By Bob Brown
While spawning salmon numbers have fallen below expectations in some of our area rivers, that sure hasn’t been the case in the Cowlitz.
During Nov. 20-26, Tacoma Power employees reported they recovered 4,494 coho adults during four days of separator operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. They also recovered 132 coho jacks, 21 fall chinook adults, two fall chinook jacks, 32 cutthroat trout and 25 summer steelhead.
So, with all of those fish in the river, how has the fishing been?
According to Karen Glaser of Barrier Dam Campground, fishing has been fair at Blue Creek and Barrier Dam despite high water. Lots of hardware is being used, with Blue Fox spinners, Twitch jigs and Wicked Lures being the lures of choice. Shrimp and eggs are also being used by anglers who like bait. Angler activity has been fair most of the time.       
In other fishing news:
• The Nisqually River remains closed to all fishing until further notice and will not reopen during December, as scheduled, to fishing for game fish. Based on current chum run estimates, WDFW and tribal co-managers agree winter chum returns will fall short of conservation goals. It is hoped keeping the river closed to all fishing will increase the number of chum returning to spawn and help ensure future returns. The Nisqually Tribe is also closing their fisheries on the river.
• In a summary of 2017 angler activity to date on the mainstem Columbia River from Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to Bonneville Dam (excluding Buoy 10)), Joe Hymer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) reported the 3,516 summer and 26,138 fall chinook adults caught in the lower Columbia mainstem was the fourth and sixth-highest, respectively, since at least 1969. The record for both was the over 5,900 adult summer chinook and 41,500 adult fall chinook in 2015.
Anglers in the lower Columbia also kept over 3,100 adult coho which is the fourth highest since 1969. The record of 5,800 coho was set in 2014. Also, nearly 170,000 shad were kept which is the second highest since 1969. The record was 195,000 set in 2013. According to Hymer, salmonid effort in the lower Columbia was the lowest in nearly a decade and almost 100,000 angler trips less than the recent 10 year average. Hymer added that the less than 1,700 summer steelhead kept this year was the lowest since the complete closures in the mid-1970s, and this is the fourth consecutive year there are no estimates how many sea-run were caught.
• WDFW has announced the salmon season on the Sol Duc for hatchery coho has been extended to Dec. 15. The fishery was scheduled to close Nov. 30. Coho broodstock needs have been met at the Sol Duc Hatchery and surplus hatchery fin clipped coho remain in the river below the hatchery. The daily limit for coho during this period will be two hatchery coho (marked with a clipped adipose fin) only; minimum size is 14 inches, and all chinook and wild coho must be released.

Bob Brown lives in Roy and is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be contacted at