Southwest Washington Fishing Update

North Fork Lewis River winter steelhead-Terry Otto

Rivers blown out as late run coho start winding down

Covd-19 Update—With the Covid-19 virus spiking in Washington State, anglers are reminded to please fish only with members of their own household, avoid crowded areas, and use social distancing to protect themselves and others from the disease. No one wants a return to last spring’s lockdowns, so please do your part to make sure fishing and hunting remain open statewide.

Vancouver Metro Area

Heavy rains have blown most of the rivers out in southwest Washington, even as the late run of coho is pushing through. With more heavy rains forecast before the weekend, the larger tributaries may well be un-fishable. Smaller rivers may clear out enough to be fished by the weekend.

Trout fishing is improving across the region, and soon the local lakes will be stocked ahead of the Black Friday trout event. There are still a few opportunities for warm water fishing, consisting mostly of crappie. 

Strong salmon returns this fall are a result of improved ocean conditions, according to many scientists, although all is not well yet in the Pacific. For a complete story on the most recent available ocean data, check out the latest article by Terry Otto in the Columbian Newspaper online HERE.

Columbia River Fishing Report – Chinook and coho passage at Bonneville Dam remains low, but there’s still a couple dozen fish per day crossing the facility. Between low catch rates and inclement weather, interest is running low however.

There remains however, a few die-hard anglers still working the gorge for Chinook and a rare coho and anglers are finding an occasional Chinook on back-trolled plugs close to the dam. As you’ve heard us say more than once, most of the fish are far from quality table fare however. Creel checks have ceased for the fall so statistics are not available, but I’ll reiterate, interest is low, and quality even lower.

The Klickitat fishery is also holding on to its last hope of glimmer as a few fresh coho continue to fall in the troll fishery here. Anglers are facing fairly harsh conditions to seek out their quarry, but persistent anglers continue to find some success.

Other than that, fisheries are largely done on the mainstem, with the exception of the estuary crab fishery, and that is going quite well when weather and tides cooperate.

It’s pretty easy limits for those crabbing on the lower Columbia. Tides for the most part have been fairly intense however. That’ll change this weekend however, as you’ll read in the forecast section.

Meanwhile, it’ll be February before folks get excited about salmon on the mainstem again. No matter what the run size, spring Chinook bring out the crazy in anglers but still, February is a long ways away.

The Guide’s Forecast – With salmon and steelhead fishing on the ropes, anglers will begin to focus more on crustaceans that salmonids in the coming weeks.

Anglers are still allowed to fish in the Bonneville reach, targeting largely Chinook, of which most are dark, and coho around the mouth of the Klickitat River, where coho are becoming more scarce. This should be the last feasible week for coho, and prime is long since passed for Chinook in the Bonneville area.

That brings us to crab. The weather looks good for crabbers this weekend in the Astoria area. Soft tides will also enable crabbers to take advantage of prolonged periods of crab feeding and not have to worry about losing their gear to a strong incoming or outgoing tide, but crabbers will still want to focus their pot picking around tide change, with low tide the predominant daytime tide exchange this weekend. Winds are forecasted to be coming from the east however so DO watch that. The good news is that wind speed isn’t likely to be all that strong.

Lewis and Washougal Rivers Fishing Report—Fishing was improving for late run coho in the North Fork Lewis River just before the rains arrived in force. Boat anglers have out-fished bank anglers this week, with WDFW recording that 64 bank anglers released one Chinook and four coho. 11 boats/29 rods kept six Chinook, five coho, two coho jacks and released three Chinook and three coho.

Fishing has been centered around the hatchery, but a few fish are being taken by anglers in Woodland and the golf course. Twitching jigs has been the most popular method all fall, but bank anglers are also fishing with drift gear, or bobber and bait. The river has seen heavy angler pressure all autumn long, and that has continued to be the case this week.  

The Washougal River was blown out with the recent rain, so there are few reports from the river, according to John Thompson of Sportsmen’s Warehouse in Vancouver, (360) 604-8000. There had been some success for late run coho and even a few winter steelhead before the river rose, especially in the lower three miles.

Lewis River at Woodland

The Guides Forecast—The Lewis has been running at about 13 feet this week, and is expected to drop only a little bit before the weekend. Note that the river is being drawn down every Wednesday so biologists can conduct salmon carcass surveys, and the fish do not bite well when that happens. 

The Lewis is one of the few larger systems that could be fishable this weekend, although the water could remain cloudy. The lakes along the upper North Fork often tend to settle the river down enough that anglers can fish the river even after heavy rains. Late run coho may be winding down, but this river often gives up fresh coho well into December. Twitching jigs will probably still be the go-to method, especially for boat anglers. Try purple, blue, or pink and chartreuse.

Bank anglers should stick to the hatchery area, where drifting is often the best method. Bobber and bait will also produce.

This is one of the few rivers in Southwest Washington that still gets a return of early-run winter steelhead, and those fish should start showing up in the catch this week. The run peaks during the holiday season, and the fishing should build every week until Christmas. Bobber and jigs or bait is often the best method to take steelhead. Look to the hatchery and the golf course for the best early bite. 

The Washougal River may give up some late run coho this weekend, if the river comes back into fishable condition. With heavy rains forecast for late this week, only time will tell if the river will be fishable. The few catches of winter steelhead the river has seen already could mean good things for that run this year, but it remains to be seen whether those fish will continue to show up early in good numbers. 

