Nehalem Bay, Oregon's fourth largest bay is very popular because of its proximity to Portland. The entrance to Nehalem Bay at times becomes very rough and dangerous to cross.  Nehalem Bay does not have a Coast Guard station or Bar Advisory Signs. During the summer, the Coast Guard broadcasts bar conditions on VHF channels 16 and 22 but only when a Coast Guard boat is patrolling the area.  A whistle buoy is located 1 mile west of the entrance to bar at Nehalem Bay.  The small boater has to use caution when considering crossing the bar or fishing in the jetty channel during the outgoing tide.  The south jetty extends seaward for 600 yards.  The following underlined areas describe some of the dangerous tidal conditions affecting safe boating when boating in the jetty channel or crossing the bar at Nehalem Bay.

  Know your harbor.  The location of the boat launches located in the tidal reach of Oregon's bays is available on the internet at and click on Publications/Library and Forms. Scroll down to Boating in Oregon's Coastal Waters and click on your bay of interest to familiarize yourself with the conditions at the bar.

Crab Rock: Crab Rock is located about 150 yards southeast of Jetty Fisheries Resort docks and is a hazard to small boats when it is covered by water. The hazard is sometimes marked by a privately maintained red buoy just westward of the rock. If the buoy is present, stay to the right of it when outbound and to the left when inbound.

Bar area: The entire area between the beach and the 30-foot curve is bar area and breaks on the ebbing current. The safest channel across the bar is subject to frequent change. Boaters proceeding out should stop just inside the entrance and carefully evaluate the bar. If the bar is breaking, do not cross. If you decide to cross, pick the calmest area and proceed, but do not attempt to turn around if the bar is breaking.

Entrance: The best water is close to the south jetty. The channel seaward of the jetties is continually shifting, and familiarity is needed to cross it safely. The range markers, therefore, do not necessarily show the exact channel and are also obstructed by trees.

  The emphasis in Nehalem Bay is on salmon fishing, crabbing and digging clams.  Fishing for salmon is excellent outside the jetty jaws but only do so in seaworthy boats.  Surprisingly the fish species usually associated with most of Oregon's developed deep water bays are not found in Nehalem Bay in great enough numbers to fish for them on a consistent basis.

Chinook salmon return to Nehalem Bay in small numbers beginning the first week of July and in some years depending on the number of returning fish the fishing can be as hot as a 4th of July fireworks show.  The summer run peaks in early August.  The first week of September usually signals the return of the fall Chinook run.  Fall Chinook salmon are present in Nehalem Bay and lower tidal reach of the Nehalem River from September peaking in early October and running into early November.  The age class of the returning Chinook is usually comprised of mature 5 year old fish.  ODFW combines statistical catch data for the summer and fall runs averaging approximately 2300 fish per year.  Fish both runs using the same tackle and techniques. 

  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 or against the incoming tide or with outgoing tide from Fishery Point seaward.  Troll the plug cut herring in the channel that parallels the east shore and the south jetty.  The velocity of the tidal current in the lower bay requires the use of heavy sinkers up to 12 plus ounces to keep the bait in the Chinook’s strike zone.

  As the number of returning Chinook salmon increase troll a plug cut herring or a bait wrapped Flatfish lure colored with a silver body and chartreuse head or Hot Tail finish in the deepwater channel in the bend of river at the Community of Wheeler or in the channel opposite of Deer Island.  Remember Chinook salmon often bite prior to and after the tide change.  As high tide approaches, Chinook salmon will often mill around in the area between the Community of Wheeler and Fishery Point.  Trolling a rainbow colored spinner such as the Yaquina Slammer on the tidal flats just above the deepwater channel during a last hour of the incoming tide often produces fish.

  Troll with the incoming tide or back troll, back bounce or troll with the outgoing tide from the Highway 101 Bridge to the confluence with the North Fork using a plug cut herring, bait wrapped Flatfish lures or with spinners.  The depth of the channel above Fishery Point varies with the contour of the bottom and underscores the importance of using LCD marine electronics.  Increase the trolling speed in the shallow water reach of the channel lifting the bait in the water column to avoid hanging it up on the bottom.  Lower the trolling speed as the channel deepens.  Chinook salmon often react to the change of speed by striking the bait.

