Tillamook Bay

Captain Robert Gray crossed the bar at Tillamook Bay in the sloop Lady Washington August 14, 1788.  Captain Gray originally named Tillamook Bay, Murders Bay, after Indians killed one of his crewmen, but the bay was later renamed in honor of the Tillamook Indian Tribe.  The Indian word, “Tillamook” means land of many waters.  The Miami, Kilchis, Wilson, Trask and Tillamook Rivers flow into Tillamook Bay.

Tillamook Bay is the second largest and most accessible bay on the Oregon coast, because the bay is so accessible, recreational clam diggers, crabbers and fishermen are able to fulfill their expectations.  The Brad Dawson tidewater access facility is an example of just how recreational friendly Tillamook Bay is.  It is handicapped accessible and is located on the Netarts Highway at the confluence of the Tillamook River and South Fork of the Trask River. 

Fishing in the open ocean or in the jetty channel requires seaworthy boats and experienced skippers because the Tillamook bar is one of the most dangerous to cross.  More than one fisherman has lost his life while trying to cross the bar on an outgoing tide.  Seaworthy boats are required for safe boating inside the bay to deal with large wind generated waves.  Call the Coast Guard at 1-360-642-3565 for a report of local bar conditions and the extended marine forecast.  The Coast Guard also broadcasts bar conditions on VHF channels 16 and 22.  The following underlined areas of the Tillamook Bar as listed on the Web Page of the Oregon State Marine Board at www.boatoregon.com describes the dangerous tidal conditions that affect boating safety in the jetty channel or crossing the bar at Tillamook Bay. Scroll down to the section, Boating in Oregon's Coastal Waters and select your bay of interest. 

Bar area. The entire area between the beach and the 20-foot curve is bar area and breaks on the ebbing tide. The water runs out from four to six knots on the average and is very strong. Boaters proceeding out should stop in the channel east of the seaward end of the breakwater and carefully evaluate the bar. If you decide to cross, proceed out - but do not attempt to turn around if the bar is breaking.

North jetty. About 100 yards of the outer end of the north jetty is submerged. This area and the portion of the channel just south of it are extremely dangerous. Avoid the sunken jetty and use caution in the channel south of it.

Middle grounds. Shoaling makes this area unpredictable and hazardous; it should be avoided.

South jetty. About 100 yards of the outer end of the south jetty is submerged. Use caution and avoid the sunken jetty when entering or exiting.

Tillamook Bay channel lies just south of the north jetty. Navigate with extreme caution. This channel changes constantly because of continuous natural silting and scouring. Obtain up-to-date information on channel conditions from the Coast Guard or other authoritative local sources. Do not rely on the range markers without first inquiring whether they mark the present channel location.

  Fishing for bass and lingcod is excellent at the Dinner Reef and Three Arch Rocks.  The Dinner Reef is located just north of the Bell Buoy approximately ½ mile west of the entrance to Tillamook Bay.  Three Arch Rocks is located south of Tillamook Bay off of the City of Oceanside but boating is prohibited within 500 feet of Arch Rocks from May 1st through September 15th.  There is a lighted whistle buoy located 1.1 miles west of the north jetty.

  The salmon fishing regulations governing Tillamook Bay and the ocean outside of the bay are complex.  Currently the bay and the ocean are divided into two zones.  The (click to view pdf map and description) Tillamook Spring/Fall Chinook Terminal Area extends seaward 3 miles from lower Twin Rocks south to but not including Pyramid Rock.  The Tillamook Spring Chinook Terminal Area extends from the jetty tips seaward to the 15 fathom line offshore from Twin Rocks (45* 36' 54' N lat) to Pyramid Rock (45* 29' 48' N lat).

