Sea Monsters! The 10 Biggest Trophy Fish Ever Caught in Oregon

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: October 13, 2022
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Oregon is known for its legendary trout and salmon fishing. With miles of coastal bays to the Columbia River there are pockets of epic fishing throughout the state. Besides trout and salmon there is excellent bass, catfish and walleye fishing as well. Are the fish in Oregon really bigger than other parts of the country? Read on to find out the 10 biggest trophy fish ever caught in Oregon.  

10) Bull Trout: 23 pounds 2 ounces

Bull Trout
Although not particularly common in the wider US, bull trout are often caught in Oregon

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Not surprising that the first five fish on our list are either trout or salmon! Bull trout are a less common trout in the US being limited to the Pacific Northwest in states like Oregon. They look very similar to Arctic Chars or Dolly Vardens but they are typically bigger.

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The biggest bull trout ever caught in Oregon was a 23 pound 2 ounce trout caught by Don Yow back in 1989. Yow was fishing on Lake Billy Chinook where three rivers combine to make the 4,000-acre reservoir. It is the only place in Oregon where bull trout can be harvested. There is also great rainbow and brown trout fishing in Billy Chinook.

9) Coho Salmon: 25 pounds 5 ounces

Largest Salmon - Coho Salmon
Coho salmon are often caught in coastal bays

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For catching coho salmon many anglers will target the coastal bays. But the biggest coho caught in Oregon was pulled from Siltcoos Lake. Siltcoos is a large lake on the central coast about 130 miles southwest of Portland. From October to December the coho salmon fishery is open on the lake which does allow you to keep adult wild caught coho salmon.

Ed Martin caught the record breaker back in 1966 with a record weight of 25 pounds 5 ounces. Anglers will often look for the coho salmon in the creek channels that flow from the lake. Other great places in Oregon for Coho fishing are the Clackamas River and Sandy River.

8) Rainbow Trout: 28 pounds

What Do Trout Eat - Rainbow Trout Bursting from Surface
The most common trout in Oregon is the rainbow trout which is distinguished by the pink stripe on its sides

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Rainbow trout are what many people think of when they hear “trout”. They are identified by the pink stripe along the side of their bodies. In Oregon they are the most common trout being found naturally as well as being stocked.

The biggest rainbow trout ever caught in Oregon was a 28 pound trout caught by Mike McGonagle. This record breaker was caught on the Rogue River which is a smaller river west of Salem. McGonagle’s record is from 1982.

7) Brown Trout: 28 pounds 5 ounces

Brown Trout
The largest brown trout in Oregon weighed 28 pounds 5 ounces

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The record breaking brown trout is just a tad bigger than the rainbow. Just 5 ounces more, a 28 pound 5 ounce brown trout was caught by Ronald Lane in 2002. Where is his lucky fishing hole? Paulina Lake which is a lake located in the top of a collapsed volcano. Paulina Lake and East Lake are considered twin lakes, both in the Newberry Volcano south of Bend, OR. Both lakes don’t have any streams flowing into them, they only receive water from rain, snowmelt and nearby hot springs. There is a campground at Paulina Lake so you can take an extended fishing trip. You can also hike to see the twin waterfall that flows from the Paulina Creek!

6) Steelhead Trout: 35 pounds 8 ounces

Fresh-caught steelhead trout on stones with lure in its mouth
The largest steelhead trout in Oregon was an incredible 35 pounds 8 ounces which was caught way back in 1970!

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Steelhead trout are the rainbow and redband trout that head out to the ocean during their first or second year of life. After spending a few years in the ocean they return to the lakes, rivers or streams they were from to spawn. In Oregon you will find summer-run steelheads between May and October in the Columbia River basin and winter-run steelheads between November and April along the coastal streams.

The biggest steelhead trout caught in Oregon was a 35 pound 8 ounce trout caught on the Columbia River (probably a summer-runner). Berdell Todd caught this record breaker back in 1970 making this a 52-year-old record and counting.

5) Channel Catfish: 36 pounds 8 ounces

Channel catfish
Channel catfish are one of four catfish species in the US.

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The four main catfish species you can find in the US are the white, channel, flathead and blue catfish. Channel catfish are bigger than whites but smaller than flatheads and blues. In Oregon they are more common in the eastern part of the state with good catfishing in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

The biggest channel catfish was not caught on one of those main rivers but in the smaller McKay Reservoir which is on the Champoeg Creek southwest of Portland. Boone Haddock caught a 36 pound 8 ounce channel cat back in 1980.