  Anchor on the up current side of the deeper holes located from the Highway 101 Bridge upstream to the head of tidewater at the Roy Creek County Park.  Fishing on the bottom with bait wrapped Flatfish lures, spinner bait combinations, spinners, bait sweetened Spin–N–Glos, wobblers or with a walnut sized gob of salmon eggs are effective options.

  Bobber fish through the deeper holes from the head of tidewater at Roy Creek County Park to the Highway 101 bridge during the last half of an outgoing tide through slack tide using a gob of salmon eggs the size of a walnut and sand shrimp.  The most productive holes are located just above and below Roy Creek Park and the reach of the river upstream from the confluence with the North Fork. 

Coho salmon return to Nehalem Bay from August through September.  Fish early in the run in the lower bay from Fishery Point seaward trolling plug cut herring, hoochies or a streamer flies with the incoming tide.  Troll these baits with a diver or wire spreader or diver in the upper half of the water column.  Troll in the upper bay with rainbow, chartreuse or pink colored spinners or with spinner bait combinations.   

Cutthroat trout return to the Nehalem River Basin beginning as early as the middle of July but most often from August through September.  Fish from the Community of Wheeler to the confluence of the North Fork from middle of July into September trolling Doc Shelton spinners rigged with night crawlers. 

  Fish in the upper tidal reach of the North Fork or in the main stem Nehalem River using night crawlers, crawfish tails or by casting ¼ ounce yellow or white Roostertail spinners.

Black rockfish enter Nehalem Bay from April through October but withdraw from the bay during periods of heavy freshwater runoff from seasonal storms from November through March and into deeper water during the daylight hours.  The fishing is for black and blue rockfish is the most inconsistent for any of Oregon's large bays.  Historic and current catch statistics reflect the poor fishing.  The most productive fishing should occur in the jetty channel during the incoming tide shortly after sunset.        

Striped seaperch, pileperch, walleye surfperch, redtail surfperch and white seaperch enter the bay in late spring.  Schools of perch move onto the tidal flats feeding heavily on intertidal animals.  The fishing ranges from fair to excellent through fall depending on the tides and the weather conditions. 

  When the dynamics of the tide are at work in the bay, fish in the area of current breaks whirlpools and rip tides.  At times, during the incoming or outgoing tide, current lines appear between the tidal flats and the adjacent deeper water.  Use the current lines as a guide to the channels that drain the tidal flats. To assure success the angler should tour the bay during low tide to identify the locations where perch can be intercepted during the incoming tide.  Low tide also provides the angler the opportunity to pump shrimp and/or dig a limit of clams to use as bait for perch or personal use in any of the great recipes found in the book, Oregon's Clams and Crabs.

  Fish for perch in the channel along the south jetty and around Crab Rock.  Fish in the main channel along the east shore from the Jetty Fishery upstream to the railroad trestle above Fishery Point.  Fish along main channel that drains the tidal flats of the north shore from the Oregon State Park to the community of Wheeler.

Kelp greenling, whitespotted greenling and rock greenling enter the bay in small numbers with the tide.  The fishing is rated fair at best, and the best fishing occurs late spring through summer months in the channel along the south jetty. 

White sturgeon enter Nehalem Bay from the middle of December through July.  Typically, fishing is intermittent from day to day ranging from poor one day to excellent the next.  The sturgeon fishery ranks 5th overall when compared to Oregon's other bays averaging 74 fish per year.  The most productive baits are mud and/or sand shrimp.  The best locations to fish are on the south end of Deer Island and Dean’s Point.  Sturgeon are also caught in the holes along the south shore between Fishery Point and the community of Wheeler.  One of the better locations is the Airport Hole, which is located on the south side of the airport near Nehalem State Park.  Fish the deeper holes in the river channel to the head of tidewater.   

Lingcod spawn along the outer portion of south jetty from late January through April.  The best fishing should occur during the peak of the spawning period from late February through early April but the fishing is rated inconsistent at best.

Cabezon should be present in the rocky structure of the south jetty but the fishing is inconsistent.