  Tillamook Bay has three channels of importance to the angler.  The south channel runs from Kincheloe Point along the bank inside of Crab Harbor in a southerly direction until it merges with the main channel.  The main channel is located halfway between Kincheloe Point and Hobsonville Point from a point opposite of the Coast Guard Station and runs up the middle of the bay until it merges with the south channel.  The south and main channels merge together at a point between the upper end of Larson Pond on the east shore and the Oyster Fish Haven on the west shore.  The Bay City channel runs from Garibaldi to Bay City.  Fishing in the south channel above Crab Harbor or in the main channel and above Bay City in the Bay City channel requires shallow draft boats with jet drives.

  The diversity of Tillamook Bay provides the angler with the opportunity to plan combination trips.  Set out crab pots in the early morning before daylight and fish for Chinook salmon during a high incoming tide in the lower tidal reach of the bay, or dig for clams and pump for sand shrimp in the lower bay during an outgoing minus tide and fish for perch on the incoming tide.  Being prepared to make the most of your opportunities can turn an ordinary outing into an exceptional one.

Chinook salmon return to Tillamook Bay during the spring, fall and in winter. The age class of the returning Chinook is usually comprised of high percentage of 5 year old fish followed by 4 year old and larger 6 year old fish.  Spring Chinook salmon begin returning to Tillamook Bay in May peaking in late May into early June but only fin clipped fish may be retained.  The highest number of spring Chinook are returning to the Trask and Wilson Rivers respectively with a smaller number straying into the Kilchis and Tillamook Rivers. Fish spring Chinook salmon in the lower bay using the same methods used fishing for fall Chinook salmon.

  Fall Chinook begin returning to the bay the last week of August increasing in September and peaking in October with the highest number of Chinook salmon returning to the Trask and Wilson Rivers respectively and fewer Chinook salmon returning to the Tillamook, Kilchis and Miami Rivers. During the fall run the early returning salmon are mostly returning to the Trask River.  After September 15th Chinook salmon begin returning to the Wilson and Tillamook Rivers.  A small number of Winter Chinook return in November and December to the Wilson River.Early during the spring and fall runs the best salmon fishing occurs in the ocean below the south jetty and to a lesser extent above the north jetty trolling a plug cut herring behind a herring dodger or flasher along the 20 or 30 foot curve north or south of the jetties.  During the peak of the runs the most productive fishing occurs in the lower bay trolling a plug cut herring with the incoming tide in the channel along the north jetty from the jetty jaws to Kincheloe Point. Troll a plug cut herring from late May through the middle of June and from the middle of September through the middle of October with the tide from west of the Coast Guard Station to Garibaldi up the Bay City channel through the Ghost Hole to Sandstone Point.  Once past the Ghost Hole add spinners and Kwikfish lures to the trolling mix through Bay City. Trolling for Chinook salmon in the south channel is not as popular as in the Bay City channel but can be as productive for Chinook returning to the Trask and Tillamook Rivers.  Troll in the south channel from Kincheloe Point through Crab Harbor to a point opposite of the Oyster Fish Haven with a plug cut herring.  The velocity of the tidal current in the lower bay requires sinkers 6 to 20 ounces tied to an 18 to 24 inch dropper to keep the bait in the Chinook’s strike zone.  

  Chinook salmon migrate upriver to the spawning grounds during high water years but in low water years they will mill around in the upper bay above Bay City before moving into the tidal reach of the river channels awaiting the freshets from spring or fall rains.  Troll in the upper bay from Memaloose Point through the Picket Fences or from the Oyster House Hole through the Sheep Corral to Bay City using spinners with green accents and rainbow colored spinner blade or with a 50–50 green or chartreuse and hammered brass blade, or bait wrapped Flatfish lures with a silver body and chartreuse head or Hot Tail finish.  Troll these baits next to the bottom utilizing light weight sinkers up to 2 ounce in the shallow water of the tidal flats and in the deepwater channels of the upper bay associated with the Bay City channel or the south channel.  Fish only in the Main channel or in the south channel above crab harbor to Boulder Point with local knowledge.  For information and fishing gear Tillamook Sporting Goods has it all.  

