Cowlitz River & Clackamas River Steelhead | Anglerwest TV


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. There are four primary fishing seasons on the Cowlitz river that attract a slew of Cowlitz River Fishing Guides and fishing enthusiasts from around the globe come to fish these sacred waters.

Spring Chinook Fishing on the Cowlitz River

Cowlitz River Spring Chinook Fishing

Most Cowlitz river anglers begin targeting spring chinook during the months of April through May. Spring Chinook also is known as “Springers” which 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. If you don’t want to go it alone, this time of year is a good time to consider hiring one of our Cowlitz River Fishing Guides to learn the best Spring Chinook fishing techniques.

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 is 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. Although the summer run is not as popular as the winter steelhead fisheries, There are a few Cowlitz River Fishing Guides that offer guided fishing trips for this season as well.

Fall Salmon Fishing on the Cowlitz River

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. This time of year is when you’ll see several Cowlitz River Fishing Guides on the water targeting both fall and winter steelhead.


Winter Steelhead Fishing on the Cowlitz River

Cowlitz River Summer Steelhead Fishing with Dave Mallahan of Dave’s Guide Service

Winter Steelhead fishing on the Cowlitz 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


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. The Cowlitz River 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 its steelhead fishing


The Cowlitz River is known for some of the best Salmon and Steelhead fishing in the state of Washington. Anglers, as well as several Cowlitz river fishing guides, tend to 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 rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, are in good numbers as well as whitefish and even white sturgeon and green sturgeon.

Cowlitz River Sturgeon 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 sturgeon being caught as high up as Blue Creek and some at the Barrier Dam.

Smelt Dipping in the Cowlitz


During the Spring thousands of smelt enter the Cowlitz river, this is a popular dipnet fishery that has significantly declined over the years as a result of the commercial fishing industry. Seasons are hit and miss with random Smelt dip-netting closures for conservations purposes depending on forecasts. Check the WDFW regulations for seasons and closure notifications.


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


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