Winter and Summer Run Steelhead, Chinook, Coho, Chum, and Pink Salmon, Sea Run Cutthroat, Dolly Varden, Sturgeon, Mountain Whitefish, and Rainbow Trout.
Enters the Puget Sound at the Port of Everett
Take Interstate 405 to Highway 522 at Woodinville and turn east. Drive 12 miles to the bridge that crosses the Snohomish just before the confluence of the Snoqualmie and the Skykomish Rivers. Turn left (north) on Elliot Road and drive two miles to the first of several roads leading to the east (right) toward the river at various points. An alternative is to take Interstate 5 to Everett and drive east on U.S.2 to Snohomish, where two highway bridges cross the river and turn west (right) onto River Road to fish the south side of the river between Snohomish and Everett.
Boat ramps are located on the river in Everett, Snohomish, and off of 115th Avenue S.E., about midway between Snohomish and the Highway 522 bridge. Food, gas, lodging, and tackle are readily available in Everett and Snohomish. Try John’s Sporting Goods in Everett for some insider information with John Martinis.
Rules and Regulations:
See the WDFG rules and regulations pamphlet for further updated details.
The Snohomish River is a river in the U.S. state of Washington, formed by the confluence of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers near Monroe. It flows northwest entering Port Gardner Bay, part of Puget Sound, between Everett and Marysville. The Pilchuck River is its main tributary and joins the river at Snohomish. The river system drains the west side of the Cascade Mountains from Snoqualmie Pass to north of Stevens Pass.
Fishing the Snohomish River:
This river system provides excellent angling opportunities for summer and winter steelhead, resident and sea-run cutthroat trout, resident rainbow trout, Dolly Varden and whitefish. Sturgeon are found in the lower reaches, and many salmon fishing opportunities. Two of Western Washington’s better steelhead and salmon rivers, the Skykomish and the Snoqualmie, join to form this big, slow moving river known as the Snohomish. Since all the sea-run fish bound for the Sky and the Snoqualmie have to pass through the Snohomish, it stands the reason that it can be a productive fishing spot.
The reason it isn’t an even better producer is that it’s so slow, and deep it’s difficult to read. There are not many distinguishable holding spots for salmon and steelhead, so many anglers come here, scratch their head and ask themselves “where do I start casting?”. The river’s size and the nature of the shoreline give boaters a better advantage in the lower portion of the river, and it’s those boater anglers who score the best catches from the Snohomish throughout the year.
The coho run is the backbone for the fall salmon fishery here, with the pinks in the odd years. October is the prime month to fish the river for action. Backtrolling various diving plugs or casting flashy spoons and spinners are the techniques that take them the best. Chartrues for the coho and pink for the pinks. Catchable number of coho’s continue to pass throughout the Snohomish in November, and some large chums are also available by then to add to the intrigue od the morning bite. The pink’s enter the river in September and are present in great numbers. September through to November can offer some great cutthroat and Dolly Varden fishing opportunities.
As for steelhead, the Snohomish shines brightest as a winter steelhead stream, often ranking among the state’s top 10 producing winter steelhead streams. Catches of 2,000 or more winter-runs per season are fairly common on the Snohomish River. December and January,, when large numbers of hatchery fish pass through on their way upstreamto the hatchery facilities at Tokul Creek and Reiter Ponds, are the top months to fish the Snohomish. Back trolling plugs or diver bait combinations account for a good number of winter steelhead, as does plunking with fresh roe clusters, various winged bobbers, or a combination of the two. Summer steelheading is also a good possibility here, but the numbers don’t compare to the winter steelhead catch. The best months being June and July.
Monster Chum Salmon on the Snohomish River:
Winter and Summer Run Steelhead, Chinook, Coho, Chum, and Pink Salmon, Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout, Mountain Whitefish.
Enters Commencement Bay in Tacoma.