  The Trask and Wilson rivers are the largest rivers entering Tillamook Bay followed by the Kilchis, Tillamook and the Miami Rivers. The highest percentage of the Chinook salmon returning to Tillamook Bay are returning to the Trask and Wilson Rivers respectively with a lower percentage returning to the Tillamook River.  Fish for spring Chinook in the tidal reach of the Trask and Wilson River in June using the same tackle and methods used to fish for fall Chinook.  Fish for fall Chinook salmon holding in the lower tidal reach of the Trask River from early September and in the Tillamook River from mid September and in the Wilson River from early September; fishing through October.  Fish for winter run Chinook salmon in the lower tidal reach of the Wilson Riverfrom November into December. 

  The most productive fishing in the lower tidal reach of the Trask, Wilson and Tillamook Rivers occurs when the incoming tide coincides with daybreak.  Troll bait wrapped Flatfish lures with the incoming tide to intercept migrating fish or anchoring above the deeper holes and fish the lures near the bottom waiting for the fish to come to you.  After sunrise add a rainbow colored spinner and/or a spinner bait combination to the trolling mix and fish through high slack tide.  When the tide begins ebb drift with the outgoing tide back bouncing a walnut sized gob of salmon eggs topped with a sand shrimp along the bottom or bobber fish a walnut sized gob of salmon eggs suspended just off of the bottom.  Anchor above the deeper holes and bobber fish with salmon eggs and/or a sand shrimp during the outgoing tide through low slack tide, or depending of current velocity fish on the bottom with bait wrapped Flatfish lures, spinners, spinner bait combinations, Spin–N–Glos or with an assortment of wobblers.

Coho salmon return in September peaking in October and running into November.  Fish in the lower bay trolling either a whole herring, plug cut herring, a hoochie sweetened with a chunk of herring, streamer flies or with spinners in the upper half of the water column from the jetty jaws to Garibaldi.  The best fishing occurs in the upper bay occurs at high incoming tide from Bay City south trolling a rainbow, chartreuse or pink colored spinner or with a spinner bait combinations.  Most of the coho salmon are returning to the Trask River with smaller numbers returning to the Wilson and Tillamook Rivers.

Cutthroat trout return to the Wilson, Trask and Kilchis rivers from the middle of July into October with the highest percentage of cutthroat trout returning to the Trask River and a smaller but equal percentage returning to the Wilson and Kilchis Rivers.  The most productive fishing occurring in the tidal reach of the three rivers occurs from the middle of July through August trolling Doc Shelton spinners rigged with night crawlers or by casting spinners.

Black rockfish, copper rockfish and blue rockfish enter Tillamook Bay early as March but usually from April through October withdrawing from the bay during periods of heavy seasonal freshwater runoff in winter and into deeper water during the daylight hours.  Black rockfish are by far the dominate shallow water rockfish caught in the bay in declining numbers from along the north jetty to Barview, Garibaldi and the Larson Pond culvert.  The north jetty is the most productive location to fish for all three species of shallow water rockfish.  Copper rockfish are caught in declining numbers from the north jetty to Garibaldi.   The most productive fishing occurs in the jetty channel and in the lower bay during an incoming tide after sunset or at daybreak as the shallow water rockfish enter the bay to feed.  Remember if you’re going to fish in the jetty channel at night do so only on an incoming tide and when the ocean is clam. 

Pileperch, striped seaperch, redtail surfperch, walleye surfperch and white seaperch enter the bay with the tide during the spring in large numbers feeding heavily on intertidal animals.  Fishing ranges from fair to excellent through summer into fall depending on the tides, weather conditions and the amount of freshwater runoff entering the bay.  Striped seaperch are the dominant perch species in the lower bay and fishing for them at the Three Graces can be red hot on both the incoming and out going tides.  Fish for striped seaperch, pileperch, redtail surfperch and walleye surfperch from shore at the Three Graces, Hobsonville Point, the Ghost Hole or Sandstone Point.  Fishing in the Bay City channel, the main channel and the south channel is productive during both the incoming and outgoing tide.  The perch follow the channels with the tide up the bay to Bay City.

