The Cowlitz River has a great spring chinook run every year, provides hundreds of fall coho for anglers, is one of the Northwest’s best streams for summer and winter steelhead, and continues to build a reputation as one of the finest sea-run cutthroat fisheries in the country.
The Cowlitz River from the Barrier Dam near Salkum to the mouth of the Toutle above Castle Rock constitutes at least five of the best fisheries anywhere, often providing near record catches for hundreds of happy anglers.
Mineral Lake, at the town of Mineral north of Morton, is perhaps the best trout water in the western half of Washington. It is a rich lake in natural feed, growing huge rainbow and brown trout, some of which reach the 10-pound class every year.
The unique experience of fishing Washington’s high mountain lakes is enough to name them among our best places to fish. The biggest alpine lake in the region, Walupt Lake, may surrender naturally-spawned trout as large as salmon, but the smaller, incredibly beautiful alpine waters, especially Takhlakh and Council lakes, should be on everyone’s list to at least visit, if not to fish.
Back on the Cowlitz watershed, three impounds rate mention as prime destinations for the traveling angler. Those include Mayfield Lake, Riffe Lake and Lake Scanewa, each with a unique personality and each delivering its own kind of fishery. Mayfield, for example, holds thousands of husky rainbow, largemouth bass and legendary hybrid tiger muskies. In recent years, the lake has built a population of landlocked coho, fish that were naturally spawned in the Tilton River (also a great fishing experience) and took up residence in the lake instead of migrating to the ocean.
Riffe Lake is a huge impound that is managed for planted landlocked coho; delicious pink-meated trophies that splendidly grace a dinner table. It also holds rainbow, cutthroat, catfish and a burgeoning population of smallmouth bass. The latter is so abundant these days that many anglers catch and release dozens in a day’s fishing.
Lake Scanewa, the uppermost lake on the river system, is becoming justifiably famous for the migrating salmon and steelhead that are transported there over the river’s three-dam hydroelectric structures. Along with a fine population of native and hatchery trout, it’s possible to catch giant king salmon, feisty coho, and both summer and winter steelhead in the relatively small confines of the lake.
There are dozens of smaller lakes and ponds, streams of every size and character, and even hidden mountain streams best suited for the catch and release of small native trout and salmon smolts, many of which haven’t been fished more than once or twice a year for decades. It is the experience, rather than a potential trophy, that draws angling purists to the high country.
Whatever your fishing objective, the waters in and around Lewis County have great treasures to offer. Please come join us.