The Cowlitz River is located in southwest Washington State. The river is about two and a half hours south of Seattle and two hours north of Portland, Oregon. The Cowlitz is the number one steelhead producer in the state of Washington for winter and summer run steelhead. There are two species of Pacific salmon – the Chinook Salmon (or King Salmon) and the Coho Salmon (or Silver Salmon). The Cowlitz River starts off Mount Rainier and runs through the Cascade Range ultimately dumping into the Columbia River. This is a large river fished primarily by jet sled boats. The area is very rural and beautiful with an abundance of wildlife including deer, bald eagles, osprey, and blue heron.
Winter Run Steelhead on the Cowlitz River
The Cowlitz River is the number one steelhead river in the state of Washington. It averages the largest numbers of hatchery reared steelhead in the months of November, December, and January. During the latter part of November through mid December you’ll find the return of the three-salt winter run steelhead. A three-salt steelhead means they stay in the ocean for three years before they return back to fresh water. These fish range in size from 10 – 17 pounds. From mid December through mid January is the time frame in which the two-salt winter run steelhead appear. They live two years in the salt water before returning home to the fresh water. Their average weight is 7 – 10 pounds. Approximately 95% of these winter run steelhead are hatchery fish. For the person who wants to take fish home to the dinner table this is a great fishery. These fish are chrome bright and excellent eating.
Summer Run Steelhead on the Cowlitz River
The top producer of summer run steelhead is, again, the Cowlitz River. These fish start returning in June through October. They range in size from 7 – 17 pounds. The weather is warm and the fishing is great. Go to our steelhead section to learn more about the steelhead.