Take the Puyallup exit off of Interstate 5 near the north end of Tacoma to reach the Lower Puyallup, which is paralleled by River Road on the south side of the river and the North Levee Road on the north side of the river. To reach the upper portions of the river take Pioneer Avenue east out of Puyallup to Highway 162 (the Summer/Orting Highway). Side roads to the east off Highway 162 provide river access at Alderton, McMillan, and other places along the way towards Orting. McCutcheon Road runs along the east side of the river from Summner to McMillan.
The towns of Puyallup and Sumner have every thing that you need.
Rules and Regulations:
See your WDFG rules and regulations pamphlet for details.
Fishing the Puyallup River:
Some of the best fishing on the Puyallup river is found from Sumner upstream to the mouth of the Carbon River, a few miles north of Orting. This is true for both salmon and steelhead. Many anglers float this stretch of the river, but McCutcheon Road provides plenty of access at more than a half dozen points.
Chinook start showing up in the Puyallup in August, and by mis-September the salmon fishery is going in full speed. Every other year the Pinks show up in masses. The hottest fishing action in the river is in October, when coho fill the river, most of them bound for the state salmon hatchery at Voight Creek, a Carbon River tributary near Orting. Boat anglers scor good cohocatches back-trolling Hot Shots, Wiggle Warts, and other plugs, while bank anglers do well with Blu Fox, Matric, and Flash and Go spinners.
A few steelhead trickle into the upper reaches of the Puyallup above the mouth of the Crabon, but you’re better off concentrating your efforts from McMillan downstream. If you’re a drift-angler, you’ll find plenty of good water between Sumner and McMillan, with no really area better than the others. If plunking is in your bag, stay downstream of Puyallup. Plunkers can do well on the North Levee Road, where there’s plenty of bank access and a good chance of catching fish right after a period of high water. Beware! this is a COMBAT fishery when the fish runs are at full strength.
Chum fishing in December on the Puyallup:
Coho and Chinook Salmon, Small and Largemouth Bass, Perch, Brown Bullhead Catfish,Crappie, Brown Trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Rainbow Trout.
East of Mossyrock
Take U.S.12 east from Interstate 5 about 23 miles to Mossyrock, turn right (south) into town and go left (east) on Aujune Road, which leads to Tacoma Public Utilities’ Mossyrock Park Campground and boat ramp near the dam. To reach the upper lake, continue on U.S.12 about 5 miles past Morton and turn right (south) on Kosmos Road. Stay right to reach the steep boat ramp at the northeast corner of the lake or turn left and drive about 4 miles to the entrance of the Tacoma Public Utilities Park near where the Cowlitz River enters the lake.
Mossyrock park at the lower end of the lake has RV hookups, tent sites, boat ramps, and restrooms with showers, as does Taidnapan Park at the upper end. There’s also a boat ramp at the northeast end of the lake, about two miles off U.S.12 via Glenoma Road Groceries, restaurant, gas, tackle, and lodging are available in Mossyrock and Morton.
Rules and Regulations:
The lake is open for fishing year around. Your trout (or landlocked salmon) limit here is 5 fish, & this lake, like all waters of the state have a restriction whereby if you use bait, any that you catch will be counted toward your limit regardless if your keep or release them. However if you are using lures, with no scent, you can cull or release them all day. For this lake, WDFW has designated it as a 2 pole lake if you purchase that endorsement.
Fishing Riffe Lake:
The coho fishing is the main attraction at Riffe Lake, and it draws both boat and bank anglers from all over western Washington. In the spring and early summer, coho are near the surface, where they can be caught by trollers using strings of trolling blades and worms, white coen, cocktail shrimp or a combination of both. Bank anglers them by suspending the same baits three or four feet below a bobber. As the summer progresses and the thermocline establishes itself in this big, deep reservoir , the coho go deep, where both boat and bank anglers typically fish them 100 feet down with slip-bobber rigs. Most of the action takes place at the west end of the lake, within site of the dam. As for size, two year old comprise most of the catch in the spring and early summer, and they average 12 to 14 inches. The one year class begin to dominate the catch by July, and for the rest of the summer and fall, the average Riffe Lake Coho is eight to nine inches.
