Fish of Columbia County, Oregon

Some fish live in our rocky streams year-round, others prefer the Columbia River, and many move back and forth to the ocean. Unfortunately, numerous fish species in our area are in critical danger due to dams, dredging, and logging practices which warm streams and fill them with sediment.

List of all fish recorded in Columbia County

Sculpins

Reticulate Sculpin oregon columbia county
Reticulate Sculpin – Usually under 5″. Extremely variable in color. Body smooth. Adapts to larger range of stream habitats than most other local sculpin. (photo © Luke Ovgard)
Prickly Sculpin – 5-8″. Mottled olive-brown or lighter. Tiny spines on body give a prickly feel. Anal fin has especially long soft rays. Another adaptable species. (photo © Roger Tabor USFWS)
Shorthead Sculpin oregon clumbia county
Shorthead Sculpin -Often under 4″. Usually with clouded coloration, more ID characters found here. Prefers cold fast riffles in gravel streams. (photo © Roger Tabor USFWS)

Riffle Sculpin oregon columbia county
Riffle Sculpin – Usually under 4″. Has orange on fins and less continuous dorsal fin than Reticulated Sculpin. Found in sand and gravel riffles. (photo © Roger Tabor USFWS)
Mottled Sculpin – Brown with darker mottling. To 5-6″ long. Found in a diverse range of habitats, from streams to springs to rocky lake shores, but is uncommon here. (photo © Riley Walsh)
Coastrange Sculpin coast range oregon columbia county
Coastrange Sculpin – Up to 5″ long. Brown to greenish or grayish with dark blotches on the upper rear of the body. Found in gravel riffles of largish water bodies. (photo © Don Loarie)
Torrent Sculpin oregon columbia county
Torrent Sculpin – 5-8″ long. Grayish to brown with three distinct saddles on the rear of the body. Found in gravel riffles of rivers and at rocky lake shores. (photo © Roger Tabor USFWS)

Salmon and Trout

Chinook Salmon northwest oregon columbia county
Chinook Salmon – To 40″ or more. Wavy black spots on back and both lobes of tail. Gum line and entire inside of lower jaw is black. A Federally Endangered Species in the Lower Columbia. (photo © Joe Cutler)
Coho Salmon northwest oregon columbia county
Coho Salmon – To 28″ or more. Back typically with fewer spots, and only upper tail lobe spotted. Gum line on lower jaw is light with dark line on either side. A Federally Endangered Species in the Lower Columbia. (photo © verdoyant)
Chum Salmon – To 31″ or more. A striped body with no spotting. Pupil especially large. Gum line on lower jaw is black with light color on either side. A federally Endangered Species and nearly extinct in our region. (photo © tloh2)

Sockeye Salmon northwest oregon columbia county
Sockeye Salmon – To 26″ or more. No spots at all. Large golden eye. Gum line on lower jaw is light with dark color on either side. Sockeye Salmon do not spawn in our region but only pass through the Columbia River.(photo © Henry Hershey)
coastal rainbow trout northwest oregon columbia county
Coastal Rainbow Trout – To 30″. Covered in black spots and often has a pink slash across the body. Requires cold streams with clean gravel and plenty of hiding spots to spawn. Lower Columbia Steelhead are Endangered.(photo © natureguy)
coastal cutthroat trout northwest oregon columbia county
Coastal Cutthroat Trout – To 18″. Also with black spots, mostly towards the top. Identified by the blood red mark on the throat. Prefers cold streams with clean water. (photo © Braden J. Judson)
mountain whitefish northwest oregon columbia county
Mountain Whitefish – To 20″. Washed-out silvery, without black spots, and with a small mouth and upturned snout. Found in cold clean lakes and medium to large rivers. (photo © Jacob Stagg)

Threespine Sticklebacks

threespine stickleback northwest oregon columbia county
Threspine Stickleback – 2-3″. Has unique 3 spines on back. Found in slow-moving water with some vegetation such as ditches, ponds, and river edges. (photo © Riley Walsh)

Trout-perch

Sand Roller northwest oregon columbia county
Sand Roller – 2-4″. A small fish found in sandy/muddy river bottoms near vegetation. Nocturnal and prefers to hug the shadows, swimming sideways or even upside-down. (photo © ODFW)

