Steelhead begin returning on the Nestucca River in December and the run will last clean through March. This is a drift boat river that holds it’s water very well. Nestucca River winter steelhead are only a short distance out of the saltwater so this river is definately known for it’s hot fish.
The Wilson is one of the great rivers on the North Coast. The Wilson see’s excellent hatchery returns that start in December and go through March. Great hatchery steelhead returns coupled with a strong native component mean world-class action on one of the West’s great steelhead rivers. For more on this fishery, you can read more about it here.
The Portland area is fortunate to have such a good steelhead run so close to where so many people live. The broodstock run on the Clackamas has basically replaced the more traditional runs of the past. These fish show up a little later than the older stocks, but tend to run a little larger. Side drifting is the method of choice as we cover miles of river over the course of the day. I use very light 4-10 pound rods making for quite a fight when you’re hooked up.
SW Washington is known for its summer steelhead returns and the North Fork is what get’s it all going. This is a beautiful river 35 miles north of Portland. Water temperatures remain consistent with it being fed by the reservoirs above. We can fish this river until it gets too low to run with a jet pump. These fish fight like no other and are known to chase baits down from great distances.
The Cowlitz is the best know summer steelhead river in the northwest in part do to its numbers and also that its smack dab in the middle of Seattle and Portland. The Cowlitz historically has produced exceptional numbers of fish and provided it’s fishermen with some nice scenery as well. Located at the base of Mt. St. Helens, the Cowlitz River steelhead will bite side drifted baits, back trolled prawns and will chase down hardware with determined aggression. Fish arrive in June and remain available well into August.