Lewis River Winter Steelhead Fishing 2022-2023

Nice hatchery winter steelhead

The Lewis River drains the western flanks of Mt Adams and the foothills of the Gifford Pinchot National forest and is dammed up to form 3 reservoirs at it flows westward.

The lowest of these reservoirs is Lake Merwin and the outtake of the Lake Merwin Dam creates the lower Lewis River that fills with returning hatchery winter steelhead throughout the winter months culminating with the final push of fish and spawning in the early springtime.

The Lewis River dumps into the Columbia River near the town of Woodland, WA. The Lewis is a larger river than it’s next door cousin (The Kalama), and is much harder to bank fish certain spots (though not impossible) due to its size. Luckily, steelhead prefer traveling through soft edges and current seams often reachable from the shore.

My approach to this page on the Lewis River (and other similar pages) is to provide automatically updating graphs and text that you would otherwise have to the scour the litany of WDFW provided resources to figure out.

The goal is to make take a bit of the learning curve out of trip planning so that you the steelhead angler, that perhaps only gets to hit the river a few times in a season can pick the time with the best odds for success.

Helping out the average angler, hunter and forager is exactly what we’re about on this Website, YouTube channel and our social media presence!

You will find the fishing report WDFW publishes weekly via creel checking both boats and bank anglers to get an idea what’s going on, on the Lewis River.

Additionally, I will publish the auto-updating escapement report graphs and the historical run timing for when steelhead return to the Lewis River hatcheries to help you plan a trip.

We also have the permanent regulations below in a convenience place along with a link to the emergency regulations which must always be consulted in case their’s a closure or regulations change to the permanent ones.

We also include the forecast so you can get an idea what kind of run of winter steelhead you should expect on the Lewis River during the 2022-2023 season.

If you’re looking for more information on how to fish for winter steelhead, checkout our page devoted to the topic.

Looking for information on the winter steelhead situation on the WA Coast? Checkout my recent blog post on this topic as well.

Lewis River Winter Steelhead Fishing Report

The below graphs will update as WDFW publishes their SW WA Fishing Report once a week.

Boat anglers on the Lewis River

Bank anglers on the Lewis River

Updated Status of returning hatchery early Winter Steelhead on the Lewis River

Updated Status of returning hatchery late Winter Steelhead on the Lewis River

Historical Run Timing of hatchery early Winter Steelhead on the Lewis River

The early returning Lewis River hatchery steelhead run, begins to show in late November, but tends to peak in late December and extends into mid January before really tailing off after that.

Historical Run Timing of hatchery late Winter Steelhead on the Lewis River

As you can see, the late run winter steelhead on the Lewis River kind of trickle in until mid-March when things really take off and into early April when you see the peak of the run typically.

