Cowlitz River Fishing-Washington Guides

Greg Frogner  (503) 708-3513

 

       Professional Salmon, Steelhead and Sturgeon Guide

 

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Tune into Lance Fisher as host of the NW Outdoor Show, Saturday mornings from 6am-8am on Sports Radio 1080 The Fan.

 

Thanks for visiting!

I am pleased to offer year around guided Cowlitz River fishing trips for Salmon and steelhead.  Good Cowlitz River fishing guides are hard to come by and I think I can help in providing you a great day of fishing on the Cowlitz.

The Cowlitz River is one of the most complete fishing rivers in the Northwest. Cowlitz River fishing is a year around affair that offers 10 months of "peak" fishing opportunities. Very few rivers in the Northwest offer that kind of opportunity and whether you're looking to fish for Salmon, or steelhead, there's always some sort of fishing available on the Cowlitz River.

My Cowlitz River fishing trips are taken in a 23 foot Alumaweld Super Vee.  The boat is equipped with state of the art electronics and is as comfortable of a fishing platform as there is.

My Cowlitz River fishing trips tend to be of the "hands on" variety.  Whether back bouncing eggs for kings, casting plugs for silvers, or side drifting small offerings for steelhead my clients enjoy the fact that they're hooking their fish.  Even if you're new to the sport or technique, I'm pretty confident that we can get you fishing in short order.  If you've done quite a bit of fishing, I think you'll enjoy my style and of course, the "hands on approach".

A days fishing (8-9 hours) is $165 per person, to book a trip or for additional questions, simply give me a call toll free at (503) 708-3513, or email me.

 

Cowlitz River Spring Salmon     April-May

Cowlitz River Spring Salmon begin entering the Cowlitz from the Columbia River in April.  Spring Salmon are prized as the best tasting salmon anywhere and the Cowlitz sees a good share of these fish.  Early in the season, Kwikfish and Herring are the go to baits.  As the fish make their way into the river, fresh gobs of eggs tend to do the trick. 

Cowlitz River Fall Salmon      Sept.-Nov.

Lights, Camera, Action! The Fall Salmon run on the Cowlitz River is one of the best fall runs in Washington.  It starts in September with the return of the fall chinook.  Wobbler fishing is widespread with limits being a pretty regular occurrence.  Right on the heals of the Fall Chinook are the Coho, or Silver Salmon, which begin entering the river in the middle of September and remain through November.  Cowlitz River Coho are great fighters and plenty aggressive, making the catching part of our fishing day  pretty fun.

Cowlitz River Summer Steelhead     June-August

The Cowlitz River summer steelhead run is one of the largest summer steelhead runs on the continent.  These are, without a doubt, the hardest fighting steelhead, of anyplace that I've fished and I think you'll agree, this is one heck of a fishery.  Summer steelhead start entering the river in June and towards the middle of June things are rockn' and rolln'.  Side drifting is the method of choice on the river and most of my clients appreciate the "hands on" approach of this fishery.

Cowlitz River Winter Steelhead      Dec.-Jan.

Cowlitz River winter steelhead begin entering the river around Thanksgiving, with good fishable numbers in the river by December.  Cowlitz River winter steelhead are larger than their "summer cousins" and fight exceptionally well.  Side drifting remains king during the winter months, with small offerings of roe being the bait of choice. 

Email Greg
 

 

 

 

 For more information, or to book a trip, please call,

                    (503) 708-3513.

Tips from Guides for fishing the Cowlitz River

The Cowlitz River is one of the great fisheries in all of Washington.  Guides come from throughout the state to fish the highest producing river, other that the Columbia, in the Northwest.  All guides have their secrets, but when it comes to the Cowlitz River, there's no substitute for good bait.

With many guides fishing the Cowlitz River, you find out in a hurry who's got the best bait.  Guides everywhere spend a lot of time experimenting and preparing baits, but most of that experimentation has been related to the Salmon fisheries that guides are constantly fishing.  The competition on the Cowlitz River is incredible and has forced guides to experiment as much with their steelhead cures as they have in the past for Salmon. 

