December Fishing Report and Forecast
Greetings, avid anglers! As your trusted real estate broker coming to you from Woodland, the heart of the sport fishing industry of the Pacific Northwest, I'm thrilled to bring you the latest installment of my monthly fishing report and forecast. It’s tailored especially for those with a passion for both catching fish and finding their dream home around Southwest Washington.
In this month's report, we'll dive into the highs and lows of the local fishing scene, from the clam-digging excitement along the Ilwaco and Long Beach shores to the challenges faced by anglers on the Cowlitz River. Whether you're a seasoned fisherman or a newcomer to the sport, this report is packed with valuable insights to help you make the most of your fishing adventures in our beautiful corner of the world.
As I explore the fishing hotspots and share the latest updates, remember that my commitment to you goes beyond the riverbanks. If you're considering making Southwest Washington your permanent home, keep an eye out for valuable tips on real estate opportunities in the areas we cover.
SW Washington Hatchery Escapements
I publish this data most Friday’s by noon on X (twitter). @FiNNreports.
Escapement counts have really dropped off the radar completely for our local rivers. I included the Elochoman this week as Seth fished it. You can find out how he did in a later section of this report.
Ilwaco and Long Beach
The recent King tides didn’t adversely affect the clam digging too much. The next ones are forecasted for mid-December. Use caution during King Tides and don’t turn your back on the ocean.
The next set of digs is set to begin on December 13th,, around the next set of big tides. Final approval of marine toxin testing usually occurs about a week or less – sometimes two to three days – before the start of each digging series. Below are additional tentative dates:
Dec. 13, Wednesday, 6:55 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Dec. 14, Thursday, 7:39 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Dec. 15, Friday, 8:25 p.m.; -1.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks
Dec. 16, Saturday, 9:12 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis
Dec. 17, Sunday, 10:01 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks.
Surf perch fishing is hit and miss depending on the size of the surf. With bigger sediment filled surf, Kastmaster spoons have been the ticket. Be sure to juice them up with some sand shrimp gel.
I haven’t received any reports from the Naselle River.
Columbia Estuary Crabbing is going strong for those venturing out. Many guides are taking clients on crabbing only trips. Dave’s Guide Service had an epic day earlier this week. They got 96 really full crab in one trip.
Black lake is still producing some late season trout action since the stocking last month.
Crabbing off the docks at Tokeland up north has been good. My cousin was there two weeks ago.
Are you interested in a beach home? Check out what’s currently on the market here.
Cathlamet to Longview
WDFW Creel checks for this region have “No Report”. Fishing in this area on the Columbia is pretty much done for the season.
Toledo and Castle Rock
Silver Lake Crappie fishing is on and excellent in the canals! Crappie has a minimum size of 9” and you can retain 10 per day. During winter Yellow Perch fishing can also be worth the effort. Early winter bass fishing can be fickle. Bass fishing is best morning and evening. If you are targeting Crappie, try a small jig under bobber tipped with Power bait Crappie nuggets.
Cowlitz River Cutthroat numbers made a big splash with over 1,000 entering the hatchery during the past reporting period.
The Cowlitz is a total bust for coho and steelhead anglers right now. I haven’t heard a single report of anything close to good fishing. The B run Coho, much like the Lewis haven’t materialized.
The days of fantastic hatchery steelhead fishing during November and December are a thing of the past thanks to fishery managers. Best chance for a chrome steelhead limit on the Cowlitz will probably have to wait until at least early January.
According to the Tacoma Power website: Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 602 coho adults, 104 coho jacks, 24 cutthroat trout, two summer-run steelhead adults, and one winter-run steelhead adult over three days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
They also released 35 coho adults and 15 coho jacks at Franklin Bridge in Packwood and they released 334 coho adults, 71 coho jacks, and one cutthroat trout into Lake Scanewa at Scanewa Day Use Park.
An additional 70 coho adults, three coho jacks, four cutthroat trout, one fall Chinook adult, and one fall Chinook jack released into the Tilton River at Bremer Bridge, and they released 159 coho adults and 39 coho jacks into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton
WDFW streamside checks indicated the following for the week of November 1, 2023: Cowlitz River I-5 Br downstream – NO REPORT. Cowlitz River Above the I-5 Br – Two bank rods released one coho.
