Steelhead Fishing Near Gresham, Oregon

Steelhead Fishing Near Gresham, Oregon

Gresham, Oregon, situated at the gateway to the majestic Columbia Gorge, offers anglers a unique steelhead fishing experience. The proximity to the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers, both renowned for their steelhead runs, makes Gresham a strategic starting point for anglers seeking the thrill of landing one of these prized fish. This essay explores the techniques, seasonal variations, and popular spots for steelhead fishing near Gresham, providing a detailed guide for the professional angler.

Understanding Steelhead in the Gresham Area

Steelhead, anadromous cousins of the rainbow trout, migrate from the Pacific Ocean to freshwater rivers to spawn. Near Gresham, the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers are primary habitats for these fish, hosting both winter and summer runs.

Seasonal Patterns of Steelhead Runs

  • Winter Run: Starting in late November and peaking through February, winter steelhead enter the rivers. These fish are typically larger and more aggressive, providing a challenging and rewarding experience for anglers.
  • Summer Run: Beginning in late spring and extending through early fall, summer steelhead are known for their acrobatic fights and endurance, offering a different set of challenges and tactics for fishermen.

Popular Steelhead Fishing Locations Near Gresham

  • The Sandy River: Accessible spots like Oxbow Regional Park and Dodge Park provide excellent entry points for anglers. The river's diverse habitat, including rapid currents and deep pools, caters to both fly fishing and conventional angling methods.
  • The Clackamas River: With multiple access points near Carver and Estacada, the Clackamas offers excellent steelhead fishing opportunities, particularly in the stretches below North Fork Reservoir.

Fishing Techniques for Steelhead

  • Fly Fishing: On the Sandy River, fly anglers often use spey rods to cast large streamers or nymphs. This technique is effective in covering the wide, swift sections of the river, especially during the summer run.
  • Drift Fishing: A common method for both rivers, drift fishing involves presenting bait, such as eggs or jigs, naturally with the river's current, mimicking the food sources of steelhead.
  • Plunking: Often used during higher water levels, plunking involves casting baited hooks into a stationary position in the river, waiting for steelhead to strike as they migrate upstream.
  • Swing Fishing: Using a sinking line to swing a lure or fly across the current can be particularly effective for aggressive winter steelhead, provoking strikes as the lure moves through their territory.

Conservation and Ethical Practices

Conservation is a critical aspect of steelhead fishing, especially given the species' declining numbers in some areas. Anglers are encouraged to practice catch and release, particularly with native fish, to help sustain the populations. Familiarity with and adherence to the regulations set by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), including season dates, bag limits, and gear restrictions, is essential for responsible fishing.


Steelhead fishing near Gresham, Oregon, offers a rich and dynamic angling experience. The confluence of the Sandy and Clackamas Rivers with their distinct steelhead runs provides a unique opportunity for anglers to test their skills across different seasons. By employing a variety of techniques and adapting to the seasonal behaviors of steelhead, anglers can experience the thrill of battling one of the most esteemed game fish in the Pacific Northwest. With a commitment to conservation and ethical fishing practices, the steelhead fishing legacy near Gresham will continue to thrive, offering future generations the same exhilarating experiences.

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