Fishing Year Round In Southwest WA.:
Spring Salmon, Steelhead, Sturgeon, Trout
Spring Chinook fishing on the Columbia River and it's tributaries can start as early as February if the rivers are open, most of the tributaries will be open but receive their fish later in the year, usually in March, April, May. The Columbia River can turn on sooner, rumors of fish being caught around the town of Cathlamet start in early to mid February. They're usually caught by trolling herring and are beautiful but hard earned trophies in the 10-25 lb. class.
Further upriver near Longview fish are taken on Kwickfish while at anchor in 5-30 foot depths on outgoing tides, fish can also be taken trolling both sides of the tide. Most fishing takes place on the Oregon side of the river targeting Willamette run springers.
The three best known and largest returning runs of spring chinook in Southwest Washington are on the Cowlitz River, Kalama River, and the North Fork of the Lewis River. All three of these rivers have decent public access for boat and bank angling and each area of each river has different methods that seem to work best.
Plunkers on the lower Cowlitz River near Castle Rock take many fish on spin-glos with sand shrimp, usually with an added lure or bait slid down their main line. Fisherman near Barrier dam on the upper Cowlitz River usually drift fish or use a bobber and eggs. Boat anglers fish the entire river with a variety of gear with trolling being the most popular on the lower river and back bouncing bait on the upper river.
The Kalama River is a lot smaller river and requires a drift boat as motors are not allowed above Modrow bridge. There are many bank fishing areas along Kalama River road, some require a steep hike into the river canyon where drift fishing is the most common practice.
The main Lewis River and the North Fork pump out a lot of fish to both bank and boat anglers willing to put in the effort. Boaters have success near the mouth trolling herring, some salmon that are bound for upper Columbia River tributaries will pull into this area for awhile and can also be caught. Plunking can also be productive near the town of Woodland. Further upriver near the salmon hatchery boaters back bounce eggs in the slow pools using electric trolling motors to position their boats above salmon that have stacked up awaiting their turn to spawn. Bank fisherman in this area use drift gear or a sliding bobber and egg setup.
Bright spring steelhead can be caught in any of these areas, often using the same gear as salmon fishing. Spawner winter steelhead can also be caught but should be quickly released as they are poor table fare. Occasionally early summer run steelhead can be caught and are a definite bonus.
Sturgeon fishing can be hit or miss this time of year with the most activity concentrated around the smelt runs which they feed on. Boaters enjoy the best access anchoring in holes or flats in the Columbia River from the mouth to Bonneville dam. Bank fishing is limited to areas that have access to these hotspots. Fresh smelt or sand shrimp are fished on the bottom using sufficient weight to anchor it in place. Bites are usually light and you`ll never know the size of the fish until after you set the hook. Fish can range in size from 1-3 foot shakers to 10 foot oversized.
Trout fishing begins in April with the nearby lowland lakes. Most fish caught will be planted by hatcheries several days or weeks prior to the opening. These fish are poor table fair and are best left for children to catch as their first fish, please remember to take a kid fishing. Most of the creeks, beaver ponds, and rivers are closed until June as are the high lakes.