Minnows

Longnose Dace northwest oregon columbia county
Longnose Dace – A 2-4″ minnow with a distinctive long fleshy snout. Found in a large variety of freshwater habitats but prefers fast-moving water. (photo © kevinemetcalf)
Speckled Dace northwest oregon columbia county
Speckled Dace – 2-3″. Black blotches on an olive or yellowish background. Prefers the well-oxygenated river of fast-flowing streams and small rivers. (photo © Ilja Fescenko)
Leopard Dace northwest oregon columbia county
Leopard Dace – 2-4″ minnow with large backswept fins (9-10 rays in the dorsal fin). Often uses the slower portions of gravelly/rocky streams. (photo © Ernest Keeley)

Redside Shiner northwest oregon columbia county
Redside Shiner – 3-6″. Gray to brown with a narrow light stripe bordered by dark below and reddish wash beneath. Usually found near vegetation in mud/sand substrates. (photo © Ernest Keeley)
peamouth minnow chub northwest oregon columbia county
Peamouth – To 14″. Dark back and light belly with stripes between. Found in vegetated areas of lakes and rivers, where it eats small invertebrates with its small mouth. (photo © Ernest Keeley)
northern pikeminnow squawfish northwest oregon columbia county
Northern Pikeminnow – To 25″. Silvery or darker above, generally without pattern. Larger mouth than Peamouth, allowing it to feed on other fish. Found in lakes and slow portions of rivers. (photo © Creed Clayton)

Suckers

largescale sucker northwest oregon columbia county
Largescale Sucker – To 18″ long, with large scales, downturned mouth, and a completely cleft lower lip. Common in slow-moving portions of large rivers and lakes. (photo © jamesjarrett00)
bridgelip sucker northwest oregon columbia county
Bridgelip Sucker – To 14″ long. Dark brown above and almost white below, orangish-red stripe on breeding males. Smaller scales and a less cleft lip than Largescale Sucker. (photo © Earnst Keeley)

Smelt

Eulachon smelt northwest oregon columbia county
Eulachon – 6-8″ and very slender. Adult life is in freshwater but returns in large schools to spawn. Pollution, dredging, and habitat loss have decimated the smelt and it is now an Endangered Species.(photo © linddealy)

Flatfish

Starry Flounder northwest oregon columbia county
Starry Flounder – To 30″ long. An unmistakable olive to black ocean flatfish with black bands on the fins. It wanders well up the Columbia River, sticking to the river bottom. (photo © tloh2)

Sturgeon

White Sturgeon – Up to 20 feet long, though now rarely over 10 feet. Whitish-gray with barbels close to end of snout. Dams, dredging, and loss of water to irrigation have severely impacted the species. (photo © Craig)
green sturgeon northwest oregon columbia county
Green Sturgeon – Up to 7 feet long. Greenish in color with barbels near mouth rather than end of snout. Only visits Columbia, does not spawn here. Large declines have caused it to be named a Sensitive Species. (photo © California DFG)

Lampreys

Lampreys are boneless fish (skeletons made of cartilage). All of our lampreys are born in freshwater streams and grow up in burrows in those streams, filtering small organisms out of the water. Some species (the Pacific Lamprey and Western River Lamprey) move out into the ocean in adulthood and become parasites of large fish, while other species (Western Brook Lamprey and Pacific Brook Lamprey) stay in the streams their entire lives and never become parasites.

All lamprey species in our area have seen dramatic declines due to dams, water pollution, and degraded stream quality due to logging and dredge mining. They are listed as Species of Concern federally and as Critical-Sensitive species in Oregon.

pacific Lamprey oregon columbia county
Pacific Lamprey – Our largest lamprey at up to 30″. Lives in streams 6-7 years then moves to the ocean to become a parasite on large fish, returning only to spawn 2-3 years later. (photo © Jeremy Monroe)

western river Lamprey oregon columbia county
Western River Lamprey – To 12″, as young are similar to Brook Lamprey until they transform to parasitic adults and move out to the ocean. Prefer large rivers as opposed to streams. (photo © Mike Hayes USGS)
western Brook Lamprey oregon columbia county
Western Brook Lamprey – Far smaller and more interestingly colored as adults than Pacific or River Lamprey. Grow no more than 6-7″ long and stay in streams as filter feeders their entire lives. (photo © Roger Tabor USFWS)
Pacific Brook Lamprey oregon columbia county
Pacific Brook Lamprey – Differs from Western Brook Lamprey in 53–60 trunk myomeres rather than 57–67. A little-known species found only in streams attached to the lower Columbia River. (photo © FAO)

Columbia County has numerous species of nonnative fish that have been introduced to our waters from eastern USA or Europe, including American Shad, Mosquitofish, Perch, Green Sunfish, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Yellow Bullhead, Brown Bullhead, European Carp, Grass Carp, and many others. I chose to omit them from this guide.

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