Another coho fishery that has really taken off is at the other end of the lake, where the Cowlitz River flows into the east end of the impoundment. This so called “108″ bridge on the Champion Haul Road near Taidnapana Park has become a mecca for anglers who still-fish with all the bait mentioned above, while catching coho to 14 inches. Both spring and fall can be a productive fishery, but leave your landing net at home, the bridge is about 40 feet above the water.
A one time shortage of coho, the state planted steelhead in the lake which many anglers didn’t even notice the difference. Although rare, an occasional brown trout may grab one of the offerings meant for the coho here. If you want to target specifically on these trophy fish, some to ten pounds or more, forget the worms and go deep, trolling a Rapala or other large bait fish intimating plug or wobbling spoon.
Smallmouth bass are much more abundant than largemouths in this chilly reservoir, but you might catch both if you fish the upper end during May and June. As the creek channels fill with water that time of year, they draw hungry bass like a magnet, and then fishing crankbaits or plastic can be very good. Another possibility for bass is Swofford Cove, on the north side, near the west end of the reservoir. Both large and small mouths tend to congregate in the shallow, warm bay in the spring and summer.
Riffe has a healthy population of brown bullhead catfish, and the best time and place to catch them is during the spring, in the shallow flats at the upper end of the lake. Most catfish anglers launch at the Kosmos boat ramp in the evening and fish the shallow water nearby with nightcrawlers. Although not large at an average of 10 to 12 inches, they’re abundant enough to provide plenty of fast action and good eating for a few hours of fishing.
Riffe Lake Perch and Smallmouth Bass
They say that 10% of the fishermen catch 90% of the fish. By some accounts it’s more like 26% of the License holders catch upwards of 92% of our fish. Do yourself a favor and take 20 minutes to watch this video. There is a lot of historical info on this new site:
The “Historical Bias” video documents how WDFW has historically awarded 83 percent of salmon available for harvest in the Chehalis Basin to commercial gill netters operating in the Bay and lower portion of the river. In the Willapa estuary, approximately 25 commercial gill net license holders were awarded nearly 91 percent of the available harvest for Chinook, Coho, and Chum.
Chinook and Coho Salmon, Cutthroat Trout, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Northern Pikeminnow, Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout, Sculpin, Tiger Muskie & Yellow Perch
West of Mossyrock in Lewis County.
Take U.S.12 east from Interstate 5 about 17 miles to the lake. Turn left (north) at Silver Creek to reach Ike Kinswa State Park on the north side of the lake or cross over the lake on U.S.12 and go just about a mile to Mayfield Lake County Park.
Kinswa State Park has RV and tent sites, rest rooms, and a boat launch. Matfield Lake County Park offers rest rooms and a boat launch. Snacks and beverages are located at the small stores around the lake. All other amenities can be found in Mossyrock.
Rules and Regulations:
Open year around, there is an 8-inch minimum size on trout. All cutthroat trout in Mayfield Lake and in tributary Tilton River must be released. Remember, only adipose clipped rainbow trout may be retained in Mayfield Lake and the Tilton River. Currently the minimum size limit for muskies is 50 inch.
Fishing Mayfield Lake:
The reservoir is 13 miles long, averages about 1/2 mile wide, covers 2,250 surface acres, and has 33.5 miles of shoreline. It has two major arms, Winston Cove and Tilton Cove. The current state record of 31.25 lbs. came from this lake several years ago, and occasionally 25 to 30 lb. class tiger muskies are caught here. It is generally best to fish this lake in the middle of the week, not only because of crowded boat ramps and heavy boat traffic on weekends, but also because Tacoma Power may release water over the spillway on weekends to put water in the river below for recreational fishermen. The best time to fish Mayfield for tiger muskies is from mid-June into September, although the tiger muskies remain catchable until early October. Radio tracking studies indicate they suspend in deep water and are inactive in winter and early spring. Washington Fish and Wildlife studies show that they feed almost only on northern pikeminnow also known as squawfish.