Kelp greenling, rock greenling and whitespotted greenling are year–round residents.  Statistically Tillamook Bay produces the highest catch rate for greenling for any of Oregon's bays.  Fishing is the best in the spring into summer and poorest during periods of heavy seasonal rainfall and flooding.  By far the best fishing is located in the rocky structure along the north jetty followed by Barview and the Larson Pond culvert with a smaller number being caught in the structure associated with the Port of Garibaldi.

Lingcod fishing improves along the north jetty and the Barview jetty from late January with the best fishing occurring from late February to early April along the north jetty followed by Barview Jetty.  The slowest fishing occurs from May through December.

Cabezon fishing along the north jetty ranges from poor to fair throughout the year.  Angler should concentrate fish during the peak of the spawning period from February into March.  Fishing for cabezon over the submerged portion of the north jetty is exceptional from early spring but it should only be attempted when the ocean is flat calm.  

White sturgeon are present in the bay for most of the year.  The catch ratio of keeper sturgeon caught for the number of hours fished is the highest of Oregon's bays.  Sturgeon enter Tillamook Bay in December.  The best fishing is from the middle of December through May with the emphasis in February and March.  The fishing in the bay declines during June and July and is slow until December.  The most productive time to fish is during the last two hours of the outgoing tide through low slack tide.  Fish with mud and/or sand shrimp in the holes, shallow depressions or along the slope of the banks associated with the south, main or Bay City channels, the Sheep Coral or the area from the Picket Fence to Memaloose Point.  Fish in the shallow depressions and holes associated with the tidal reach of the river channels of the Wilson, Trask and Tillamook rivers.  The fishing declines in the bay as the sturgeon move into the tidal reach of the Tillamook River and to a lesser extent into the Wilson and Trask Rivers.  The fishing in the Tillamook River is usually consistent from July through September and at times through October into November but is sporadic in the Wilson and Trask Rivers.  Call the area’s tackle shops to find the area of the bay with the hot bite. 

Sand Sole enter Tillamook Bay in small numbers from April through August.

Bank fishing – Fish for Chinook salmon and white sturgeon off the back of the large wooden deck at the Brad Dawson tidewater access facility and from the turnouts along the road that parallels the Tillamook River.  Walk to Crab Harbor and fish for salmon and perch along the south channel in Crab Harbor via the Bayocean Road.  Fish for salmon in the lower reach of the Trask River at the Hospital Hole by driving west on Third Street to the green trailer and paying a nominal fee.  Fish for salmon, perch or sturgeon from the Ghost Hole Turnout at milepost 58.6 on Highway 101.  Fish for perch on either side of the culvert to Larson Pond, at Sandstone Point, Hobsonville Point which is located at milepost 58.0 and at the Three Graces, which is located at Milepost 54.4. 

Crabbing in Tillamook Bay has a reputation for excellence from summer through fall.  Crabbing is productive in the channels and troughs associated with the south and main channel from Crab Harbor seaward around the bend off of Kincheloe Point and on both sides of the channel between the Painted Rocks and Barview.  Crab pots must be closely attended because of the velocity of the tidal current.  

Clam digging at Garibaldi (area A) in Tillamook Bay is most popular digging area found in any of Oregon's Bays.  The most productive digging for bay clams occurs seaward from the 12th street fishing pier. Access to this area can be obtained through the boat basin or from the parking area at the end of 12th St.  The lower half of the bay offers all species of bay clams.  Using a boat is the best way to access isolated clam beds in the bay.  The upper bay is home to softshell clams   Avoid areas with soft mud.  Dig only in areas with solid footing.  Some razor clams are dug from the north end of area G, and some razor clams are dug on the ocean beach on the Bayocean Peninsula.