Seth fished the Elochoman River last Saturday. He reports that he hooked something and fought it for 10-15 seconds. Unfortunately it was lost probably due to a poorly tied knot. Two years ago I switched to the Fish-N-Fool Knot for terminal gear and have yet to have one fail. You can find that knot below. Seth said, “his fish didn’t have all that much fight to it. Best guess was it was a nice summer, could’ve been a winter though I never saw it.”
Riffe Lake is still low, and all boat ramps are closed.
Mayfield Lake is fishing quite well when the wind isn’t blowing. One angler suggests fishing a 1/4oz weight 80 feet back with a dodger and 16-inch leader. Gulp corn with a piece of nightcrawler is the bait of choice, trolling at 1.3 mph. If you’re at state launch, start targeting straight across from the launch and troll to right 100 ft.
There isn’t much activity on the Kalama. The last report I received was from my friend Keith about 2 weeks ago. They drifted down to Modrow bridge. Overall a decent day as they released two wild Coho.
The past week Kalama River WDFW creel checkers only sampled five bank rods with no catch.
Kress Lake has received a total of 2,000 trout in the past 2 weeks. When I was there on Saturday it was quite busy. Boat and kayak anglers seemed to be doing better than bank anglers, especially on the far side away from the parking lot.
In addition to stocker trout the lake is also received 53 Steelhead transplants from the Kalama in November.
As of today, Wednesday morning, the Lewis river is temporarily down to 1,200 cfs for the carcass surveys. Last week I met the checkers at the Cedar Creek ramp. They started to see more “fresh” carcasses the previous week and expect an influx of fish the next couple of weeks. Let’s hope they are right because the Coho certainly aren’t returning to the hatchery.
There isn’t much happening on the Lewis. The B run Coho have officially failed to show in any real numbers. There’s a chance that a sparse early hatchery steelhead run may appear in December. These numbers have been declining in recent years and due to usual higher water levels don’t hang round much, speedily making their way to the hatchery.
I checked up at Cedar Creek earlier in the week. There were several bank fisherman and a couple boats around. One drift boat angler I spoke with did release a bright wild coho. That was the only fish I’ve heard of in weeks. There was no surface fish activity during the time I was there.
During this same drive I stopped in at the forks and there were no boat trailers in the lot. The forks area can be a good place to plunk for Steelhead, casting along the cut bank on the Clark County side. You might intercept a catch and release (but fun) wild fish heading up the East Fork and also have a shot at the few hatchery fish potentially heading to the North Fork.
Weekly WDFW Lewis Creel checks showed Five bank rods had no catch. Additionally, only two boats fishing four rods had no catch.
Ariel, Chelatchie and Cougar
Reports from Merwin indicate the fish are being a little boat wary. Probably due to the clear weather we have been experiencing. Along with the clear weather also comes the wicked east wind. A couple of days this week it’s been serious pucker factor with some boaters having a rough go of it. Especially on the long ride back to Speelyai from the dam. If you’re in a smaller vessel and wish to stay dry, please stick around the bay entrance on high wind days.
Extra-long setbacks up to 150 feet have been the ticket in getting the wary fish to bite once passed over by your boat. There are many smaller Chinook showing up in the catch, so use care with those. A few trout are being hooked also. Fishing isn’t red hot, but there is some catching.
The best bites are first thing in the morning. Please use caution as the roads up there can be tricky with black ice.
I haven’t received any intel on Yale Lake lately.
La Center and Ridgefield
I stopped in at Daybreak on the East Fork of the Lewis. This was historically my favorite spot to bank fish for steelhead, starting at the Thanksgiving weekend. Looking back through my pictures, my son and I slayed them in the early 2000’s. Sadly just a memory since WDFW quit the hatchery program. I have yet to see the status of the wild stock reported. If anyone has that data, I would love to see it.
Section checks disclosed by WDFW are: Sec 3 (I-5 area) – No report. Sec 4 (Vancouver) – No Report.
