Techniques for Steelhead Fishing in Washington State

Techniques for Steelhead Fishing in Washington State
Steelhead or rainbow trout are salmonid species native to tributaries of North America. The steelhead is a sea-run rainbow trout that have two runs in Washington: summer and winter. Most of the runs during summer occur east of the Cascades; the fish enter the streams during this time to reach their spawning grounds by the spring. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manages hatcheries for steelhead though wild species can also be fished in many of the state's rivers.


Lures, such as worms and plugs, are effective for catching steelhead in Washington. Popular plugs include wiggle warts, hotshots, flatfish, kwikfish and tadpollys, according to Bite Me Guide Service, a Washington-based steelhead fishing guide. Plugs that have two-color patterns, rainbow blends and spotted design produce the most strikes. Use corkys with strands of soft yarn in the leader's egg loop or bumper. Use plastic worms in colors of pink, red and orange, these lures are effective and can be fished under a bobber as well as for drift fishing. When drift fishing, use small drift bobbers like corky, birdy and go glo. A good technique is to rig a couple of rods with plugs and some with drift gear so you can save time when changing gears.

Fishing Grounds

During spring, fish for steelhead in mainstream rivers with fast water as well as in medium to large tributaries because this is where they prefer to spawn. Fish in streams with steep gradient and cast in between steep spots. Waters with healthy populations of steelhead include the Olympic Peninsula, Kalama River, Columbia River, Cowlitz River and Skykomish River.


Fish for steelhead during the months of March and April. According to Westside Guide, a local steelhead fishing guide, March is the height of the season and is the most productive time to fish especially for native species weighing 11 to 15 lbs.. Another ideal time to search for this anadromous fish is during mid-November. This is when the rivers swell due to the rains of the state's Olympic Peninsula coast. Steelhead winter migration begins during this time and is a productive time to cast for them up until the end of December.

Article Written By Rona Aquino

Rona Aquino began writing professionally in 2008. As an avid marathon runner and outdoor enthusiast, she writes on topics of running, fitness and outdoor recreation for various publications. Aquino holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and English from the University of Maryland College Park.

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