Bayocean Peninsulais located west of the City of Tillamook on the Bayocean Road.  The peninsula is located north of Cape Mears between the ocean and Tillamook Bay.  To access the south jetty of Tillamook Bay and the ocean side of the Bayocean Peninsula follow the Bayocean Peninsula Road to the end of the road, park and walk to the desired destination. The fishing for redtail surfperch ranges from fair to excellent and digging for razor clams is rated fair at best on the ocean side of the Bayocean Peninsula northward from Cape Mears Beach. 

Tillamook Bay Jetty – The south jetty is accessed via Bayocean Peninsula Road.  Drive to the end of the road, park and walk out to the jetty.  It is about a mile walk to the South Jetty.  The best salmon fishing is from the south jetty because the salmon accumulate in the ocean behind the South Jetty prior to entering the bay.  Fish from either the ocean side or the bayside of the jetty for salmon and rockfish.  The fishing for all perch species is excellent from the South Jetty or from ocean side of the Bayocean Peninsula.  The Bar View Jetty is the north jetty of Tillamook Bay.  

The Barview Jetty produces the highest catch ratio of fish caught per angler of any jetty on the Oregon Coast according to the local fishermen.  The jetty extends 800 yards seaward.  The western most 80 yards of the jetty is submerged.  To access the Barview Jetty drive north from Garibaldi on Highway 101 take the Barview Jetty exit. Park and walk out to the jetty or drive through the county and park.  The Barview Jetty is more accessible than the south jetty.  The fishing for rockfish is more productive off of the Barview Jetty than from the south jetty.  The jetty channel runs deeper along the Barview Jetty than it does along the south jetty. The Barview Jetty is the access point to the southern section of Rockaway Beach located just north of the entrance to Tillamook Bay.  The fishing is excellent for perch from the Barview Jetty or for redtail surfperch from the southern section of Rockaway Beach.  

Pier’s End Public Fishing Pier is located in Garibaldi via 12th Street. The crabbing and fishing is good to excellent depending on the season, weather and the tides. The public fishing pier at the end of 7th street is good for crabbing and fishing.

The Tillamook Bay boat launch on the south shore at Memaloose Point is located west on the Netarts Hwy then right on Bayocean Rd to the boat launch.  The North shore boat launch is located at the Port of Garibaldi and the Garibaldi Marina on 7th Street.  Access the tidal reach of the Kilchis River by launching the boat at Parks Landing on the Kilchis River Road.  Access the tidal reach of the Wilson River by launching the boat launch Sollie Smith on the Wilson River Loop RD. Access the tidal reach of the Trask River in Tillamook at either Carnahan Park located at the end of Fifth Street or at Marine Park located off Highway 101 at Hoquarton slough.  Access the tidal reach of the Tillamook River by launching the boat at the Big Barn Marina on the Netarts Highway. 

Internet links of Interest for the Port of Garibaldi:

Click HERE for the 10 day weather forecast for Garibaldi.

Click 2011 or 2010 to view the NOAA tidal projections at the Barview Jetty.

Click 2011 or 2010 to view the tide table at Garibaldi. Scroll down the desired month.

Click HERE to see the navigation hazards for crossing the Tillamook Bay Bar or Click HERE to see the Chartlette for the lower Tillamook Bay.

Click HERE to see the reported navigtional hazards for Oregon's Waterways. Do your part by reporting hazards to navigation. If you notice a boating hazard, The State Marine Board want to know!  They have created The Boating Hazard Report and Response Form. The form is easy to fill out and mail or email to them.  Pictures do speak 1000 words, so if you can, submit a photo of the hazard as well.

Click HERE to view a detailed hourly forcast for weather, wind and surf conditions on the northern Oregon Coast.

Click HERE to view the Marine Forecast for the northern Oregon Coast.

Click on the Northwest River Levels to view the height of the river levels for Northwest Oregon.

Click HERE to view the height of the river level for the Wilson River at the Sollie Smity Bridge.

Click HERE to view the height of the river level for the Track River at above Cedar Creek near Tillamook.

Click HERE to view the Tillamook County Park at Barview.

Click HERE to view the Tillamook County Park website..

Return to Fishing in Oregon's Bays.