Merwin and Yale Lakes Fishing Report—kokanee fishing dropped off at Merwin Lake over the last week, according to WDFW’s Stacie Kelsey. Recent rains have dirtied the water a little bit, but the kokes continue to bite at Yale Lake. Kelsey reports that many fishermen have shifted their efforts to Yale accordingly. The fish are staying high in the water column, and anglers are mostly flat-line trolling for their fish.

The Guides Forecast–The winter fishery at both lakes has been very consistent over the last few years, and the lakes should produce good catches over the next couple months. The only thing that might make the fishing tough is dirty water, and anglers may find that to be the case this weekend.  

Local Lakes Fishing report—Klineline Pond has been good this past week for trout, and Battle Ground Lake is giving up some holdover trout, too. Both lakes will soon be getting stocked ahead of the Black Friday Trout opener. Neither lake will close ahead of that event. Round Lake at the southern end of Lacamas Lake is also producing some trout. Anglers are reminded that the boat ramp at the Swift Forest Camp on Swift Reservoir is closed for the winter.

Merwin Lake kokanee-Al Thomas

Longview Area

Cowlitz and Kalama Rivers Fishing Report—The lower Cowlitz is in poor condition following the recent heavy rains. The Toutle River has been dumping dirty water into the Cowlitz, and it is unlikely that it will clear out anytime soon. However, guide Dave Mallahan of Dave’s Guide Service (360-201-9313), reports that the upper river is fishable, but the action for coho has slowed. He believes the late run has pushed out of the lower river into the upper reaches, but the run also seems to be tailing off. Still, during the latest WDFW creel survey, 30 bank anglers above the I-5 Bridge kept 13 coho, one steelhead, two cutthroat and released 18 coho, one coho jack and two cutthroat. 2 boats/4 rods had no catch.

The Kalama also blew out with the rain, but before that fishing had slowed. WDFW surveyed four bank anglers with no catch, and one boat with three rods had no catch. The late run never seemed to get any steam on the Kalama, after a pretty good run of early fish. The coho have been taking a wide variety of baits, according to Thompson. Jigs, bait, and plugs have all been taking fish.

You can check the full Tacoma Power Cowlitz River Report HERE. You can check river flows and lake levels, including for Mayfield and Riffe Lakes, HERE

Cowlitz River below Mayfield Dam

The Guides Forecast— River flows at Mayfield Dam were approximately 9,910 CFS on Monday. Water visibility is 11 feet and the water temperature is 49.5 F. The river is expected to drop to a little less than 6,000 CFS by this weekend, which could make for some decent fishing in the upper river. 

Mallahan believes the fishing for coho will begin to slow, although there will still be a few bright fish around for the next couple weeks. Anglers will need to pick through the dark ones too find one worth keeping. Fishermen are reportedly not only taking coho by twitching jigs, but also by throwing spinners, fishing bait, or drift fishing from the bank.

Cowlitz River at Castle Rock

The Cowlitz River at Castle Rock is expected to crest on Thursday at about 16,000 CFS before dropping to about 8,800 CFS by the weekend. While the river should be in good condition above the confluence of the Toutle River, most of the salmon have left the lower river and are holding up by the salmon hatchery. There will be a few stragglers around, but anglers would be smart to consider the upper sections instead of poking around for a fish or two down low. 

The Kalama River is a question mark for the weekend. There is more rain forecast before this weekend, and depending on how much the region gets, the river may or may not be fishable. There may still be another burst of late run coho that will enter the river, but most signs and reports suggest the coho runs are tailing off. If the river is fishable and anglers want to try it, just about any method you want to use should work.

Local Rivers Fishing report—Mayfield Lake is still good for trout, and Riffe Lake continues to give up some very nice coho. Silver Lake is good for crappie, but some days the schools are not holding in the channels, and anglers have had to search for them at times. Anglers are also reminded that crappie must be at least nine inches long in Silver Lake, and you can only keep 10 fish. Crappie are also being caught in the east end of Lake Sacajawea

Columbia River Gorge

Drano Lake and Wind River Fishing Report—Both fisheries are winding down for the year. There are few quality fish left, and angler pressure is dropping off. During the entire fishery the Chinook have taken baits or lures trolled behind 360 flashers.

Klickitat River Fishing Report—Even with the recent rain the river has stayed in good condition and anglers have continued to catch steelhead in the upper sections, and a few late run coho down in the gorge, according to Carl Coolidge of the Klickitat Canyon Market, (509-369-4400). Coolidge, who offers a shuttle service and a fishing report on the market website, said the freeze level in the mountains is low enough that the Klickitat should stay in good condition.

He did say that steelheading is beginning to slow a little, and the numbers of anglers chasing coho in the lower river are dwindling, a sign that the coho fishery is dropping off.

The Guides Forecast—The river will close to steelhead on December 1, but until then anglers should still be able to find some quality steelhead in the upper canyon. The usual baits are still proving effective, including bobber and jigs, spinners, and bait. Conventional Fly anglers are fishing the stone fly and bead combo, while spey anglers are swinging large flies.

The coho run is just about over, but a few quality fish should still be around for another week or two.

Local Lakes Fishing Report—Rowland Lake has been producing some hold over trout. The lake will be well-stocked with 2,000 rainbows at almost one per pound over the next week in preparation for the Black Friday fishery. The lake will not be closed ahead of the event, so early bird anglers should find some success. Bank anglers tend to score by fishing worms along the bottom, while boat anglers can find success by trolling small plugs such as the Maglip 2.5 or spinners and spoons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.