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Wilson River Winter Steelhead Fishing with Guide, Lance Fisher

A limit of Wilson River steelhead.


The Wilson River is without a doubt, one of the top winter steelhead rivers in the West.  The strength of the winter steelhead fishery on the Wilson River lies in its huge native and hatchery steelhead runs.  Many rivers have one or the other, but the Wilson has some of the largest of both.  What this means for fishermen, is the opportunity to take fish home for the grill, but also receive the catch and release benefits of the thousands of native steelhead that return at the same time.

A nice wilson river steelhead for this lady.

The Wilson River will start to see steelhead in the river in catch-able numbers by about the 20th of December depending on water levels.  The fishery goes hard all the way into April with double digit steelhead days common.  Wilson River steelhead run from 5-20 pounds with an 8-12 pound fish being about normal.  These fish, being only a few miles out of the saltwater, tend to pull like trucks offering a real difference to many of the fish caught on inland waterways.  They are all good fish, but coastal steelhead are something else.

A steelhead being landed on the Wilson River.

Many people ask me about the techniques I use on the river.  This is an important element to your day as all guides have different approaches.

I use a couple different methods of fishing that allows us to cover lots of water in search of holding fish. Some days we will cover 14 miles of river. Covering water like this certainly helps us find fish, but also allows my customers to see some pretty amazing scenery. Side drifting is a “hands on” approach to Steelhead fishing that has fishermen casting out. I pace the current speed with the drift boat allowing for long drifts in potential holding water. Bobber dogging is the other method and it closely resembles side drifting. Bobber dogging simply adds a strike indicator/bobber/float to the equation. The technique does allow us to stay in likely holding water a little better as rivers drop and the technique also does a better job of avoiding snags. Both techniques are fun, interactive and in the end, my clients really enjoy the “hands on” aspect of the fishing we do.

A nice chrome bright steelhead caught with guide, lance fisher on the Wilson River.

For multi-day trips, or to come in the night before, many of my clients stay at the Garibaldi House.  The Garibaldi House is very accustomed to catering to fishermen.  They’re up early making breakfast and can send you away to your day on the water with a lunch fit for a king.  My clients receive special pricing with the Garibaldi House, so be sure to mention that you’re fishing with Lance Fisher Fishing to receive your discount.

Do you have a larger group? No problem! I work with several other guides to accommodate such a trip.

A beautiful steelhead caught on a pink worm.

Because of the close proximity of Tillamook to so many different rivers, we will often time fish two rivers in the same day.  Tillamook County has a plethora of rivers to choose from (Kilchis, Trask, Nehalem) and one of the other steelhead rivers that I frequent is the Nestucca River.  For more on that fishery, visit my Nestucca River steelhead fishing page.

Feel free to contact me with more questions or to book your trip.