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Top 3 Cowlitz River Fishing Reports (For Salmon and Steelhead)

Top 3 Cowlitz River Fishing Reports (For Salmon and Steelhead)

It’s a known fact that the Cowlitz River has the best steelhead and chinook runs in the entire state of Washington!

It’s an immensely popular fishing destination that annually produces plenty of trophy catches.

Salmon and steelhead anglers love the Cowlitz!

So when I did my research for this article, I was almost shocked when I found out that only a few fishing reports are available online for this great river.

I mean, how can this be? Fishing reports are a vital information source for anglers, and one would expect that a top-rated river such as the Cowlitz would get more coverage!

Nonetheless, I found a few very detailed, helpful, and frequently updated reports, and I sincerely hope this article will help you prepare for your upcoming fishing adventure on the Cowlitz!

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

PRO TIP: Local fishing guides can also be a great source of information. You can find some of the best Cowlitz River charters right here:

Tacoma Public Utilities

a fly angler on the cowlitz river with a really big fall king salmon
Courtesy of Lace Baumgartner

I usually start with a fishing report from a state department, as they are usually the most informative and updated ones out there. But for the Cowlitz, I had to make an exception!

Most anglers wouldn’t expect Tacoma Public Utilities to release a helpful Cowlitz River fishing report, but they do an excellent job!

They oversee the Cowlitz salmon hatchery separator and collect different salmon and trout species every week! 

The species they most commonly collect include:

  • sping adult and jack chinook salmon
  • fall adult and jack chinook salmon
  • summer-run steelhead
  • winter-run steelhead
  • adult and jack coho salmon
  • cutthroat trout

So, depending on when you’re planning on hitting the river (during summer, fall, or winter), all you have to do is check the TPU’s fishing reports weekly and see if the amount of collected fish of your target species is increasing.

If it does, that means a significant run is happening, and you should head to the river! 

It’s not a conventional type of fishing report, but having access to this information gives you a considerable advantage nonetheless and helps you plan your fishing trips to the Cowlitz.

Additionally, the reports also include the following:

  • number of released fish
  • river flow in cubic feet/second
  • water visibility in feet
  • water temperature in Fahrenheit

That additional data alone can be worth more than gold and is extremely helpful to both boat and bank anglers.

All in all, a superb fishing report with a ton of vital information!

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

a group of anglers on a drift boat on the cowlitz river fishing for fall chinook salmon and steelhead
Courtesy of FishingBooker.com

The WDFW publishes plenty of fishing reports, one covering the Columbia River and all its tributaries (one being the Cowlitz).

It’s not the most detailed of reports, but their Cowlitz River fishing report gets updated weekly and contains basic catch reports that can be helpful for anglers when determining if a run is happening or if the bite is on. 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s fishing report for the Cowlitz includes the following information:

  • catch reports for below and above the I-5 bridge
  • number of bank rods and their respective salmon and steelhead catches
  • number of boats and boat rods and their respective salmon and steelhead catches
  • number of kept salmon and steelhead
  • number of released salmon and steelhead

Furthermore, the WDFW’s report database stretches back to 2019, allowing you to compare catch reports from previous months and years. 

Another advantage of checking the Washington state department’s homepage is that you can have quick access to current fishing regulations and limits.

PRO TIP: You can also download the Fish Washington Mobile App to get even more detailed and up-to-date information on fishing regulations, limits, and possible emergency changes. 

To conclude, not the most detailed of fishing reports, but still a reliable source with a lot of additional helpful information for anglers. 

Rating: 4/5 rods

Cowlitz River Salmon/Steelhead Facebook Group

a screenshot of the cowlitz river salmon and steelhead facebook group

The third and last source for information regarding the Cowlitz River is a related Facebook fishing group.

Once again, this isn’t really a fishing report (which proves how few reports are out there…).

Still, the group is literally about fishing salmon and steelhead on the Cowlitz and includes quite a few catch reports, pictures, and tips and tricks from local anglers.

You can check the latest posts, see what other anglers have caught or what types of lures or baits are currently catching fish, and join discussions with other anglers.

If you don’t find an answer to your question, you can simply post it in the group or use the search function to see if the topic has already come up.

It’s not the best source of information, but it’s certainly better than nothing, and many of the members fish the river regularly, which means that the information you get there comes directly from the source.

Rating: 3/5 rods

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Featured image courtesy of Chris Barnhart

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