Fishing Regulations for the Lewis River 2022

LEWIS RIVER – CLARK/COWLITZ CO.
from mouth (a straight line from a fishing boundary marker or from the outermost upland at the north shore of the Lewis River mouth southerly across the river to a fishing boundary marker near the south shore) to the mouth of the East Fork Lewis River CRC (611)
All speciesAnglers may fish with two poles with Two-Pole Endorsement.
July 1-Sept. 30Night closure. For salmon and steelhead fishing only.
TroutYear-roundMin. size 14”. Daily limit 2.
Steelhead (hatchery)July 1-July 31Min. size 20”. Daily limit 1.
Aug. 1-Aug. 31Closed.
Sept. 1-Sept. 30Min. size 20”. Daily limit 1.
Oct. 1-June 30Min. size 20”. Daily limit 3.
Other game fishYear-roundStatewide min. size/daily limit.
SalmonJan. 1-Apr. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 adult may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.
Aug. 1-Sept. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults of may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho.
Oct. 1-Dec. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained of which up to 2 may be Chinook. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.
from mouth of the East Fork Lewis River to Johnson Creek CRC (615)
All speciesAnglers may fish with two poles with Two-Pole Endorsement.
TroutYear-roundMin. size 14”. Daily limit 2.
Steelhead (hatchery)Year-roundMin. size 20”. Daily limit 3.
Other game fishYear-roundStatewide min. size/daily limit.
SalmonJan. 1-Apr. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 adult may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.
Aug. 1-Sept. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho.
Oct. 1-Dec. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained of which up to 2 may be Chinook. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.
from Johnson Creek to Colvin Creek CRC (615)
All speciesApr. 1-Apr. 30Night closure. Anti-snagging rule.
May 1-May 31CLOSED WATERS.
June 1-Nov. 30Anti-snagging rule. Night closure.
TroutJune 1-Apr. 30Min. size 14”. Daily limit 2.
Steelhead (hatchery)June 1-Apr. 30Min. size 20”. Daily limit 3.
Other game fishJune 1-Apr. 30Statewide min. size/daily limit.
SalmonJan. 1-Apr. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 adult may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.
Aug. 1-Sept. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho.
Oct. 1-Dec. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained of which up to 2 may be Chinook. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.
shoreward of cable buoy and corkline at outlet of Lewis River salmon hatchery fish ladder
All speciesCLOSED WATERS.
from Colvin Creek to overhead power lines below Merwin Dam CRC (615)
All speciesApr. 1-Apr. 30Anti-snagging rule. Night closure.
May 1-May 31CLOSED WATERS.
June 1-Oct. 31Anti-snagging rule. Night closure.
TroutJune 1-Oct. 31Min. size 14”. Daily limit 2.
Dec. 16-Apr. 30Min. size 14”. Daily limit 2.
Steelhead (hatchery)June 1-Oct. 31Min. size 20”. Daily limit 3.
Dec. 16-Apr. 30Min. size 20”. Daily limit 3.
Other game fishJune 1-Oct. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit.
Dec. 16-Apr. 30Statewide min. size/daily limit.
SalmonJan. 1-Apr. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 1 adult may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook.
Aug. 1-Sept. 30Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained. Release all salmon other than hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho.
Oct. 1-Oct. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained of which up to 2 may be Chinook. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.
Dec. 16-Dec. 31Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 3 adults may be retained of which up to 2 may be Chinook. Release all salmon other than Chinook and hatchery coho.
from overhead power lines to Merwin Dam
All speciesCLOSED WATERS.
from the cable crossing 1,300 yards below Yale Dam to Yale Dam
All speciesCLOSED WATERS.
Old Lewis River streambed between Swift No. 1 Powerhouse and Swift No. 2 Powerhouse
All speciesCLOSED WATERS.
Lewis River Power Canal
All speciesFishing from any floating device prohibited.
Trout4th Sat. in Apr.-Oct. 31No min. size. Daily limit 5.
Other game fish4th Sat. in Apr.-Oct. 31Statewide min. size/daily limit.
from Eagle Cliff Bridge to Muddy River and tributaries except the Muddy River
All speciesSelective gear rules.
TroutSat. before Memorial Day-July 15Min. size 8”. Daily limit 10. Release wild trout.
Other game fishSat. before Memorial Day-July 15Statewide min. size/daily limit.
from the Muddy River to the lower falls and all tributaries
All speciesSelective gear rules.
All game fishSat. before Memorial Day-Oct. 31Catch-and-r
There’s also an east-fork of the Lewis River with it’s own regulations, but doesn’t include a steelhead component

Emergency Fishing Regulations for the Lewis 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 Lewis River Winter Steelhead

Note: Smolts planted in the 2021 year will predominantly return as 3 year fish in the 2022-2023 winter steelhead season or in the case of summer steelhead, the 2023 summer steelhead season.

What’s exciting about the above bar chart is that 2021 represents an increase in smolt plants for the Lewis River basin, which if combined with improving ocean conditions, chances are decent for having a good season.

Hatchery winter steelhead returns from 2013-2022

Returns have historically been strong on the Lewis, with a big dip in 2021 and a bit of a rebound in 2022. With increased smolt plants and improving ocean conditions the 2023 season winter steelhead return could be somewhere between 750 and 900 (guess based on looking at all the factors).