This reservoir was formed by the construction of Mayfield Dam. It is managed for catchable rainbow trout and warmwater species. Tiger muskies were introduced in 1993 to help in controlling nuisance northern pikeminnow (squawfish) populations. Water enters Mayfield Lake from the Mossyrock Dam (backing up Riffe Lake) above, and exits through the turbines or (rarely) over the spillway of Mayfield Dam into the Cowlitz River below. Under normal reservoir operating conditions, the maximum water level fluctuation is 10 feet. There are two safety barriers above the dam, consisting of a log boom and a steel pontoon boom. Watercraft are not allowed in the restricted zone between the log barrier and the dam. The most important thing you need to remember about Tiger Muskie fishing is that they spend most of their time within six feet of the surface. Spinner baits and Blacktail Spinners in black, red, brown, and various other color combinations of these colors will take them, as will five to seven inch shallow diving plugs and surface plugs the same size. Mayfield’s two structure types are weeds and wood. The large weed flat opposite Tilton Cove holds the majority of this lake’s tiger muskies. Weeds in Winston Cove also hold fish. Look for shoreline areas with underwater stumps and logs. The best time is mid-week on cloudy days. Now that the Tiger Muskies have gotten abundant and are reproducing on the abundant squawfish, once again the state has started planting the lake with rainbows. Planted as fingerlings they soon grow to catchable size in the 12 to 14 inch range. Most of the locals troll with Pop Geer and worms for their trout, but Kwikfish, Triple Teasers, Rooster Tails, and my favorite the Wedding Band Spinner works well. Don’t be surprised when your fishing for rainbow’s that you hook into a small coho or chinook salmon from Riffe Lake and the Tilton River where they commonly make their way into the mix of the trout population. The large-mouth fishing is scattered around the lake, but if you set your mind to it so be it. Try fishing along the high bank on the north side of the lake, west of the state park. There are submerged rocks that can be found here around the entrance of the Cowlitz Arm.
Largemouth Bass can also be found in Mayfield Lake in the weed beds and in the Tilton River arm. Warm weather can bring explosive top water action. Plastic worms, crank bait and spinner baits are good choices here. Smallmouth Bass have been planted in Mayfield Lake but have not been as successful as in neighboring Rife Lake.
Perch fishing is great most of the year with the best catches taken near the weed beds or in the Tilton River Arm. This is easy fishing, just drop a worm over the side or from the bank and wait for the 10 to 14 inch fish
Summer and Winter-Run Steelhead, Coho and Chinook Salmon, Cutthroat, Green and White Sturgeon (at the mouth)
Joins the Columbia River at Camas.
Take Highway 14 to Washougal and turn north on Highway 140, which parallels the main river for about 10 miles. The bridge in the picture above you will cross over. Take Skye Road north of Highway 140 and turn right (east) on Washougal River Road to follow the main river upstream, or turn north on North Fork Road, past the Skamania Hatchery, to reach the West Fork Washougal.
There are several public access spots and a couple of places to launch boats along Highway 140. Food, gas, tackle, and lodging can be found in Camas or Washougal.
