Salmon and steelhead fishing on the Hoh , Sol Duc and the Bogachiel Rivers is popular because of quality fishing and the natural setting. These rivers are situated along the western coast of Washington where they emerge from the Olympic National Park just outside of Forks, WA. The Hoh River is also the destination of very many salmon and steelhead returning to their spawning grounds either naturally in the river or located there by way of the hatchery programs. The Quinault National Fish Hatchery program apparently locates fish on Allen Bar. The Sol Duc and Bogachiel Rivers also have hatchery programs and many fish return to these rivers. Here’s the WDFW Hatchery Map and more about this subject is here.
For accommodations there are several camping options for winter time fishing down the Oil City area at the Cottonwood Campground or on the Hoh River at the Oxbow. You could even stay at nearby accommodations provided in Forks, WA or at Kalaloch Campground which is about twenty minutes drive. In fact there are many other locations in the area if you do a little research. It’s worth noting that there is a great supply of fishing equipment for fresh and saltwater at Forks Outfitters. In town there are also restaurants, hotels and at least one laundromat for drying off dry suits or other clothing and camping gear.
When it comes to getting on the water, the things to consider are launch points, the take-outs and length of the day’s journey. I have some example trips on the Olympic Peninsula for river fishing below. Each one of these trips I have done by kayak and they are runs that could take from 6-8 hours in length. The length of your journey will vary depending on how much time you want to spend fishing.
Hoh River launch and take-out for Oxbow start. The take-out location might be difficult to access for some vehicles. Be prepared to ferry the kayak from the river bank for several hundred yards if you can’t drive to the river’s edge.
Bogachiel River from Hatchery to the confluence with the Sol Duc. There are just a few technical sections on this river and on the weekends this river will see more crowding than others.
Sol Duc River from Hatchery to Maxfield. The launch and take out are a breeze. It’s the river where things are more technical than the others mentioned. Be well prepared for class III water.
For a steelhead or salmon trip, the bait and lures I like to use most are:
- Inline spinners
- Jig and pink worm
- Cured eggs on a float
For basic equipment, I will bring my 17-18 foot sea kayak to navigate the eddies and waves. I will also use two spinning rods from 7’6″ to 9′ in length.
When river fishing from the kayak the critical priorities are to keep yourself safe and to catch the big fish. One of the most important ways to keep safe is to identify upcoming obstacles and terrain in the river downstream. By identifying the distance of the next turn or obstacle you can determine where you have time to fish and the best way to approach that water. The sea kayak cuts through the waves efficiently navigating water and allows the user to edge and turn easier in rougher water. After using sit on top kayaks extensively, I found them to be less than ideal for river fishing requirements out on the coast. However if the sit on top is your only kayak, then it will probably do on most rivers up to class II. The sit on top kayaks work but the drawbacks are that the paddler will exert more energy trying to hit the eddies (where the fish hold), the paddler will be prone to bounce around like a cork in the rough water where it will also be more difficult to cut across due to turbulence. I was a skeptic of sea kayaks until I saw their superior capabilities in action. The improved capabilities of a sea kayak allow the paddler to spend more time fishing rather than drifting around too often missing the best spots or fighting the currents due to inefficient hull design.
For fishing techniques, I like to throw jigs in the front of pools and behind big rocks or near a drop off in the river. I also use an inline spinner to reach distant areas and cover large portions of water. When drifting, I like to use cured eggs on an egg loop knot and placed inside Atlas Mike’s Spawn Net. The Spawn Net keeps the eggs together and prolongs the life of the bait.
When river fishing you’ll probably be interested in the flow of the rivers you intend to run. Here are a few links for that below.
- Bogachiel River
- Hoh River
- Calawah River
In addition to water conditions you may be curious to also know what kind of luck other people are having. The creel reports from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife might be of interest to you.
Take a good look at the fishing regulations for these rivers as the salmon season often closes around the end of November. The popular time to fish the Olympic Peninsula for steelhead is between Thanksgiving and late January. During this time many steelhead are returning to the rivers and if you are lucky, you’ll hook into one.