Nestucca Bay is one of the jewels of the Three Capes Scenic Loop. The beauty of Oregon's tenth largest bay provides the visitor a vision of things to come as they travel north on the Three Capes Scenic Loop. The bay is very shallow and dominated by tidal flats. Each fall the shallow water of the tidal flats attracts thousands of migrating waterfowl. The bar at the entrance to Nestucca Bay is dangerous to cross. Not at anytime should the small boater attempt to cross the bar. You should only crab or fish in the lower bay on a high incoming tide because the speed of the current from a strong outgoing tide can pull a small boat into the surf at the bar capsizing the boat. Local anglers refer to Nestucca River as the Big Nestucca or the big river and to the Little Nestucca River as the little river. The Nestucca Basin is renowned for its premier fishing for Chinook salmon, steelhead and searun cutthroat trout.
Chinook salmon return to Nestucca River during the spring, summer and in the fall. Chinook salmon return to Little Nestucca River only during the fall. The majority of the Chinook salmon returning in the fall returns to the big Nestucca River.
The spring run of Chinook salmon begins about the first week of May peaking in late May early June and running through June. The catch rate averages 890 fish per year and is comprised of a high percentage of mature 5 year old fish. Some anglers' fish for spring Chinook salmon in the lower bay trolling a plug cut herring, but most fish in the river above the head of tidewater.
Spring Chinook unlike their fall cousins spend very little time in tidewater. Some Chinook may hold briefly at the head of tidewater at Cloverdale, while others continue upriver to the spawning grounds. The spring Chinook salmon’s exception to their fall behavioral pattern of tidewater
The summer run fish enter the bay in late July peaking in August. The average catch rate is 257 acclamation provides anglers with the opportunity to fish for upriver bright salmon whose flesh is still at its optimum quality. Drifting the Nestucca River from Farmer’s Creek to either Three Rivers or the Cloverdale boat launch is the best way to fish for spring Chinook salmon above the head of tidewater. Fish for spring Chinook back trolling or back bouncing eggs and sand shrimp or with bait wrapped Flatfish lures. Bobber fish in the deeper holes with a walnut sized gob of salmon eggs with sand shrimp. Anchor above the deeper holes and fish on the bottom using bait wrapped Flatfish lures, spinners, spinner bait combinations, bait sweetened SpinNGlos, an assortment of wobblers or a combination of salmon eggs and sand shrimp. fish per year. The summer run fish follow the fall run’s behavioral pattern of freshwater acclamation. Fish for them using the same angling methods used for fall Chinook.
Fall Chinook salmon begin to return about the end of August, peaking in September into October. The average catch rate for fall Chinook is 3150 fish per year and is comprised of a high percentage of mature 5 year old fish. The best fishing for newly arriving fall Chinook salmon occurs in the lower bay during the incoming tide of the major tidal exchange of spring tides or
neap tides especially when the incoming tide coincides with sunrise or sunset. The next most productive fishing period occurs at sunrise or sunset during the incoming tide of the minor tidal exchange in the daily tidal cycle. Daybreak is that magical time of day when Chinook salmon bite the best. Be sure to have the bait in the water one half hour before sunrise. Fishing is most productive from ½ hour before sunrise to midmorning and from late afternoon until ½ hour after sunset. Early in the run troll a plug cut herring with the incoming tide through high slack tide or with the outgoing tide from Cannery Hill seaward in the channel paralleling the east shore to the bar. The velocity of the tidal current in the lower bay requires the use of heavy sinkers up to 12 ounces to keep the bait in the Chinook’s strike zone.
During the peak of the run fish downstream from Pacific City to the northern most point of Cannery Hill then seaward to the bar or from the boat launch in the Little Nestucca arm of the bay to Cannery Hill then seaward. Early on troll with a plug cut herring, followed later by trolling spinners, spinner bait combinations or with bait wrapped Flatfish lures with the incoming high tide through high slack tide and with the outgoing tide. Later in the run troll spinners, spinner bait combinations or bait wrapped Flatfish lures with the incoming tide through high slack tide from Pacific City to Big Bend. Anchor and fish with wobblers or bobber fish using eggs, sand shrimp or a combination of eggs and sand shrimp or fish in the deeper holes down river from Big Bend to the Pacific City boat ramp during the last two hours of the outgoing tide. Troll with the incoming tide from Pacific City to the ODFW boat ramp at the head of tidewater in Cloverdale or back bounce or back troll with the outgoing tide fishing with bait wrapped Flatfish lures, spinners or spinner bait combinations. Bobber fish using a free sliding bobber drifting a walnut sized gob of salmon eggs topped with sand shrimp along the bottom in the deeper holes in the upper tidal reach above Big Bend during the out going tide. Accent the salmon eggs and sand shrimp with a small length of pink, red, chartreuse or orange yarn.
