook area’s largest anadromous salmon species, the fall Chinook, from a driftboat, is the ultimate experience.

The Wilson, Trask and Kilchis Rivers free flow from the temperate rain forest of the Tillamook State Forest, one of the most productive “fish factories” of the Pacific Northwest. Tillamook area wild salmon and steelhead are hatched and reared in one of these Tillamook Bay tributaries or the scores of smaller streams that feed the Wilson, Trask or Kilchis River systems. Juveniles then go to sea for several years before returning as adult silver-sided salmon or steelhead for your Tillamook area fishing guide to put you on top of. Each species of salmon or steelhead have their own unique life history that has repeated itself for thousands of years.

  • The Trask River hatchery near Gold Creek also produces abundant and healthy returns of coho

    fall and spring Chinook and our beloved winter steelhead at their facility about 20 miles upstream from the mouth of the river. Besides the abundant hatchery winter steelhead that return to the Wilson, Trask and Nestucca systems, all of the Tillamook area rivers and streams realize abundant returns of wild steelhead during the winter and spring months. Wild steelhead are required to be released, but up to two hatchery steelhead may be retained, and if conditions are good, limits can certainly be had. There is no greater prize than a pair of silver-sided steelhead ready for your home-pack and freezer for your family to enjoy.

  • Steelhead are held up on a high pedestal by sportanglers across the nation

    These majestic fish are challenging to catch, but their sleek but muscular bodies as well as their acrobatic maneuvers make them unparalleled in fight and vigor. Steelhead also make excellent table fare as their light orange, fat-laden, mild flavored flesh are excellent on the grill or in the oven. Fresh fish are hard to come by during the winter months, winter steelhead make fresh fish a great option before other fisheries on the west coast kick-off.

  • Your Tillamook fishing guide will match the gear with your quarry

    Although these fresh-run steelhead often eclipse 12 or 15 pounds in weight, your guide prides himself on making your trip epic in every way. Tillamook fishing guides often match these steelhead with light spinning gear, which is not only essential when casting our light offerings, but it produces an epic battle between angler and fish. Your rod is likely to bend to the cork with an angry steelhead trying desperately to escape. Light lead, light line and subtle baits often produce the best results for these savvy and stealthy steelhead. That’s also why approaching these fish in a driftboat is also the most productive method available.

Tillamook fishing guides also love to backtroll plugs for these steelhead. This is the perfect technique for those not so interested in casting for steelhead all day. Backtrolling is a relaxing and productive method that produces explosive strikes that surprise both angler and steelhead. Your Tillamook fishing guide must know precisely how to position your gear where waiting steelhead hold. The plugs act as an invader to these very territorial steelhead, inciting them into striking your lure with ferocity, making for an epic battle. This is often the technique that takes the big fish, as they are especially territorial when entering fresh water. Backtrolling plugs is a fan favorite, for both the angler and your Tillamook fishing guide. We use light rods for this technique as well, so you feel connected with the fish that will take you for a ride of a lifetime.

Winter steelheading is special for so many reasons. First of all, your Tillamook fishing guide will strongly recommend that you dress for the weather. Wet and cold conditions require proper clothing and raingear to make your day comfortable. This climate also keeps out other, more fair-weather fishermen that will wait for spring or summer months to recreate. Although winter steelheading is a highly sought after experience, the guided angler will still thoroughly enjoy your serene experience in pursuit of winter steelhead on one of the local Tillamook area streams.

Floating down one of the local Tillamook area rivers in pursuit of steelhead is more than a fishing experience. Bald eagles, deer, elk, kingfishers and mergansers are also frequent visitors to the river’s banks. Floating down an emerald green river offers its own unique experience, one synonymous with the serene over-all experience you’ll have with your Tillamook fishing guide. Keep an eye out as you float through the tail-outs, often times you’ll see steelhead that declined your offering or large spawning salmon that have no interest in your bait or plugs as they propagate the next generation of salmon. The rivers are also filled with beautiful coastal cutthroat trout that often provide a sporting experience. They often spawn in February and are aggressive enough in their own right during the winter and spring months. They too are for catch and release only.

These unique fishing experiences are much more than a paycheck to your Tillamook fishing guide. We are not only stewards to your Tillamook fishing experience, we are stewards to this unique and finite resource. We’ve spent countless hours advocating for improved water quality and land use policies, to protect this resource for future generations of anglers and the plethora of other plants and animals dependent on this keystone species. Your Tillamook fishing guide understands that this resource is worth defending as the angling community is often the first to sit on the sidelines during an emergency closure, but last to realize the benefits of this resource as these fish dodge other predators along their long and perilous journey to the ocean and back. Seals, sea lions, mergansers, loons, cormorants, sharks, orca whales and high seas fishermen all snare our Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead in near and far away places. It’s our job as Oregon fishing guides to continue to fight to ensure returning salmon and steelhead escape to the spawning grounds, and provide opportunity to Oregon fishing enthusiasts.

It’s the job of your Tillamook fishing guide to make sure your experience is a positive one. From booking your trip through processing your catch, it’s in our best interest to make sure you leave with a lasting and positive impression on all that Oregon has to offer. We consider ourselves ambassadors to Oregon and its bounty of natural resources so that you too, feel invested in a future where we all get to enjoy abundant and healthy returns of salmon and steelhead to the Pacific Northwest. We’re proud of our long and storied heritage here in Oregon, and we want to pass this pride along to our customers and our children.

Steelhead Fishing

We are proud and local Oregonians with a long history of fishing for the salmon and steelhead of the Tillamook watershed. With thousands of fishing trips under our belts, we’re prepared and excited to host you as our guests on your Tillamook fishing guided experience. The salmon and steelhead of the Tillamook basin are unique and special. From the 12-inch coastal cutthroat trout to the 35-pound massive fall Chinook we know the ins and outs of these fisheries and look forward to sharing them with you. We want you to go away from our treasured corner of Oregon, telling your family and friends of experiences we will never take for granted and more importantly, tell them that they too should come and experience all that Oregon has to offer.

Whether you catch fish or not, you will have an incredible experience with your Tillamook fishing guide. Rob and Bob look forward to teaching you about out fish and our fisheries, and share the same experiences with you, that hooked them on salmon and steelhead fishing in the Tillamook region. We take your experience personally, and hope to make memories for you and your family that will last a lifetime, experiences that can never be duplicated anywhere else in the world.