North and South Santiam River: Fish can be found throughout the river, but are more concentrated in the upper sections (Mehama to Packsaddle), where summer steelhead can find cooler water. Counts at Willamette Falls as of Sept. 17 show just over 22,000 summer steelhead had entered the upper basin. Of those, over 3,400 made it above Stayton on the North Santiam through Sept. 13.
The river is now closed to spring Chinook harvest. There is lots of spawning activity going on, especially around Packsaddle boat ramp. Please be careful when launching boats there and avoid stepping on to spawning beds or otherwise harassing spawning fish. In a very short time the coho will arrive, providing another opportunity to catch salmon. The first 169 coho have already passed the Willamette Falls fish ladder as of September 17, but only a handful have made it above the Bennett dams at Stayton. When the bite is on, bobbers and jigs are the preferred angling method with spoons, spinners and egg clusters also being effective. Currently the entire river below Packsaddle Park (near the Minto Fish Facility) is open to adipose fin-clipped steelhead and trout fishing and will remain open to Oct. 31.
River levels best for fishing are below 3,000 cfs at the Mehama gauge (currently the gauge is around 1,710 cfs).
North Fork - Flows in the South Santiam below Foster dam remain at 1,530 cfs as of Sept. 22 and should remain fairly stable for the short term. These are excellent conditions coinciding with the diminishing influx of new fish into the basin. As a reminder, spring Chinook fishing closed on Aug. 15 and will not reopen until Nov. 1. This is the peak spawning season for Chinook and anglers are asked to avoid areas where fish are actively spawning and not to step on to spawning beds so that these remarkable fish can complete their lifecycle.
Best sections to fish are from Wiley Creek to Pleasant Valley boat ramps, around Waterloo County Park, and from Lebanon down to the confluence with the North Santiam. As of Sept. 14 just under 3,000 summer steelhead had entered the fish ladder and nearly 2,450 were recycled back down river for another angler opportunity. The recycling has now ended for the year.