I hit the upper Willamette with Portlandrain on Memorial Day


Well-known member
Most Featured
We decided to meet at Newberg at 6am (at my suggestion). I got there a little first and saw a sign saying "Ramp closed for boat races". I could not believe it. I was just texting @portlandrain to let him know when he showed up. We decided that we would head to Willamette Park in West Linn where the Tualatin dumps in. On the drive there we crossed the Willamette and it was glassy looking and inviting. It was a real shock to get to the ramp at Willamette Park and be met with a pretty stiff breeze. It was like night and day. I decided that the goal for the day was to cover water, learn about the area and hopefully grind out some fish.

Nothing like fishing new water in the kayak in tough boat control conditions. We got unpacked and launched and headed upriver. Since I was still not sure what phase the bass were in I started by fishing near the weeds that start just upstream from the boat ramp. I was tossing a light jerkbait and it was a little challenging in that wind. In the first hour I picked up 5 dinks (one was largemouth which was cool) but this was clearly not the winning spot nor pattern.

@portlandrain suggested that we head up to the rock island area but since I wanted to learn the area I stupidly suggested that we head across the river and work the bank on the way up. Turns out most of that bank is not all that interesting. We finally found a relatively isolated rock formation and I was really excited since often an isolated structure like that is a magnet for fish. The rocks went from close to shore out to at least 20'. It really looked pretty good. I may have had one bite, but I think that was wishful thinking and @portlandraincaught a couple of smallies fishing shallower than me. I am not sure what depth he was in but I was targeting 10-15' and he was inshore from me casting near a barge/dock.

After that round of disappointment, we continued to fish our way up towards rock island and maybe we caught a fish or two, but that was big waste of time. I did not learn anything all that useful and we wasted a couple of hours.

Once we got up to rock island we started fishing what turned out to be the least productive arm (which I again suggested, definitely a pattern here). After putting in a lot of effort for very little fish we went to the arm @portlandrain had suggested and that was the deal. We both started catching fish. He was throwing a small tube and I was throwing a square bill. At first, I was throwing towards visible rocks and that was just an exercise in lure cleaning so instead of tossing towards the bank I moved a little deeper (4-6') and made parallel casts to the shore. That started to produce for me and I picked up a half a dozen fish by going over a rocky point/reef that was really only a couple of feet shallower than the surrounding water. These fish were better sized than the dinks I was catching earlier and @portlandrain caught a 2.5lb beauty!

However, since I did want to learn more about the area I thought I would head to the other side of the river to check it out. I am impressed with the amount of current in that area! I made it across to what I thought was a cove, but it turns out that it is just a side channel for an island. I had not looked at any maps for this area since we were going to Newberg :)

I fished a little bit and then just went back and forth across the river a bit in my kayak to map out some of the bottom. I have to say that I am a huge fan of Garmin's quickdraw (I assume the other vendors live mapping are equally compelling). Finally, I decided to get back to fishing in earnest. I fished the seem of a few huge boulders that were out in the current and started to catch some fish on a slider jig head with a 4" zoom dead ringer (one of my favorite pieces of plastic).

At that point, I decided to head back into the arm that we found productive (and where @portlandrain caught his nice fish). I had only fished close to the mouth earlier. While I was exploring the other side my friend worked his way up the arm. I caught up with him at the end of the day and he stayed productive with his tube. By the time I started fishing that arm I knew I was fishing water that had been fished hard by at least 3 or 4 other people.

I thought about the success I had on the reef-like structure earlier. That section had no visible indication of there being anything interesting there but the rocks that stuck up there were both a little shallower and rougher looking on the sonar. So thinking on that I just started working my way trying to keep my lure in 4-6' of water. That worked for me. I had very few bites on obvious structures but would occasionally find mini-reef/points what had more texture to them and those were my productive spots. I could usually catch a couple of fish off each one. I was basically covering seemingly uninteresting with the slider head and dead ringer and letting the fish tell me when I was getting to something interesting and then slowing down and fishing thoroughly. More of these fish were in the 1lb range.

I still occasionally picked up the squarebill and jerkbait but it was definitely a finesse show for me.

So, while not a great day for quality of fish and a day with some long periods of no fish, I feel like I did learn something about that area and was able to, by copying my friend, end up with a pretty fun day. The other cool thing for the day is that 4 of the bass that I caught were largemouth. They all came on the jerkbait. Biggest one was probably 11 or 12" but still fun to catch them out of the Willamette. I think I have only caught one or two largemouth in the lower Willamette.

Overall, I ended up with 28 bass, but that is a bit misleading since well over half of them were dinks. My biggest of the day was maybe 15" and that fish stood out from the rest of mine for its size. The 2.5lber @portlandrain caught was probably feeding on the ones I was catching.

Anyway it is always great to be on the water and I made a new fishing friend and you can't do better than that!
Last edited by a moderator:


Well-known member

I always read your stuff. My first house was in the Ardenwald area of Milwaukie and I used to fish Rock Is. all the time from the bank. Learned all the hidden trails to the ponds in the middle of the main Is. Don't know if some of them are there anymore. The arm nearest the Tracks was the best, although there were many spots back then and not much pressure. I haven't been there in about 5 years, took my Grand kids there. Looked pretty beat up. I have been thinking of putting in at the same boat launch with my DB and doing it from the water for a change.


Well-known member
Most Featured
@EOBOY If you want any detailed information check with @portlandrain . He knew the area well, I was just a tourist :)

FYI, there were 3 groups of bank fishing folks there by the time I made it towards the back.
Nice write up, as usual, @bass! That was a fun day. It started pretty slow but it seems the air temps were directly tied to the bite after a chilly night. As the afternoon warmed up the fish became much more willing. What I noticed was that the bite was very soft while fishing my tube jig. The one big girl I caught just picked it up and sat there. I didn't realize I had anything until I picked up my line to hop it and actually thought I was snagged. I tugged a bit and she took off, pulling out a decent bit of drag on a few short runs. She had the jig down pretty deep, so she definitely wanted to eat it, but she was gonna take her time!

@EOBOY that arm is the one I've had success in several times, but it was heavily pressured on Monday. We caught plenty of fish there but only the one was of any size. I saw a boat with two guys and a canoe with two guys back up in there, as well as plenty of foot prints on the bank. Overall I think that area gets a lot of pressure, but the beauty of a kayak is that the boats can't get in all the little spots. The one big girl was tucked away in a corner where you'd have to cross rocks only about a foot deep. A drift boat may be able to get at some of those spots too.


Well-known member
Most Featured
Definitely great fishing with you @portlandrain

I am not sure if the slow bite was due to the chilly night or just fishing in the wrong place at first. I was going to stop and fish the bay where the big T dumps in again on the way back, but by the time I got back the wind had picked back up and I was too whooped to fight that again :)

I definitely agree with the softness of the bite. For the most part I felt the fish on the line when I went to move the bait rather than being able to see the line jump when they picked it up. I think it was exacerbated by the wind, which even when it died down was still there to some degree.
Top Bottom