Fishing and Hunting Report: Winter-run Steelhead Off to a Good Start

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
This year’s winter steelhead season got off to a promising start when the first wave of winter-run steelhead started taking anglers’ lures in several tributaries to the lower Columbia River. With decent river conditions, catch rates should continue to improve in the weeks ahead, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.
“Despite recent high water, that first jag of winter steelhead was definitely on the bite,” Hymer said. “So long as the rivers don’t rise too high or fall too low, we could be looking at a darn good fishery this year.”
Hymer notes that water conditions — often highly variable at this time of year — can make a big difference when it comes to catching fish.
“If the water is too low, the fish get spooky – if it’s too high it can be dangerous to be out there,” he said.

But for those intent on catching steelhead, Hymer recommends the the Cowlitz, Lewis (including north and east fork), Kalama, Grays, Washougal, Elochoman rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County.

December Reg Changes
Please take note of the following new fishing regulations that took effect Dec. 1.
Grays River opened to fishing for hatchery steelhead, hatchery coho and adipose and/or ventral fin clipped Chinook from the Highway 4 Bridge to the South Fork. Also on Dec. 1, the open area on the West Fork also expands from the hatchery intake/footbridge to the mouth that day.
Green River, North Fork Toutle River, and the mainstem Toutle from the mouth to the forks will all be closed to fishing for steelhead and salmon.
South Fork Toutle River closed to fishing for steelhead from the 4100 Bridge upstream. Fishing remains open from the mouth to the bridge under selective gear rules.
North Fork Lewis River night closure and anti-snagging rules were lifted from Johnson Creek to Colvin Creek. Also, the area from Colvin Creek upstream to the overhead powerlines below Merwin Dam reopened for hatchery steelhead, Chinook, and hatchery coho Dec. 16.
Night closure and anti-snagging rules were lifted on the Cowlitz River from Mill Creek to the barrier dam.
Mill Creek opens to fishing for hatchery steelhead under permanent rules.
Blue Creek opened to fishing for hatchery steelhead and sea-run cutthroats from the mouth to the posted signs just above the rearing pond outlet in mid-November.
Night fishing closures and anti-snagging rules are in effect on both Mill Creek and Blue Creek.
Wind River catch-and-release fishing closed for game fish above Shepherd Falls.
Klickitat River closed to fishing for trout, hatchery steelhead and salmon, except for salmon fishing from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream, which remains open through January. The night closure remains in effect. The whitefish-only fishery opens from 400 feet upstream from #5 fishway upstream to the Yakama Reservation. Whitefish gear rules will be in effect.
Merwin Reservoir trout daily limit (including kokanee) went back to five fish.
Swift Reservoir is closed to fishing.

Share Photos with WDFW
If you have “liked” the WDFW Facebook page, you may have seen the photos they share from their photo gallery. WDFW invites you to share your fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing photos taken in Washington State. Chosen photos will be displayed in the WDFW Image Gallery at
WDFW asks that your photos “show recreationists using all expected safety practices, such as life vests when on the water, or hunter orange when it is required.”

Tentative Dig Dates
If marine toxin tests are favorable, WDFW will proceed with an evening razor clam digs at several ocean beaches. The tentative opening dates and evening low tides are:
Dec. 11, Tuesday, 4:51 p.m., -1.1 ft., Twin Harbors
Dec. 12, Wednesday, 5:40 p.m., -1.6 ft., Twin Harbors
Dec. 13, Thursday, 6:29 p.m., -1.9 ft., Twin Harbors
Dec. 14, Friday, 7:15 p.m., -1.8 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
Dec. 15, Saturday, 8:01 p.m., -1.6 ft., Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
Dec. 16, Sunday, 8:47 p.m., -1.0 ft., Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

On the Water
After all the rain we’ve had, it will come as no surprise to you to learn all the rivers and streams in our are running high.
“The Chehalis River is totally blown,” said Charles McElroy, a sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center in Chehalis. “The Newaukum is up and the Skookumchuck is just raging.”
Anglers fishing the Cowlitz River below Blue Creek as having some success.
“But these fish are right up against the bank,” said McElroy, “you don’t have to cast too far out to find them.”
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 421 coho adults, 69 jacks, 63 winter-run steelhead, 37 cutthroat trout, 16 summer-run steelhead, three fall Chinook adults and one jack during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 62 coho adults, 33 jacks and one fall Chinook jack into Lake Scanewa above Cowlitz Falls Dam at the Day Use Site, and they released 103 fall coho adults and 11 jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood.
A total of 173 coho adults, 24 jacks, three fall Chinook adults, 12 cutthroat trout and one winter-run steelhead were released into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton during the week.
River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 14,300 cfs on Wednesday, Dec. 5. Water visibility is five feet.
The fishing is good in Riffe Lake. South County Pond in Toledo is fishing well, as is Carlisle in Onalaska.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News (, find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason – The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email