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Cowlitz River Fishing

A big Salmon from the Cowlitz River

Located just north of Portland, the Cowlitz River is well known for its salmon and steelhead fishing opportunities. This Washington river is a favorite for many anglers.

Cowlitz River Fishing

The Cowlitz offers 2 runs of salmon and 2 runs of steelhead each year, making it a year-round fishery. The Cowlitz River drains out of the Cascades, through Lake Scanewa, into Riffe Lake and finally makes its way through Mayfield Lake before being able to run free. The Cowlitz flows through the towns of Toledo, Castle Rock and Longview before ending up in the Columbia River. The whole river is fishable by jet boat below the Barrier Dam and at different points during the year I venture into nearly every section of the river as I guide my clients during various runs.

Update: 2024 Cowlitz River Winter Steelhead Fishing

We’re moving into the prime months for winter steelhead fishing on the Cowlitz River. From now through mid-April we should see some of the best fishing opportunities of the season. We launch near Blue Creek which gives us the opportunity to fish one of the most productive stretches of the river. B run Steelhead are on the move and there’s lots of fishing to do in the next few months. Nothing beats chasing chrome in the Pacific Northwest and we’re here to guide you through the experience, whether this is your first time fishing or you’re a veteran angler. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have and get you set for a day of Steelhead fishing.

Cowlitz River Salmon Fishing

The Cowlitz River offers some good salmon fishing opportunities for over half of the year. With fairly consistent water temperatures and multiple holes, this tributary of the Columbia River offers both spring and fall runs of salmon.

Cowlitz River Salmon fishing kicks off in the month of April with the arrival of Spring Chinook Salmon. These fish remain in the river well into August, but fishing is focused on the months of April, May and June. The Spring run will regularly see over 20,000 fish return which makes it one of the larger Spring Chinook fishing opportunities in the region. We will target these fish by side drifting, backtrolling diver and bait and even by twitching jigs.

Big bright Cowlitz River Spring Chinook Salmon

Cowlitz River Spring Chinook Salmon

Cowlitz River Salmon fishing kicks off in the month of April with the arrival of Spring Chinook Salmon. These fish remain in the river well into August, but fishing is focused on the months of April, May and June. The Spring run will regularly see over 20,000 fish return which makes it one of the larger Spring Chinook fishing opportunities in the region. We will target these fish by side drifting, backtrolling diver and bait and even by twitching jigs.

Learn more about Cowlitz River Spring Chinook Fishing Trips

Cowlitz River Fall Salmon

Cowlitz River Fall Salmon begin entering the lower river in August and good fishing for Chinook and Coho will last clean through October on good years. Cowlitz River Fall Chinook are good biters and a lot of fun to fish while enjoying our awesome fall weather.

Learn more about Cowlitz River Fall Salmon Fishing Trips

Have Questions? Don’t know where to start? We’re happy to help. Give us a call or simply fill our questions/reservations form.

Cowlitz River Steelhead Fishing

50 miles of river to choose from, a river that holds water, and both summer and winter runs make the Cowlitz River an ideal location to steelhead fish.

A limit of chrome bright Cowlitz River Summer Steelhead

Cowlitz River Summer Steelhead

The Cowlitz River summer steelhead run starts in June and goes through August. Cowlitz River Summer Steelhead are awesome to fish for and are known far and wide as one of the best fighting fish in the region. Summer days on the western slope of Mt. St. Helens? Yes, it’s pretty nice. 

Learn more about Cowlitz River Summer Steelhead Fishing Trips

Cowlitz River Winter Steelhead

Cowlitz River Winter Steelhead start showing up in December and run all the way through March. The Cowlitz will see a run show up around the middle of December that lasts through the middle of January, and then another run will show up in March and last well into April. These A and B runs offer big strong fish that are great eaters and fighters!

Learn more about Cowlitz River Winter Steelhead Fishing Trips

We’re always happy to help. Let us know if you have questions or would like to book a trip.

Locations We Fish on the Cowlitz

The Cowlitz is a long river and many that book their guided fishing trips with me wonder which part of the river they will be fishing. There are two major locations that we fish out of, Castle Rock, Washington and the boat ramp out of Blue Creek near Salkum, Washington.

Blue Creek Boat Ramp on the Cowlitz River

Castle Rock Boat Ramp on the Cowlitz River


Fishing Licenses for Fishing the Cowlitz River

WDFW fishing license, Salmon and Steelhead Tag and Columbia River Basin Endorsement are required to fish Salmon and Steelhead on the Cowlitz River. If you’re able, you can purchase your license, tag and basin endorsement online at the WDFW online store. ***If you purchase online, it will take 10 days for the WDFW to deliver your documents to you*** If you’re looking for a license at a retail location, here is a list of WDFW licensing retailers.

Easy day of fishing on the Cowlitz River. Nice weather and nice fish.

Lodging when Fishing the Cowlitz River

Blue Creek- Salkum, Washington

If you’re fishing the Blue Creek area in Salkum, Washington, most of my clients have stayed at the Country Cabins. The place is rustic, but well kept and the Mom and Pop that own it are very kind and helpful. Nothing fancy, but a good place to stay while fishing the area. Here’s their Country Cabins Trip Advisor Page.

Castle Rock, Washington

Castle Rock is located not too far from Longview, so you’ve got options there. You’ll also find VRBO opportunities in the area if that is more to your liking. To actually stay in Castle Rock, I would check the Trip Advisor page. I don’t have anything there I endorse, but there are a few options.

For any questions you might have about Cowlitz River fishing, or to simply book a trip, contact me via our Questions and Reservations page.