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.