Bank fishing for salmon from the Nehalem Bay State Park using bobbers or by casting spinners from shore.  Plunking for salmon with sand shrimp and/or salmon eggs is also productive, but the crabs often eat the bait before the salmon can take it.  Fish for perch from the railroad trestle above Fishery Point or from Brighton seaward to the south jetty but access is limited.   

Nehalem Bay Jetty –The South Jetty offers better fishing than the north jetty.  Access the South Jetty by turning west from Highway 101 onto Nedonna Beach Road.  Park at the end of the road and walk to the jetty.  

Nehalem Bay boat launches on the south shore are the Jetty Fishery, the Brighton boat ramp, the Paradise Cove Resort, the Wheeler Public boat launch and the Nehalem Bay boat ramp.  The North shore boat launch is located at Nehalem Bay State Park.  Launch at Roy Creek Park to access the head of tidewater.  oy Creek Park is located off of Foss Road via State Hwy 53.

Click on the following link to view additional fishing infromation for catching the fish species common to Oregon's coastal waters.

Current status for Crabbing, Clam Digging and Fishing:

Crabbing in Nehalem Bay is one of Oregon's Premier crabbing bays seaward from Brighton Marina to the jetty channel. On 04/13 There was enough rainfall to raise the river level to nearly 9 feet. High enough to push the crabs out of the lower bay for the next 4 or 5 days.

On 4/12 Crabbing at the Jetty Fishery has been good for the last week for Dungeness Crabs. Hopefully the good crabbing will continue througth the season. The Jetty Fishery anual crabbing derby this year will run over Junee 1st through the 2nd.

The Jetty Fishery located at the jetty of Nehalem Bay. The crabs enter Nehalem Bay along the channel that runs along the south side of the jetty channel and right into the crab rings and pots at the Jetty Fishery Dock. The Jetty Fishery allows crabbing from their Dock as shown on the video for a nominal fee. Only rings, not crab pots, traps or cages are allowed on our dock.

Clam digging in Nehalem Bay is very good but limited to softshell clams, purple varnish clams and butter clams.

During the summer of 2009, clam digger, Sparkypaul shared his clam digging experience with us: just thought I,d let people know about the great softshell/varnish digging I had at Nehalem state park last august. I looked @ the odfw website when I was staying in seaside for a place to clam. the softshells were big.... 4 or 5 inchers common, and plentiful. three mornings in a row I dug a limit while my grand kids( 10, 13, first timers) dug about 30. Plenty of clam chowder and fried clams for all the rest of the family who didn't want to get dirty. Parked @ the boat launch and walked toward the ocean a couple of hundred yards to where the tide flat narrows. I haven't dug mud clams since I was a kid, but it was always in black goopy mud. This was a surprise, sandy with softball sized round rocks mixed in, pretty clean but sometimes hard to get a shovel started. The varnish clams were just before the tide flat narrowed, lots of them but smaller and the sand/mud was harder to dig.

Clam digger Forgotten follow with his comments on his clam digging experience at Nehalem Bay: I was just up there a couple of weeks ago and watching some kids digging to the north of the boat ramp. Wondering what they were digging near high tide, I walked over and discovered that they were digging HUGE varnish clams, not a single one that they had was under 2.5". Next time, I'll have to be ready to actually DIG some clams...

Jim from the Wheeler Marina No reports: .............

Internet links of Interest for Nehalem Bay:

Click on 2012 to view the NOAA tidal projections for your area of interest.

Click HERE for the 10 day weather forecast for Nehalem Bay.

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

Click HERE to see the navigation hazards for crossing the bar at Nehalem Bay.

Click HERE to see the reported navigtional hazards for Oregon's Waterways.

Always call the shellfish Hotline at (503) 986-4728 or 1-800-448-2474 toll free outside of Oregon before harvesting clams or mussels for messages listing the areas closed to harvesting shellfish due to high levels of marine toxins. The information displayed on the ODA Shellfish Hotline Website may not be up to date and cannot be trusted. For up to date information call the Shellfish Hotline before you dig at (503) 986-4728 or 1-800-448-2474.

Reporting a Hazard: 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 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 Nehalem River.

Share your crabbing, clam digging and fishing adventures with us by emailing them to

Return to Clam Watch.