Fishing the Washougal River:
Washougal’s claim to fame is that it produces steelhead 12 months a year. It has a strong run of summer and winter steelhead, thanks to generous steelhead smolt counts yearly of over 100,000 of each run. The summer run is by far the larger of the two, and most years this small tributary of the Columbia gives up more than a thousand fish to anglers. These are the famous Skamania Hatchery steelhead that where such a huge success and caused such a stir among anglers when they where transplanted to the Great Lakes system nearly 3 decades ago. May, June, and July produce the best catches and the fishing drops off considerable in August (let alone all the swimmers). Wild steelhead release regulations are in effect throughout the year, make sure to stop by the hatchery, the last time I was there I saw some monster 25 pound steelhead holding in their rearing ponds!. The highway provides fairly good bank fishing access to the lower Washougal, and there are three spots along the river where boat anglers launch to fish. This is a small river with plenty of boulders, so don’t try boating unless you know what your doing and have a chance to check out the river before you go fishing. The safest boating is when the river is high, during low flows boating is nearly impossible, except for the lower portion of the river. The hatchery produces good numbers of coho and chinook salmon that return to the river throughout the fall. Make sure to check the rules and regulation before salmon fishing on this stream. As a rule of thumb you usually can keep two hatchery (fin clipped) salmon a day, and here thats what many anglers do when fishing is good. Take your favorite trout rod along with you if your visiting the Washougal for fall salmon, and if their biting you may want to try your luck with a little sea-run cutthroat fishing. Some 30,000 to 40,000 cutthroat smolts are released every year, this is the number 3 river in the state with stocked cutthroat smolts.
Sturgeon fishing is usually fished right at the mouth where the Highway 14 bridge crosses the rivers mouth as it enters the Columbia River, and there are opportunities fishing from a boat in the mill holes, sometimes as deep as 30 feet.
Rainbow Trout, Chinook and Coho Salmon, Winter-Run Steelhead
Flows into the north arm of Mayfield Lake.
Take U.S.12 to Morton, turn north on Highway 7, drive half a mile, and turn left (west) on Highway 508 to follow the river downstream. Drive three miles and turn right (north) to reach the North Fork Tilton.
Ike Kinswa State Park is located where the Tilton flows into Mayfield Lake, and has both tent and RV sites, restrooms, with showers, and other amenities. Food, gas, lodging, and tackle are available in Morton.
Fishing the Tilton River:
Generous late-spring plants of hatchery rainbows provide most of the fishing action on this small tributary to the Cowlitz River system. While most of the planters are legal-sized eight to ten inchers, the Department of Fish and Wildlife also includes a number of so called jumbo rainbows to 15 inches. Trout fishing is best in June and July. Liberal regulations on the main Tilton allow anglers to use bait and keep up to five trout per day and any trout eight inches or longer (only one may be bigger than 12 inches). On the north, south, east, and west forks of the river, selective fishing regulations are in effect, so you have to use artificial lures, and flies with barbless hooks, and the limit is two trout per day.
Before the construction of Mayfield Dam in the 1960′s, the Tilton flowed directly into the Cowlitz River, but now it enters the north end of Mayfield Lake. As dams tend to do, Mayfield cut off the once healthy runs of salmon and steelhead on the Tilton. Fish are now trucked from the Cowlitz Trout Hatchery and the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. Downstream migrating salmon entering Mayfield Lake from the Tilton River are diverted with a screen to a fish passage channel at Mayfield Dam so they can swim to the lower river without passing through the powerhouse turbines. Unfortunately only a few percentage offish that are trucked get caught. This little stream where anglers where accustomed to catching 10 to 20 pound winter steelhead with amazing frequency, now only a few dozen “transplanted” steelhead are caught now. The coho and chinook that are trucked in provide a little better action in September, October, and into December. If you can’t find any fishing spots to your liking on the Tilton, check out the public access at Tilton River State Park, one of the newer state’s public angling acquisitions. Although the 100-acre does provide access to the famous “Dodge Hole”, one of the better known fishing spots. This was written in the Seattle Times on August 1, 2012: Tilton River from mouth to West Fork – The salmon daily limit will be 6 fish of which no more than 2 may be adult Chinook. Release wild coho. New for 2012: Release wild Chinook.
Chinook, Coho, Pink and Chum Salmon, Winter-Run Steelhead, Sea-Run Cutthroat, Longfin Smelt
Flows into Bellingham Bay, northwest of Bellingham
To reach the South Fork Nooksack, exit Interstate 5 onto Highway 20 at Burlington and drive six miles east to Sedro Wooley, where you will turn north onto Highway 9 and drive 14 miles to the river. To reach the North Fork of the Nooksack, continue north on Highway 9 to Deming and turn right (east) onto Highway 542. Drive 3 miles and turn right onto Mosquito Lake Road to reach the Middle Fork, but stay on Highway 542 to reach several good stretches of the North Fork.