Guides and biologists alike will debate all day long about fish behavior in spawning tributaries, but when you boil it all down, few will disagree that many things consistently produce for steelhead like good eggs.  Guides have used sulfites for years in cures and through the sulfite craze of the 80's and early 90's guides would naturally go to this "wonder chemical" and expect similar results for steelhead.  Most guides have found, however, that steelhead don't bite a sulfite egg nearly as well as Salmon do.

Over the last 5 years in particular, guides have slowly moved back to the basics when fishing for steelhead not only on the Cowlitz River, but whenever they're fishing for steelhead.  Back to basics....borax, sugars and salts tend to be the nuts and bolts for steelhead cures by most successful guides. 

A few things that most guides will agree on when curing eggs for steelhead.....

Bleed egg bearing fish immediately upon catching them.  Cure your eggs with in 24 hours.  Keep your work area clean and finally, stay away from the sulfites.

 

Cowlitz River Steelhead-  A general guide to Fishing Summer steelhead

 

            Before I started fishing the Cowlitz regularly some time ago I had heard about the shear numbers of fish and consistent fishing success that those numbers provided.  Fishing stories are I guess, just stories until you get the chance to verify it for yourself. I took that opportunity in search of a new summer guiding opportunity for my business.

            I headed up to the Blue Creek boat launch and from talking to a few friends who had fished the area before, was able to make my way down to the “magic mile” where lots of summer steelhead supposedly held.  Side drifting wasn’t something I had done much of at the time, but a little imagination got the boat pointed in the right direction and the lines in the water.  We had probably drifted a total of 50 feet when the first rod went down.  “Ok, beginners luck”, I thought as my buddy wrestled with this 8 pound bullet, that did everything but jump in the boat and slug him in the mouth.  After landing the fish and getting the boat back on track, we tossed our small gobs of eggs back in the water.  We began to discuss the how and why of the first fish of the day, when my rod was about ripped out of my hand.  Like the first fish we had caught, this one made several runs, a couple leaps and put one hell of a smile on my face as he eventually reached the net.  It was another 8 pound bullet and by this time I was thinking this Cowlitz River steelhead fishing was pretty good stuff.

            Over the course of our next 20 minutes down the drift we bagged the remaining two steelhead on our punch cards and it wasn’t even 6:00 in the morning.  I was sold and have made the Cowlitz an annual stop on my guiding circuit ever since.

About 600,00 summer steelhead smolt are planted annually on the Cowlitz.  This is far and away the most aggressive stocking schedule of any river that I know of in the Northwest and and subsequently anglers will find some of the best summer steelhead fishing anywhere.

Bank anglers will find good bank access from Blue Creek to the Barrier Dam.  Spoons, spinners, drift gear and bobber and jigs will all produce.  It will just depend upon the type of water that you end up with.

For boaters there are two launch options available in the area.  The Blue Creek ramp and Mission Bar, both provide decent launches.  Most of the fishing done in the area is done between the I-5 Bridge and the Barrier Dam, but a little looking around below the I-5 Bridge will put you in water that not many people fish.  Most of the fishing done by boaters is side drifting.  Eggs and corky with yarn combinations work well.  The trick to side drifting is knowing how to control your boat so as to keep your gear in the slot.  If you’re constantly having to reel up to get your lines up stream, you’re either fishing too light of lead, or spending to much time in forward on your kicker.  You should be shifting in and out of forward, neutral and reverse depending on what the current is doing in the part of the river the boat’s in as it relates to the current where your lines are.  It takes some practice, but once you get it, it’s kind of like riding a bike.

Cowlitz River Fishing setups include a Berkley IM7 9’6” rod, accompanied by a Mitchell 309 reel spooled with 10 pound Trilene XL.  Fluorocarbons can be very helpful on the Cowlitz and I find Umpqua Super Fluoro in about an 8 pound weight to be as good as it gets.  Mustad Ultrapoints have the most severe offsets of any of the hooks on the market and I find this particularly helpful when side drifting.  2’s and 4’s in either the black nickel, or red will do the trick when fishing corkies and yarn.  Tandem size 6 red ultra points, with or with out a small corkie between the hooks will work well when fishing eggs.

