The Cowlitz River in Washington State is a main tributary of the Columbia River. There are two state-run fish hatcheries on the river which provide excellent recreational fishing opportunities year round for both Salmon and Steelhead.

Spring Chinook Fishing on the Cowlitz River



Spring and Fall Chinook

Most Cowlitz river anglers begin targeting spring chinook during the months of April through May. Spring Chinook also known as “Springers” are the some of the best eating of all the Cowlitz river salmon.These fish enter the river starting in April and spawn in fall. Catching these monsters on the Cowlitz can be done in a variety of ways such as floating roe under a bobber, back-trolling, side-drifting, twitching jigs, and throwing gear.

Summer Steelhead Fishing on the Cowlitz River. 


After Spring Chinook fishing tappers on the Cowlitz River the focus turns to Summer Steelhead fishing. The summer steelhead start showing up on the Cowlitz River around June. Summer run steelhead are the some of the most fierce fighting fish on the Cowlitz River and among the favorite fish to target. Fishing techniques include side-drifting, for summer run steelhead but later in the season back-trolling plugs and floating or bottom bouncing bait.

Fall Salmon Fishing on the Cowlitz River


Fall Coho Salmon

Fall Salmon fishing on the Cowlitz River begins in late September and lasts throughout the month of November. Anglers generally start near the mouth of the Cowlitz River and follow the run upstream to the barrier dam. The two species of salmon fished for on the Cowlitz River are King ‘Chinook’ Salmon and Silvers or ‘Coho’ Salmon. A variety of techniques are effective including, side-drifting, twitching jigs, back-trolling, hover-fishing and casting hardware. This is an action-packed fishery with fish ranging from 5 to 50 pounds.


Winter Steelhead Fishing on the Cowlitz River



Summer and Winter Steelhead

Winter Steelhead fishing on the Cowltiz River is one of the favorite fisheries of the season. With multiple hook-ups and lots of action, these aggressive and hard-fighting fish will keep your blood pumping. Generally northwest anglers fish for Winter Steelhead on the Cowlitz River during the months of November through March. The most popular techniques for Winter Steelhead on the Cowlitz is side-drifting bait and floating roe.

Fish Hatcheries on the Cowlitz River


Sea Run Cutthroat trout


The Cowlitz River Salmon Hatchery produces nearly 13 million fish each year, including about 1.3 million spring Chinook, 5.0 million fall Chinook and 3.2 million coho salmon. This hatchery is located near Barrier Dam and the Barrier Dam boat launch, directly on the Cowlitz River.The Trout Hatchery is located near the Blue Creek Boat Launch and releases around 1.5 million fish a year. The species released here include Summer and Winter Steelhead as well as Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout.

The Cowlitz River is famous for it’s steelhead fishing

White Fish


The Cowlitz river is known for some of the best Salmon and Steelhead fishing in the state of Washington. Anglers swarm from around the country to get a chance to catch some of the prize species of fish that make their home in the Cowlitz river system.Chinook Salmon, Coho, and Steelhead are among the most popular species caught by anglers on the Cowlitz river, but trout such as rainbows and cutthroat, are in good numbers as well as white fish and even white sturgeon and green sturgeon.

Cowlitz River Stergon Fishing




Although Sturgeon are more commonly targeted on the Columbia river, both green and white sturgeon reside in the Cowlitz river. Best bets for sturgeon are at the mouth in the town of Kelso, but there have been reports of stergeon being caught as high up as Blue creek and some at the barrier dam.


For more information on fishing the Cowlitz river check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for regulations and fishing seasons.