Ferndale Campground, about 1.5 miles north of the town of Ferndale just off of Interstate 5, has tent and RV sites and other camping facilities. Scottish Lodge Motel and several bed and breakfasts are also available in the town of Ferndale. Dutch Village Inn, Windmill Inn Motel, and Hidden Village RV Park are among the possibilities in Ferndale. Food, gas, restaurants, and tackle are available in Ferndale, Lynden, and other smaller towns along the river.
Fishing the Nooksack:
This vast river system, stretching from northern Skagit County nearly to the Canadian border and from Bellingham Bay to the North Cascades, is a shadow of the once productive steelhead and salmon river it was a few decades ago. In the year 1985 anglers caught more than 1,800 winter-run steelhead from the main Nooksack, but by the year 1995 the river kicked out a dismal 44 fish. The North Fork and South Fork Nooksack contributed only a couple dozen steelhead to that total. For a river that is stocked with 106,200 (2012) (down from 146,500 in 2011) hatchery steelhead smolts every year, those are some mighty poor numbers. I guess the bottom line is whether you choose to plunk the slower waters downstream of Emerson or drift-fish the main stem from Emerson up to and including the North and South Forks, steelheading on the Nooksack is a tough proposition, so why even bother.
The same goes for Sea-Run Cutthroat, which once provided excellent angling action. Local anglers do catch cutthroat here and there throughout the river from September through November, but the harvest-trout fishery certainly isn’t worth a long trip from anywhere.
Salmon fishing is a better bet, especially on the main stem of the Nooksack. Boat and bank anglers catch several hundred hatchery coho from the river during September and October each year, a catch that’s often comprised of about half adult fish and half one to two pound jacks. December can provide some good chum fishing as well.
Chinook and Coho Salmon, Large and Small Mouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Steelhead, Rainbow Trout, Carp, Mountain Whitefish
Flows into the Columbia River south of Richland.
Drive east from Yakima to Granger on Interstate 82, paralleling the river most of the 24 miles. Take Granger Emerald Road east from Granger to parallel several miles of the river downstream of Granger. Continuing downstream, the stretch of river between Sunnyside and Prosser can be reached by driving south off Interstate 82 on Highway 241 about seven miles to the river or south from Grandview on Euclid Road. Interstate 82 parallels the river again along the 14 miles between Prosser and Benton City. Drive north from Benton city on Highway 225 for 10 miles to fish some of the lowest portions of the river before it joins the Columbia.
Several boat ramps are located along the lower Yakima, including those in Granger, the Sunnydale Wildlife Area, Horn Rapids, and the mouth of the river at Kennewick. Food, gas, tackle, and lodging are available in Yakima, Granger, Sunnyside, Grandview, Prosser, and the Tri Cities area.
Fishing the Lower Yakima River:
Chinook salmon on the Lower Yakima River is open for hatchery spring chinook from the I-182 Bridge in Richland to the Grant Avenue Bridge in Prosser. This section is expected to open sometime in May and to remain open through June 30.
Starting this sometime in May, the Upper Yakima River from the I-82 Bridge at Union Gap to the railroad bridge below Roza Dam will be open for hatchery spring chinook. This section is expected to stay open through July 31.
The Yakima is expecting a return of 5,000 hatchery chinook.
The daily limit is two adipose-fin-clipped hatchery chinook. All wild salmon and all steelhead must be released.
Anglers must have the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement, plus a fishing license. Anglers may also use two-poles by purchasing a “two-pole endorsement.” The fall chinook fishery starts in September and running into the month of October, with the coho fishery right behind it in the month of October.
The lower Yakima River from Granger downstream to the Columbia River is well known for robust populations of smallmouth bass and channel catfish during the spring and summer months. Though some shoreline areas are open to the public, most of the better fishing areas are only accessible by boat.