If you’re looking for up to date information on the run, tackle and even a place to camp while you’re in the area, you can give the Barrier Dam Campground and Tackle Shop a call at (360) 985-2495.  Good Cowlitz River Fishing Guides are hard to find, but I think I can help you in that area.

 

Bobber and Jig 101-  A very overlooked tactic on the Cowlitz River

 

My first experience with bobber and jig fishing was back in the mid-1980’s.  I was in my teens then and I was already hooked on fishing for the elusive steelhead.  On an Eagle Creek steelhead trip in January, my father and I watched a man put on a clinic with a clear plastic float and this black, jig type thing.  I had never seen anyone fish like that and I had certainly never seen steelhead succumb to anything so uncontrollably.  I mean the things couldn’t stand themselves.  The man would make a gentle cast upstream at a 45 degree angle and with in a matter of seconds, kaboom, fish on!  He was horsing fish to the bank as if to know that the fish he had, wouldn’t be his last.  It was amazing and I was inspired.

I began to dabble with the idea of bobber fishing for steelhead.  I would bring a bobber rod with me to the river and of course have my “security blanket” (drift rod) close at hand.  I would make a couple casts here and there with the bobber rod and if nothing happened immediately, I’d quickly pick up the old security blanket. 

Over the next 10 years, bit by bit, bobber fishing for steelhead started making more and more sense.   I was finding that I was able to fish water, that held fish, that wasn’t fishable with drift fishing type set-ups.  You know the water….5-10 feet, moving about the pace of a slow walk.  To drift fish it, you need some led to get your offering down, but once you get there, you’re presentation is so bad that you’re not fishing anyway.  You could certainly lighten your led up, but ultimately, only be in the strike zone for a very short time.  What about the bolder fields in so many of our steelhead rivers?  You can see the fish rolling in those drifts and when you take your drift boat over them, it looks like the whole river bottom moves.  Most people won’t even waste their time drift fishing water like this and those that do, would be better off throwing their tackle box in the river.  Plugs would certainly be an option for a drift like this, assuming that you have aggressive fish in the drift.  The same aggressive steelhead that takes a plug, however, will also take a jig.  On the flip side, a passive fish, which will take a jig, will not necessarily take a plug.

Presentation, presentation and finally, presentation.  It’s everything when it comes to steelhead fishing and the bobber and jig merely facilitates the presentation process.   The problem is that a bobber and jig tossed into the water doesn’t do this on its own.  Here are a couple of things that absolutely have to be accounted for when bobber fishing:

Bobber angle in probably the most overlooked detail with bobber and jig fisherman.  That little torpedo cork you have drifting down the river will tell you everything about how your jig is being delivered and more importantly give you an opportunity to make adjustments. 

A bobber leaning up stream during its drift is telling you that your jig is to light for the speed of the water and that you’re not fishing at the depth that you think you are.  You will either need to put on a heavier jig to get your jig directly under your bobber, or lengthen your leader to compensate for the lifting up of your jig.  I am not a fan of the ladder and would probably find some other water, but it is an option.

A bobber pointing down stream tells us that the jig is either being drug across the bottom or that a fish has picked up the jig.  Set the hook and if nobody is home readjust your depth.

Any sort of right to left action (as it relates to a downstream drift) of your bobber would mean that your jig is working its way around some sort of structure.  I this case I wouldn’t do a thing, in fact I would probably take note of that point in the river and work it over with a couple more casts.  Boulders, whose silhouettes are above that of the normal contour of the bottom are classic holding spots for steelhead.

Mending line belly is probably the most important aspect of any drift.     A jig should float effortlessly and at one with the prevailing currents.  Any prolonged down stream belly when casting, will kill a drift.  Any prolonged right to left belly when feeding, will kill a drift.  A successful drift consists of a series of main line mends initiated in anticipation of a future belly.

Tactics, presentation and finally equipment.  Like all other forms of fishing, half measures on your set ups will avail you mediocrity at best.  The set up that you put together is critical to consistent success with a bobber and jig. 