Coho salmon begin returning to Nestucca Bay in September peaking in October and running through November. In some years they may enter the bay latter peaking in November. The best fishing occurs early in the run in the lower bay below Pacific City trolling with plug herring, hoochies or streamer flies behind a flasher and a wire spreader. Troll with the incoming tide from the entrance of the bay to the bridge over the Big Nestucca River. Troll in the upper bay with the outgoing tide from the Woods Bridge seaward and in the little river from the Highway 101 bridge seaward trolling with rainbow, chartreuse or pink colored spinners or with spinner bait combinations.
Cutthroat trout return to Nestucca Bay in late July or early August but historically searun cutthroat trout entered the bay as early as May. Fishing for cutthroat is productive along the entire tidal reach of the big and little rivers. Fish in the big river from the Woods Bridge seaward or in the little river from the Highway 101 Bridge seaward trolling Doc Shelton spinners rigged with a night crawler or by casting spinners. Fish in the tidal reach of the big and little rivers above the Woods and Highway 101 Bridges trolling Doc Shelton spinners rigged with a night crawler, casting spinners or by anchoring above the deeper holes and fishing on the bottom with night crawlers or by casting spinners.
Striped seaperch, pileperch, redtail surfperch and walleye surfperch enter the bay in late spring. Schools of perch move onto the tidal flats feeding heavily on intertidal animals. The fishing ranges from poor to fair through fall depending on the tides, weather conditions and the number of perch entering the bay. Historically fishing for perch is slow in Nestucca Bay. Fish for perch along the channel adjacent to the eel grass beds on either side of the bay from the mouth of the bay to the confluence of the Big and Little Nestucca Rivers at Cannery Hill. The best fishing for perch occurs at the deep hole on the north shore slightly east of the confluence of the Nestucca and Little Nestucca.
White sturgeon enter Nestucca Bay in small numbers beginning in December. The best fishing occurs from December through June but is sporadic at best. The sturgeon fishery is the least productive of any of Oregon's large bays. The best time to fish for sturgeon is two hours before low tide through low slack. Start fishing at the Airport Hole located below the Pacific City boat ramp and work upstream from there. Sturgeon have been caught by anglers while fishing for perch the deep hole associated with the tidal flat on the north shore slightly east of the confluence of the Nestucca and Little Nestucca. Mud and/or sand shrimp are the most productive bait. The sturgeon fishery is a small one that is of interest to local anglers only.
Clam digging in Nestucca Bay is limited to the harvest of softshell clams on the east shore above the Little Nestucca River along Brooten Road and on the west shore near the entrance to the bar. Using a boat to access the clam bed is best way to access the clam beds.
Crabbing in Nestucca Bay is not as productive as Oregon's other large bays and ranges from fair to good at best from spring to early fall in the lower half of the bay in the deeper water near the entrance at the bar.
Bank Fishing for salmon is accessible from the public boat launches at the head of tidewater in Cloverdale and upstream at the confluence of Three Rivers and Farmer Creek from the Pacific City boat ramp or the at the boat ramp or on south shore of the Little Nestucca River with a bobber using eggs, sand shrimp or a combination of eggs and sand shrimp or with spinners. Michell's Shells and Bait Shop at 503-965-0031 in Pacific City can direct you to landowners that allow public access.
NestuccaBayboat launches are located in the Little Nestucca arm of the bay and in the lower tidal reach of the Big Nestucca River. The boat launch in the Little Nestucca arm of Nestucca Bay is located by turning east onto Meda Loop just south of the Highway 101 bridge over the Little Nestucca River. There are three boat launches located in the lower tidal reach of the Big Nestucca River There is an unimproved boat launch located on Brooten Road approximately ½ mile south of Pacific City. The Pacific City Ramp is located on the west shore of the Nestucca River on the Nestucca Bay Sand Spit. There is a boat launch located at the County Park in Woods. To access the upper tidal reach the Nestucca River launches the boat at Cloverdale. To access the in the river above the head of tidewater launch the boat at the mouth of Three Rivers or at Farmer’s Creek.
Internet Links Of Interest For Nestucca Bay
Click HERE for the 10 day weather forecast for Pacific City.
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 Nestucca River near Beaver.
Click HERE to view the navigational hazards of concern for crossing the bar at Nestucca Bay or the Salmon River Estuary.
Return to Fishing in Oregon's Bay.