High Flows Slow Steelhead Catch

Clearing Water: Look for Dry Skies and Better Fishing in Coming Weeks

By The Chronicle

River levels continue to drop and a bit of sunshine is even forecast for today, signaling better fishing on the Cowlitz River in the coming days and weeks.

“It’s still not hot, but it is getting there,” said Karen Glaser of Barrier Dam Campground, a fishing supply shop not far from one of the hot spots on the Cowlitz River. “Today a little more green coming to it. It should start clearing pretty fast.”

Glaser said a few steelhead were taken from the Barrier Dam area Monday morning by bank anglers, but the fishing is still slow.

“Maybe it’s time for bank anglers to do better now, but as they say, ‘when conditions are like this you have to put in your time,’” Glaser said.

The heavy rains from last week made for poor fishing. Steelheaders can be patient, however, as the early winter run will continue through January and into February, followed by the late winter run of steelies.

Tracey Borsom of Fish Country, Inc. in Ethel on U.S. Highway 12, said some fish are still being caught, but it could be better, and should be in the near future.

“It slowed a bit here this last week as the water got a little cloudy, but the level has been holding steady at around 9,880 cfs for a couple days now and that should help the bite,” Borsom said, adding fishermen are “getting good sized steelhead now from Blue Creek all the way up to Barrier Dam.”

When fishing is difficult, Borsom suggests trying a wide variety of baits — corky and yarn, jib and bobber, glow bead and sand shrimp.

“If something is not working for you — try switching it up some,” she said.

Perhaps an alternative as the river drops is a try for trout on Mayfield Lake. Borsom reports decent fishing off the banks near the hatchery with worms or power eggs (orange or red). It just might produce a nice string of hefty trout!

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Fishing Report:


Deep River — By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit reverts back to no more than 2 adults beginning Jan. 1. In addition, all chinook must be adipose fin clipped to be kept.

Cowlitz River – Some coho continue to be caught at the salmon hatchery while steelhead are being caught at the trout hatchery.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 2,838 coho adults, 45 jacks, one fall Chinook adult, 295 winter-run steelhead and eight sea-run cutthroat trout during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. They released 339 coho adults and eight jacks into Lake Scanewa; 405 coho adults, seven jacks and three winter-run steelhead in the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellowjacket Creek; 561 coho adults, eleven jacks and five winter-run steelhead into the upper Cowlitz River at the Skate Creek Bridge in Packwood; and 150 coho adults, nine jacks, four winter-run steelhead and two cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam have been flowing at 9,880 cubic feet per second, but was planned to drop down to 8,100 cubic feet per second yesterday afternoon. Water visibility was at three feet as of Monday morning.

By permanent regulation on the lower Cowlitz, the salmon daily limit reverts back to no more than 2 adults beginning Jan. 1. Only hatchery chinook and hatchery coho may be retained. Also, Mill Creek near the salmon hatchery is closed to all fishing the same day.

Kalama River — No catch observed there Sunday. River conditions were less than optimal.

By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit will be 6 hatchery chinook of which no more than 1 may be a adult beginning Jan. 1.

Lewis River — Anglers are catching some steelhead on the mainstem and the north fork. Flows below Merwin Dam are currently near the long term mean of 8,230 cfs Monday.

By permanent regulation, the salmon daily limit will be 6 hatchery chinook of which no more than 1 may be a adult beginning Jan. 1.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam — WDFW sampled 8 bank and 4 boat anglers (2 boats) with no catch.

Under permanent regulations from I-5 Bridge downstream to Buoy 10 release all salmon other than hatchery chinook beginning Jan. 1.

Under permanent rules, Dec. 31 is the last day to fish for salmon on the mainstem Columbia from the I-5 Bridge to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco and the Elochoman, Grays, Tilton, and Washougal rivers plus Drano and Mayfield lakes.