I stopped in at Battleground lake as I was showing a home in the area. It was a beautiful still day with a handful of people fishing. The folks fishing on the dock had a few. I didn’t have the chance to speak with any boaters, but trout were rising quite frequently by the dock/ramp.
Camas and Washougal
The guys at Sportsman’s Warehouse shared this report for the Washougal: Bright Coho are still coming in, some Chum have been caught as well. Lots of leaves in the water.
Seth wasn’t able to track down any intel from his credible first hand sources this week.
WDFW Columbia checks for Sec 2 (Camas/Washougal) NO REPORT
No report for Lacamas Lake
Stevenson and the Gorge
All minds are focused on the upcoming January opener for Sturgeon. I expect fishing to be great if the wind cooperates.
Tracy Zoller who fishes the Klickitat with Adventurefishing.net reported that “it’s so nice to see the happiness of a customer’s first ever Steelhead catch.” A couple of days ago they also caught two Silver Jack's and an 18-inch Big rainbow.
Check the regs as I believe there may be some closures upcoming on the Klickitat at the end of November.
WDFW creel checks on the Columbia and other gorge rivers had NO REPORT.
Bonneville Dam Fish Counts – Will be bringing back once the springer counts begin.
But while on the subject of dams! The Federal Government commits Billions for replacing Snake River Dams, thus restoring Salmon runs. Story here.
American Lake in Tacoma is fishing exceptionally well for Yellow Perch. The fish are in quick moving schools, so it’s important to keep an eye on your electronics. In general, channel edges, deep and shallow mud flats, points that gradually taper to deeper water, submerged weed beds in coves and rocky reefs in 15 to 25 feet of water are hotspots for various types of forage.
The Chehalis and Satsop Rivers up north are reporting decent returns of B run Coho. Some access points in this area are tribal land, so please be respectful of their rules. The Chehalis is a complex fishery, so do your homework. Tidewater stretches are about done for the season.
If you’re interested in checking out the Puget Sound squid fishery, certain areas are starting to produce. Here’s a basic unofficial run down of the best spots and times of year.
Squid Migration in Washington generally follows these timeframes: Squid are usually first seen in Neah Bay in Late May, City Pier in Port Angeles, and the surrounding area from late June to the end of August, Edmonds waterfront starting around September. Squid show up next in Elliot Bay and the surrounding Seattle shoreline. They arrive in Des Moines and Tacoma in late November and December. Squid are most likely to be found throughout South Puget Sound in December and January.
Puget Sound and Hood Canal Cutthroat fishing is heading into prime time from the beaches now that the salmon focus is waning. Some days you can find them no more than 10-20 feet off shore, possibly feeding on the baitfish or maybe some of the smaller creatures. Streamers and other minnow imitations seem to work best.
Find a beach near creeks or freshwater influence. Beaches with coves, points, etc. tend to be good. Beach shouldn’t be too steep, and a cobble stone bottom or oyster bed tends to fish better than a sandy/muddy beach.
Other Areas of the State
If you utilize the boat moorage at the Port of Grays Harbor – Westport Marina please be aware of new tariff rules for next year. At the November 14th PGH commission meeting, the commissioners approved recommended changes to the Westport Marina Tariff to address the following:
Subleasing: As of January 1, 2024, 3rd party subleasing is no longer permitted in the Westport Marina. All reservations shall go through the marina office.
Inactive Commercial Fishing Vessels: As of January 1, 2024, inactive commercial fishing vessels shall no longer be offered annual moorage in the Westport Marina. Commercial fishing vessels will be required to provide a recent fish ticket annually (within 12 months). Marina staff will address commercial fishing vessels as their annual moorages come up for renewal.
Thank you for joining me on this angling journey through the waterways of Southwest Washington. Whether you're chasing the thrill of a steelhead on the Cowlitz or exploring the serene beauty of Silver Lake, we hope this report has fueled your passion for both fishing and the incredible lifestyle that this region offers. Even though it’s the time of year we all dread, “The December Doldrums”.
My commitment is not just to real estate; it's about fostering a community of outdoor enthusiasts who share a deep appreciation for the natural wonders that surround us.
Tight lines, and may your next fishing experience be nothing short of legendary! Wishing you the best for the Holiday season and New Year.
Ian Carter, Real Estate Broker