Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River in December for Coho Salmon

Today my friend Todd and I and drove down the Barrier Dam on the Cowlitz for some kayak fishing looking to get Coho salmon. We found the fishing decent and while most salmon were not rolling or jumping we did find them in the usual locations.

Todd managed three keepers and I only kept one, while many other wild Coho were released. The lure of the day is a jig with a worm.

Cowlitz River Kayak Fishing December Coho salmon (Enhanced) from rayborbon on Vimeo.

Kayak fishing the Hoh, Bogachiel and Sol Duc Rivers for Salmon and Steelhead

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:

  1. Inline spinners
  2. Jig and pink worm
  3. Cured eggs on a float
  4. Kwikfish

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.

  1. Bogachiel River
  2. Hoh River
  3. 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.

Twitching Jigs for Salmon or Steelhead

Twitching jigs for salmon or steelhead is easy. What I like to do is use my St. Croix Premier ML 7’6″ or a Shimano Clarus 9′ spinning rod. The reels I use are the Shimano Saros 4000 or the Quantum Smoke. I typically fish salmon in rivers or the ocean from my sea kayak. The longer rod allows for better casting distance and makes fighting the larger fish somewhat easier while the shorter rod allows for precision control over the lure. For fishing lines sometimes I use 12lb-17lb test main line of monofilament or a 20lb braided main line, using a swivel to connect a leader when I need one. For leader material I prefer 17-20lb monofilament due to it’s price, durability and low visibility characteristics.

My favorite jigs for salmon and steelhead fishing are 1/4 – 3/8 oz weight lead jig heads. My variety tends to have the colors pink, red, purple, black and white. I prefer paddle tailed worms, marabou jigs, or a combination of the two. The fish pursue and hit these lures aggressively every time.

The technique for me is to find the lead of an eddy, or any other water potentially holding fish.. Then I cast and let the jig sink to the bottom, and begin reeling it in slowly combined with short twitching of the rod every second or so. In situations where there is a lot of bottom debris, large rocks or vegetation which might snag your lure perhaps an inline spinner is more appropriate than a jig. Often the river flow will impart erratic motion on the lures and I believe this is helpful. Fish often hit the jigs on the drop but in any case you’ll know when you’re hooked up right away! This technique is much more fun that fishing bobber and eggs.

Using jigs, a person can cover more of the water column since the lure can drop all the way to the bottom and you can work the lure at that level as well as all the way to the surface. Additionally a jig can be dropped next to a boulder or drop off in the water where I have picked up holding fish many times.

Twitching Jigs for Salmon or Steelhead

Twitching Jigs for Salmon or Steelhead

Twitching Jigs for Salmon or Steelhead

Twitching Jigs for Salmon or Steelhead

Cowlitz River Kayak Fishing For Coho

Kayak fishing on the Cowlitz River for Coho Salmon is fun. The temperatures were below freezing when we launched into blue skies maybe an hour after sunrise.

I was fishing from a 17 foot sea kayak which I prefer to cut through waves and currents. Initially I tried using a bobber and some eggs for bait. I saw three fish go onto a boat near me and I noticed they were using the same bait.

We moved down river to a hole I remember from my previous trip. This is about halfway between Barrier Dam and the Blue Creek launch. I picked up one small Coho along the shore while Todd picked up two 7-8 lbers from the opposite shore.

Later down the river after a short drift I picked up a 7-8 lber twitching a worm. Overall this river is very good when the fish are biting.

The Cowlitz River has three key boat launches on the upper portion of the river. The Barrier Dam, Blue Creek and Mission Bar. I have detailed the three locations in the map below. Typically what I do is leave a bicycle at the take out and ride it back to the starting point. All you need is the lock, the bicycle and to look forward to some exercise.

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Kayak Fishing Cowlitz River

Cowlitz River Kayak Fishing for Coho from rayborbon on Vimeo.

Fishing Pole Rack made from PVC

This is a fishing pole rack I made out of PVC. After viewing many different models on the internet which were always overpriced junk comprised of particle board or just unsuitable for my needs I crafted this one. The only down side so far is that my halibut rods are too wide to fit inside.

Fishing Pole Rack from PVC

Fishing Pole Rack from PVC

Lake Washington Cutthroat trout kayak fishing

Today was a slow one for cutthroat trout on Lake Washington. I took my kayak off the west side of Mercer Island and managed a small bass and two decent cutthroat trout.

I was trolling leadcore line and a Walleye Candy flutter spoon attached to 10lb test monofilament leader. The fish were apparently gorging on Stickleback as their stomachs were full of them.

Cutthroat trout Lake Washington

Cutthroat trout Lake Washington

Cutthroat Trout Lake Washington Kayak Fishing from rayborbon on Vimeo.

Cowlitz River Coho salmon kayak fishing

Fall Coho salmon fishing on the Cowlitz River with kayaks is fun when the fish are biting. Yesterday we fished from the launch below the barrier dam to the hatchery at Blue Creek.

I used a bobber and eggs or a pink jig all day. About halfway through the run I picked up a Coho using eggs and drifting below a small trickle of a waterfall. Once hooking the fish I fought it downstream a bit and pulled it onto my lap. Then I made my way into a small eddie about one hundred yards from where I hooked the Coho. The remainder of the day was fairly uneventful although I did watch a cutthroat trout chase my jig in one pool of water. Every few boats reported one or two fish aboard so it wasn’t red hot but it felt good to get lucky.

Cowlitz River Coho Fishing

Cowlitz River Coho Fishing

Cowlitz River Coho Fishing

Cowlitz River Coho Fishing

Cowlitz River Coho Fishing

Cowlitz River Coho Fishing

Cowlitz River Coho Fishing

Cowlitz River Coho Fishing

Cowlitz River from Barrier Dam to Blue Creek from rayborbon on Vimeo.

Eastern Washington Kayak Bass Fishing

My daughter and I had an end of summer kayak fishing trip for bass in eastern Washington. The bass were not huge but they were eager to bite and provided the entertainment. For the most part the milfoil was thick and we caught almost every bass using an inline spinner.

We camped under the stars and listened to the coyotes howl throughout the night. It was a great time.

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington

Kayak bass fishing eastern Washington