4) Mackinaw (Lake) Trout: 40 pounds 8 ounces

Lake Trout
Lake trout are the largest of the trout species and reach more than 40 pounds in Oregon.

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Mackinaw trout (or lake trout) are the biggest of the trout species. Did you know that Oregon stocks more than 5 million trout each year? That is a variety of trout including rainbow, cutthroat and Mackinaws. Although they are commonly called trout they are actually from the char family of fish. They prefer deep cool water which is where anglers target them.

A 40 pound 8 ounce Mackinaw trout was caught by Ken Erickson on Odell Lake in 1984. Perhaps you have heard of Odell Lake as the name of an early (really early) video game that was called Odell Lake, made for the Apple II and Commodore 64 back in 1986. The game did feature fish, with rainbow, Dolly Varden and Mackinaw trout as well as blueback salmon, whitefish and chub all trying to find food and avoid prey to earn points. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a retro app of the game to download! The real Odell Lake is about 75 miles southeast of Eugene, OR.

3) Flathead Catfish: 42 pounds

Flathead catfish
The largest flathead catfish was caught in the popular Snake River.

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Another catfish on our list is the flathead catfish that are usually bigger than channel cats but smaller than blues. Here is a record breaker that was caught on the popular Snake River. A 42 pound flathead was caught by Joshua Kralicek back in 1994.

The Snake River is a popular place to catch warm water fish like smallmouth bass, channel catfish and crappie. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife the Hells Canyon Wilderness area is an excellent place to catch summer steelheads. Sounds like there is quite a variety of fishing options along the Snake.

2) Striped Bass: 68 pounds

Striped bass
Although they mainly live in freshwater, you can find some striped bass in the ocean.

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Quite a jump in weight to our next fish from a 42 pound catfish to a 68 pound striped bass. Stripers have horizontal stripes along their long bodies and can get quite large. You can find striped bass in freshwater as well as some that live in the sea.

The 68 pound striped bass caught in Oregon was pulled from the Umpqua River which starts just northeast of Roseburg, OR and flows northwest to the Pacific Ocean where it empties into Winchester Bay. This record breaking striper was caught by Beryl Bliss in 1973.

1) Chinook Salmon: 83 pounds

A fisherman with a Chinook Salmon caught in Canada. They typically measure about 3 feet long and 30 pounds in weight.
The Oregon record for Chinook salmon was set more than 100 years ago – with a massive 83 pounder!

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The biggest trophy fish ever caught in Oregon was the Chinook salmon. In fact, it is fitting that it is a salmon, and the biggest of salmon. They are sometimes called King salmon due to their size. The biggest Chinook ever caught in Oregon was an 83 pounder caught by Ernie St. Claire more than a hundred years ago! This record dates back to 1910, making it a 112-year-old record to date. His salmon was caught on the same river as the biggest striped bass, on the Umpqua River.

How does this giant catch compare to the world record Chinook salmon? The world record is held by Les Anderson who caught his salmon on the Kenai River in Alaska on May 17, 1985. Anderson’s catch was almost a hundred pounds, with an official weight of 97 pounds 4 ounces.

Honorable Mention: Kokanee Salmon: 9 pounds 10 ounces

Kokanee salmon
The largest Kokanee salmon ever caught was almost 10 pounds

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It only seems fair to mention another world record catch, this time by someone from Oregon. Although it is not one of the biggest fish in the state it is the biggest catch ever for its species. The world record Kokanee Salmon was caught on Wallowa Lake in Oregon by Ron Campbell on June 13, 2010. Wallowa Lake is in the northeast corner of Oregon. Just how big is the biggest Kokanee? The record is 9 pounds 10 ounces, nearly a 10 pounder! Another great trophy fish for Oregon to be proud of.

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The Featured Image

A fisherman with a Chinook Salmon caught in Canada. They typically measure about 3 feet long and 30 pounds in weight.
A fisherman with a Chinook Salmon caught in Canada. They typically measure about 3 feet long and 30 pounds in weight.
© Crystal Kirk/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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Sources
  1. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Available here: https://myodfw.com/fishing/snake-zone
  2. International Game and Fish Association, Available here: https://igfa.org/igfa-world-records-search/?search_type=CommonName&search_term_1=Kokanee&search_term_2=USA
  3. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Available here: https://myodfw.com/articles/oregons-record-fish