W.W. Grigg has a 10 foot rod with the right combination of stiffness, length and weight.  I will pair this rod with Abu-Garcia’s’ CD-6 4000 spinning reel.  It has good drag quality, infinite anti-reverse and high speed retrieve, all qualities that I want in a bobber and jig reel.  I spool my reels with 30 pound Spiderwire Stealth for its zero stretch policy and ability to take muslin.  Muslin will turn this line into a narrow diameter fly line, making mending a breeze.  Nail knot a 10 foot 6-8 pound bumper leader to your mainline, slide on a torpedo cork (fixed or sliding) and you’re ready for the jig.  Make sure your jigs have good hook quality and you’re ready for action.

 

Cowlitz River Metalheads....As Published July 04 in Fishing and Hunting News

 

            Before I started fishing the Cowlitz regularly some time ago I had heard about the shear numbers of fish and consistent fishing success that those numbers provided.  Fishing stories are I guess, just stories until you get the chance to verify it for yourself. I took that opportunity in search of a new summer guiding opportunity for my business.

            I headed up to the Blue Creek boat launch and from talking to a few friends who had fished the area before, was able to make my way down to the “magic mile” where lots of summer steelhead supposedly held.  Side drifting wasn’t something I had done much of at the time, but a little imagination got the boat pointed in the right direction and the lines in the water.  We had probably drifted a total of 50 feet when the first rod went down.  “Ok, beginners luck”, I thought as my buddy wrestled with this 8 pound bullet, that did everything but jump in the boat and slug him in the mouth.  After landing the fish and getting the boat back on track, we tossed our small gobs of eggs back in the water.  We began to discuss the how and why of the first fish of the day, when my rod was about ripped out of my hand.  Like the first fish we had caught, this one made several runs, a couple leaps and put one hell of a smile on my face as he eventually reached the net.  It was another 8 pound bullet and by this time I was thinking this Cowlitz River steelhead fishing was pretty good stuff.

            Over the course of our next 20 minutes down the drift we bagged the remaining two steelhead on our punch cards and it wasn’t even 6:00 in the morning.  I was sold and have made the Cowlitz an annual stop on my guiding circuit ever since.

About 600,00 summer steelhead smolt are planted annually on the Cowlitz.  This is far and away the most aggressive stocking schedule of any river that I know of in the Northwest and and subsequently anglers will find some of the best summer steelhead fishing anywhere.

Bank anglers will find good bank access from Blue Creek to the Barrier Dam.  Spoons, spinners, drift gear and bobber and jigs will all produce.  It will just depend upon the type of water that you end up with.

For boaters there are two launch options available in the area.  The Blue Creek ramp and Mission Bar, both provide decent launches.  Most of the fishing done in the area is done between the I-5 Bridge and the Barrier Dam, but a little looking around below the I-5 Bridge will put you in water that not many people fish.  Most of the fishing done by boaters is side drifting.  Eggs and corky with yarn combinations work well.  The trick to side drifting is knowing how to control your boat so as to keep your gear in the slot.  If you’re constantly having to reel up to get your lines up stream, you’re either fishing too light of lead, or spending to much time in forward on your kicker.  You should be shifting in and out of forward, neutral and reverse depending on what the current is doing in the part of the river the boat’s in as it relates to the current where your lines are.  It takes some practice, but once you get it, it’s kind of like riding a bike.

My gear setups include a Berkley IM7 9’6” rod, accompanied by a Mitchell 309 reel spooled with 10 pound Trilene XL.  Fluorocarbons can be very helpful on the Cowlitz and I find Umpqua Super Fluoro in about an 8 pound weight to be as good as it gets.  Mustad Ultrapoints have the most severe offsets of any of the hooks on the market and I find this particularly helpful when side drifting.  2’s and 4’s in either the black nickel, or red will do the trick when fishing corkies and yarn.  Tandem size 6 red ultra points, with or with out a small corkie between the hooks will work well when fishing eggs.

If you’re looking for up to date information on the run, tackle and even a place to camp while you’re in the area, you can give the Barrier Dam Campground and Tackle Shop a call at (360) 985-2495. 

Lance Fisher

For information on booking a guided trip, please call (503) 708-3513.

All Rights Reserved- Greg Frogner 2004-2006