Unlike the “Blue Ribbon” trout waters upstream from Yakima, this lower stretch of the river meanders slowly through the flat river valley, warming fairly fast in the spring and summer and offering a haven for warm-water species. Clean rock and gravel comprise much of the river bottom throughout this stretch, providing perfect habitat for small-mouth bass, and they thrive in these waters. Although it doesn’t get much fishing pressure, those who do fish these waters of the Yakima tell lots of stories about the huge smallmouths that live here. The extreme lower end of the Yakima also has largemouths, but this river doesn’t offer a whole lot of prime cover for largemouth bass.
It does, however, suit channel catfish very well, and anglers have made some good catfish catches here over the years. Casting from the banks with chicken livers, night crawlers, and foul-smelling stink baits produce some channel catfish of 10 pounds or more, with the best fishing coming in the months of June and July.
There is no daily limit on bass in the Yakima River but no more than three over 15 inches can be retained. Channel catfish are present throughout the lower Yakima River but the best fishing is usually in the lower ten miles during late Spring and Summer. There is no current minimum size restriction and no daily limit on channel catfish in the Yakima River. A fall chinook and coho salmon season is scheduled for September 1 to October 22 from the mouth to Prosser Dam. The lower Yakima River is open to fishing from March 1 to October 22 below Prosser Dam and May 1 to October 31 above Prosser Dam to the Hwy 223 bridge at Granger. The lower Yakima River is closed to trout fishing (both resident trout and steelhead).
The Nisqually River supports naturally reproducing populations of Chinook, chum, coho, and pink salmon, and cutthroat trout. In addition, a very large hatchery Chinook salmon program plants Chinook salmon into the river. Winter and Summer-Run Steelhead, and Sea-Run Cutthroat
Enters the Puget Sound between Tacoma and Olympia.
Take Interstate 5 to the Old Nisqually exit and follow Pacific Avenue south two miles to Reservation Road. Turn left on Reservation Road and left again on Highway 510 (Olympia/Yelm Highway), which roughly parallels the south side of the river before crossing over it at the small town of McKenna.
Grocery, gas, and tackle are available in Yelm, and lodging can be found in nearby Lacey.
Fishing the Nisqually River:
Illegal tribal netting years back all but wiped out the winter steelhead, the river is trickling back but the winter steelhead run is on the “Threatened Species Act” catch and release all wild fish on this river. In 2012 the hopeful natural escapement goal might reach 300, in 2011 268 total winter steelhead returned according to WDFW, in the past 20 or so years the top year was 1989, which produced only 3,807 winter-runs.
Wild Chinook Salmon from the Nisqually are on the “Threatened Species Act”, and the Wild Coho Salmon is not far behind. Please always catch and release all wild fish.
Hatchery “fin clipped” Salmon fishing starts to pick up at the beginning of August, this fishery is a hit and miss opportunity. The Indians don’t start netting normally until the second week of August, which gives the sportsman about a two week window of opportunity to land a nice chinook salmom from 10 to 30 pounds. There are two or three launches on the river, one being on a military post. There are a few drift boat holes that anglers usually fill, then the other majority of fishing is done from the shore. Ghost shrimp, diving plugs, and roe clusters work well here. The pinks move in in the beginning of September every other year, followed by the coho towards the end of September and into October. In the meantime, chum salmon are the biggest draw for anglers on the Nisqually these days. Chums come on strong with the first highwaters of November and provide fishing action well into January most years. Favorite spots are the long drift immediately above the Pacific Avenue bridge, and a few miles upstream near the mouth of Muck Creek. Nisqually river chums are fond of green yarn, small green steelhead bobbers, or bobber and yarn combinations.
Sea-run cutthroat trout are available in the Nisqually from about August through November, chasing the salmon eggs, but they get little attention on this river. The best cutthroat fishing is in the lower section of the river, as they sometimes go in and out with the tidal flow.