Steelhead Fishing the Clackamas River

Having grown up on the Clackamas River I have seen a lot of changes in the river.  Over the years the run timings have changed, the pressure has changed and of course the river bed has changed.  Many years ago I used to catch bass and bluegill in ponds that became the new river channel in the 1996 flood.  As a river changes the angler needs to keep up to speed to be at best prepared for fishing success.  Here is a current breakdown of important aspects about fishing the Clackamas River for steelhead.

The Clackamas River has both hatchery and wild steelhead.  Various strains of steelhead are in the Clackamas River nearly year-round.  For our winter steelhead runs we basically have 3 strains to pay attention to.  First returning is the Eagle creek strain.  These fish return to the Eagle creek hatchery a tributary of the Clackamas river.  Prime time to catch these fish in the Clackamas river is from Dec 15th through January.  Our other steehead in the Clackamas are our wild steelhead.  These fish start into the river as early as December but are most prevalent in the months of Feb, Mar, April and into May.  These fish spawn in upper basin tributaries and some are main stem spawners.  Gravel reintroduction by PGE in 2012 should help restore some historic spawning areas that have had less than desirable gravel sizes for years.  The third strain of fish found on the Clackamas system are the broodstock steelhead.  These hardy fish are based off the wild run.  Wild fish are trapped at the Casadero dam fish trap and some are used for this hatchery program.  As it has been described to me by biologist Todd Alsbury these wild steelhead are live spawned and returned back into the river. The broodstock steelhead are released at various locations on the river. 

                                      (An early summer run from 2011- note maxillary clipping)

The other steelhead stock in the Clackamas system are our summer run fish.  This strain is called the Skamania summer run.  These are early returningsummer fish that often start showing up in March and then build into early June.  These are aggressive strong fighting fish.  They do not spawn until the following winter/spring and enter the river with a healthy layer of life sustaining fats.

The way we tell the difference in these stocks of fish is by the fin clippings.  Broodstock steelhead are currently only adipose fin clipped.  Hatchery summer steelhead are adipose and maxillary clipped and Eagle creek fish have an adipose and ventral fin clipped.

Clackamas River Video Clip:

For more information on fishing the Clackamas River visit our website:  or see other blog postings on this blog site. “The Tug is the Drug!”

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top