people in a boat fishing in Portland, Oregon

Do you fish in the Willamette River?

Eating fish is good for you! However, some fish and shellfish in the Lower Willamette River through Portland contain contaminants that make them unsafe to eat.

Contaminated fish do not look or act sick. If you fish between Kelley Point Park and the Sellwood Bridge, or in the Multnomah Channel to the Sauvie Island Bridge, there are some fish you shouldn’t eat.

See this area on a map»

Safe to Eat

These fish are safe because they spend only a short time in the Lower Willamette River.

Salmon illustration of a Coho salmon
Steelhead illustration
Shad illustration

Limit

These fish live their whole lives in the Lower Willamette and are exposed to contaminants from the river bed. Because they’re small and have shorter lives, they’re okay to eat in small amounts.

Black crappie
2 fish (or 4 meals if filleted) per month
illustration
Crayfish
2 meals per month
signal crayfish
Mussels
(illegal to harvest/tribal use only)
7 meals per month
river mussels

Don’t Eat

These fish live their whole lives in the Lower Willamette and are highly exposed to contaminants in the river bed.

Carp illustration
Brown bullhead
or catfish
illustration
Bass illustration
Clams
(illegal to harvest/tribal use only)
river clams

Meal Size

About the size and thickness of your hand. Give children less.

hand holding a piece of raw fish
Adult meal size.
Child's hand holding a piece of raw fish
Child meal size

Cleaning and Cooking

You cannot cook or wash contaminants out of fish but you can reduce your exposure.

  • Remove and throw away the skin, fat, organs, head and tail.
  • Grill, bake, steam or broil fish so that the fat can drain off. Don’t eat drippings.
  • Eat younger, smaller fish

Angler Wayne: How to fillet a fish (PDF)

Other Places to Fish

Before heading out, check for other fish advisories»

It's important to know that not all of Oregon's fish or waters have been sampled for contaminants.

50 places to go fishing within 60 minutes of Portland»


Portland Harbor Superfund Site

Contamination from decades of industrial use in the Portland Harbor has settled into the river bed. These contaminants include:

  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Dioxins/furans
  • Pesticides

In December 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency declared Portland Harbor a Superfund site. This forces the parties responsible for the contamination to clean it up.

The health risk of most concern is people eating fish from this area.

The Superfund site is located just south of the Columbia Slough and north of the Broadway Bridge. The fish advisory area extends further, based on where contaminated fish have been found.

people floating on the Willamette River in Portland
Photo: Matthew Nenninger & Tracie Andrews

Can I swim in the river?

Yes, most of the time you can dive right in! Contaminants are in the river bed and are not in the water. The water is also tested regularly for bacteria and harmful algae blooms. Check current conditions»

Help Get the Word Out

We’re looking for people who are interested in talking with their community about fishing and eating fish from the Lower Willamette River. There will also be opportunities to participate in workshops to create informational materials.

To get involved, contact Beth Appert, beth.appert@multco.us, 503-988-7851.

Community Meetings

More Information


Questions?

Contact Beth Appert, Fish Advisory Health Educator
beth.appert@multco.us, 503-988-7851