Humptulips River Winter Steelhead Fishing 2022-2023

Bright chrome coastal steelhead
Nice steelhead on a coastal Washington river in January 2021

The Humptulips is a fun place to angle for winter steelhead on the Washington coast . Accessible, distant, but not too distant, you will have a decent chance to hook a steelhead fishing this river from December – January when open.

Often times you can even hook winter coho on the same trip!

One of the best ways to fish the Humptulips is in a drift boat. Being able to target all the potential holding water for steelhead dramatically improves your odds.

There are many bank fishing opportunities as well and popular access points around the hatchery, Hansen Rd, etc. Other places to access public fishing spots will be near boat launches further down.

The Humptulips River originates on the southwest flanks of the Olympic Mountains and carves a path on its way south, southwest to dump into the north end of Grays Harbor.

The state run hatchery raises both winter and summer steelhead, in addition to the wild stocks. The wild steelhead on the Humptulips have recently come into focus as fishery managers try to work through disappointing wild returns to allow the possibility of fishing for hatchery steelhead in the winter months.

Note: There may not even be a winter steelhead season in 2022-2023 as result of these poor returns of wild steelhead, but I will provide the data and links below to help you navigate this scenario.

Let’s take a look at a couple of new features I’ve got up on the blog to help you understand run timing and how many salmon are returning at the hatcheries.

  1. Automatically updating graph of the Escapement Report for the Humptulips River
  2. Historical run timing graph providing a visual of when winter steelhead normally return to the Humptulips River

Updated Status of returning hatchery Winter Steelhead on the Humptulips River

Once steelhead start returning to the hatchery and get reported by WDFW, this graph will automatically update, typically on Thursdays.

Historical Run Timing of hatchery Winter Steelhead on the Humptulips River

As you can see, the winter steelhead run really gets going in December, but starts to show by the middle of November typically. The peak tends to be around new years or early January.

Fishing Regulations for the Humptulips River 2022

Note: Per the 2022-2023 steelhead regulations announced on Dec 1st, 2022 by WDFW, there will be a modified (mostly closed) winter steelhead season on the Humptulips. Basically shuts mid-December.

HUMPTULIPS RIVER – GRAYS HARBOR CO.
from mouth (Jessie Slough) to Hwy. 101 Bridge including all channels, sloughs, and interconnected waterways CRC (358)
All speciesAug. 16-Nov. 30Single-point barbless hooks required. Night closure.
TroutSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.
Other game fishSat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit.
SalmonSept. 1-Sept. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained of which up to 1 may be a wild Chinook. Release wild coho.
Oct. 1-Oct. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release wild Chinook and wild coho.
Nov. 1-Dec. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 adult may be retained. Release Chinook and wild coho.
from Hwy. 101 Bridge to confluence of East and West forks CRC (358)
All speciesMar. 1-Mar. 31Selective gear rules.
Aug. 16-Nov. 30Single-point barbless hooks required. Night closure.
Dec. 1-Mar. 31Internal combustion motors prohibited.
TroutMar. 1-Mar. 31Catch-and-release.
Sat. before Memorial Day-Last Day of Feb.Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.
Steelhead (hatchery)Sat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit.
Other game fishMar. 1-Mar. 31Catch-and-release.
Sat. before Memorial Day-Last Day of Feb.Statewide min. size/daily limit.
SalmonSept. 1-Sept. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained of which up to 1 may be a wild Chinook. Release wild coho.
Oct. 1-Oct. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults may be retained of which up to 1 may be a Chinook. Release wild Chinook and wild coho.
Nov. 1-Dec. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 adult may be retained. Release Chinook and wild coho.

Emergency Fishing Regulations for the Humptulips River

Please refer to WDFW’s emergency rules page for a full list that are in effect until I can get the e-rules automation working fully again.

It’s your responsibility as the recreational angler to know ALL of these rules, not just what is discussed here on the blog.

Forecast for 2022-2023 Humptulips River Winter Steelhead

As you can see, winter steelhead smolt plants on the Humptulips River have been fairly consistent in recent years. Many of the steelhead planted in 2021 will return in the 2022-2023 winter season as 3 year fish. Let’s look at the escapement history though:

There’s been quite a bit of variability based on the ocean conditions and fishing regulations (2021-2022 had restricted fishing regulations). I would expect the 2022-2023 hatchery return to be decent, but let’s see what the WDFW biologists are putting out there:

Hatchery steelhead forecast 2022-2023
Hatchery steelhead forecast 2022-2023

Forecasts seem to indicate one of the best hatchery returns in years for winter steelhead on the Humptulips.

But will we get to even fish for these amazing steelhead? Let’s look at the wild stock situation:

Steelhead forecast 2022-2023
Wild Steelhead forecast 2022-2023

As you can see the situation is quite bleak with a sport impact limit of 61…and expected to miss escapement goal by 378 steelhead. So far WDFW has been within 5-10% accuracy on these predictions based on the 2021-2022 evaluation.

Let’s look at what WDFW has presented in terms of season options:

Steelhead season analysis of options 2022-2023
Steelhead season analysis of options 2022-2023

There’s only one scenario with a green box in the above matrix of options and that’s: No bait, no April and reduced days…

I would gladly accept these restrictions to get a chance to still angle for these winter steelhead with one of the best returns in a decade expected!

My hopes will remain pretty subdued though. Looking for more resources on how to fish for winter steelhead? Take a look at our comprehensive page on the topic here!

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