Linn County, in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley, offers wonderful fishing – everything from native trout in high mountain lakes to salmon and steelhead in the rivers, from bass in the lower ponds and lakes to kokanee in Green Peter and Detroit reservoirs. The county boasts six navigatable rivers and nearly 150 lakes and ponds, many open to the public.
Steelhead and Salmon
Depending on the year, fishing can be downright excellent for steelhead and salmon on the North and South Santiam and upper Willamette rivers. Since the South Santiam Fish Hatchery is located just below Foster Dam, in Sweet Home, the South Santiam River is one of the top rivers in the state to fish for summer steelhead and Chinook salmon that are returning to the hatchery where they were born and raised. Salmon average about 15 pounds, but can range up to 40. Anglers can fish from the banks below Foster Dam and around Pleasant Valley Bridge in Sweet Home, from Waterloo Park east of Lebanon, along with many other locations along the river. Driftboats also work well on the river.
Summer steelhead return from roughly March through October, with the peaks of the run occurring usually during late spring and early fall, with fish averaging about 6 pounds but ranging up to around 18. The North Santiam is also a major summer and winter steelhead river, with great fishing from spots such as North Santiam State Park and downstream from Big Cliff. It also has runs of coho salmon in the fall, in addition to the spring Chinook.
The best fishing methods are wading and bank fishing with flies above Detroit Lake or using fresh bait and lures below the dam.
Bass and Panfish
There are tales of lunker smallmouth bass lurking in the lower Calapooia, which enters the Willamette in Albany, and largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill, redear and green sunfish, warmouth, yellow perch, and bullhead and channel catfish may be found in ponds throughout the west end of the county, and at Sunnyside Park east of Sweet Home. Cheadle Lake in Lebanon has excellent populations of bass, bluegill, crappie and bullhead. Green Peter has one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in this area of the state., and the bass start biting both there and in Foster Lake as summer warms up the water.
Trout and Kokanee
The North and South Santiam, Willamette and upper McKenzie rivers have strong trout fisheries – particularly rainbows, which are stocked in all those streams each spring. Roaring River, in the north central county, also has a strong native cutthroat population and is stocked with rainbow trout – the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife raises rainbows at the Roaring River Hatchery. The North Santiam has native populations of rainbows and cutthroat, along with cutthroat-rainbow hybrids (Cuttbows) year round.
Green Peter, Foster and Detroit lakes are the largest in the county and are regularly stocked with rainbow trout by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Clear Lake, on the east end of the county, is also regularly stocked with rainbows and has a strong population of brook trout.
Foster Lake is stocked with more than 40,000 rainbow trout from April to June each year to accommodate year round trout and bass fishing. A small lake at Sunnyside Park is also stocked with trout, and also has bass, bullhead and bluegill. The lake at Sunnyside Park is a good place for young anglers. On Foster, boat angling is best April 1 to mid June and bank angling is popular below the dam at Wiley park on the south side of the river and at flat areas along the south side of the reservoir. Boat anglers can troll with spinners and use their boats to gain access to more isolated areas of the reservoir.
Detroit and Green Peter have large populations of kokanee, which are pursued by devoted specialists in that type of fishing. However, you don’t have to be an expert to catch kokanee. Join the fisherfolk at the south end of the dam, at Thistle Creek boat ramp, off the Whitcomb Bridge and other sites, and you might just catch your limit of the lucious miniature salmon. A word of warning to the uninitiated: Kokanee don’t like warm water and they tend to descend to the deeper portions of the lakes as summer turns up the heat. They spawn in tributaries, but the reservoir is also stocked with hatchery rainbow trout in the spring and has a healthy population of bass.
Both Detroit and Green Peter also have Chinook populations. Boat anglers can troll with spinners and use their boats to gain access to more isolated areas of the reservoir.
For more on fishing in the area, we recommend starting with the Mid-Valley Steelheaders website or one of our knowledgeable local outdoors stores.
For information on boating access to the bodies of water mentioned above, visit our Boating page.