Satsop River Fishing

Satsop River Fishing

Satsop River near Schaffer state park bridge

The Satsop River is a smallish river that drains the southern to south-eastern flanks of the majestic Olympic Mountains and foothills.

Many Western Washington anglers have traveled Highway 12 headed towards Aberdeen and the Olympic Peninsula coast and know the Satsop River as one of the rivers you cross, just before the Wynoochee River on your way west.

Satsop River Map with labels

It’s near Highway 12 and the town of Satsop that the Satsop River dumps into the Chehalis River.

But why go further west when you could get off on 4th street leading towards E Satsop Rd and travel north towards Schafer State Park for a closer-to-home fishing experience on one of Western Washington’s best fall salmon fishing rivers?

The goal of this page is to provide everything you need to plan a fishing trip to the Satsop River.

And unlike other pages about the Satsop River, it won’t be filled with out-of-date information. You can expect to see updated escapement graphs, forecasts, fishing regulations, and links to other helpful trip-planning resources.

There is a small run of hatchery winter steelhead on the Satsop River, but just like the Wynoochee and the Skookumchuck River, the 2023-2024 winter steelhead season has run into the buzz saw of low abundance of natural origin fish.

In general, the Satsop River isn’t as good as the Wynoochee or Skookumchuck for winter steelhead, but that’s just the kind of scenario some steelheaders prefer, to get away from the crowds, but still have an opportunity on a few fish.

I will post the information about the 2023-2024 winter steelhead run for completeness, but the river is closed and there won’t be a season on it this year.

The next fishing opportunity on the Satsop River will likely be for fall salmon which you can expect to see more about after the annual planning process releases the forecasts around March timeframe.

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

The Satsop will get hatchery steelhead trickling in throughout January and February, but mid-March and into early April is typically the peak of the run.

Hatchery winter steelhead smolt plants for the Satsop River 2017-2021

Note: Smolts planted in the 2022 year will predominantly return as 3-year fish in the 2023-2024 winter steelhead season.

As you can see since 2017, steelhead smolt plants have remained fairly steady, though 2022 was a higher smolt plant year of the last 5. Smolt plants on the Satsop river are about a third of what is planted in the Wynoochee.

Hatchery winter steelhead returns from 2013-2022

Returns of Satsop hatchery winter steelhead have been inconsistent compared to the smolt plants. And even on a “good year” we aren’t talking about more than a few hundred hatchery steelhead returning.

I have several important resources on PNWBestLife.com and the YouTube channel to help you become a better winter steelhead angler.

It all starts with reading water. Check out our guide: How to read water for winter steelhead.

Also, check out the YouTube video.

I’ve also got a complete guide to Winter Steelhead Fishing you should check out and again, an accompanying YouTube video below:

Salmon angling on the Satsop River is typically focussed on coho and chum salmon in the middle to late fall as the river can be absolutely plugged with both species after a good rain.

Fishing on the Satsop River typically takes place from where it dumps into the Chehalis River near the town of Satsop all the way upstream to Schafer State Park.

Schafer State Park offers some bank access and there’s a place to launch a drift boat near Decker Creek (check if open before proceeding)

A drift boat journey down the Satsop is an incredible experience and by far the best way to experience the entire river due to the private land ownership throughout most of the fishable portions.

Below are the escapement graphs as data is reported from WDFW about how many fish have been collected at the hatchery for the three salmon runs: Chinook, Coho, and Chum.

Updated Status of returning Fall Chinook on the Satsop River

Satsop Fall Chinook 2023

These graphs will automatically update as fish start to return to the hatchery. Fall Chinook are typically present, but retention is not allowed due to their low abundance.

Updated Status of returning Coho on the Satsop River

Satsop Coho 2023

These graphs will automatically update as fish start to return to the hatchery.

Updated Status of returning Chum on the Satsop River

Satsop Chum 2023

These graphs will automatically update as fish start to return to the hatchery.

Below you can see the escapement timings for all three of the salmon species that return to the Satsop River hatchery on Bingham Creek.

Historical Run Timing of Fall Chinook on the Satsop River

Satsop Fall Chinook Run timing 2023

Some chinook will be in the river after the first fall rains bring the water level up sufficiently. Unfortunately, the abundance of chinook is too low to enable a retention fishery for adult chinook.

Historical Run Timing of Coho on the Satsop River

Satsop Coho Run timing 2023

As you can see, the number of fall coho can be quite significant in good return years and provide decent fishing from the first rains of fall and into December and perhaps beyond.

Historical Run Timing of Chum on the Satsop River

Satsop Chum Run timing 2023

Chum fishing can be outstanding in late October through at least the middle of November, tailing off sharply in late November typically.

These forecasts are typically updated around the March-April timeframe.

Forecast for 2023 Satsop River Fall Chinook

The escapement trend generally matches other Chinook abundance trends.

Forecast for 2023 Satsop River Coho

2022 was a huge return year for hatchery coho on the Satsop and when I update this graph for 2023’s escapement, it should show another really strong year.

Forecast for 2023 Satsop River Chum

Chum has had a nice bounce back the previous two years. The Satsop River can be a great chum river!

Some of the most fun bank or drift boat fishing in the fall takes place on smaller rivers like the Satsop with twitching jigs or fishing with spinners. This method will catch both coho and chum and the occasional chinook (that will have to be released).

You could also use the float fishing method with eggs or if you really wanted to get dialed in on chum, a purple/pink jig tipped with a bit of shriimp.

Check out my guide to river fishing for salmon to get more how-to ideas.

The below regulations are focused on the Satsop River and the east fork of the Satsop River in particular.

Species Date Additional Rules

from mouth to bridge at Schafer State Park CRC (329)

All species

Aug. 1-Sept. 30

Selective gear rules.

Aug. 16-Nov. 30

Night closure.

Oct. 1-Nov. 30

Single-point barbless hooks required.

Trout

Sat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31

Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.

Other game fish

Sat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

Salmon

Oct. 1-Nov. 30

Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6 including no more than 2 adults. Release adult Chinook.

Dec. 1-Dec. 31

Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6 including no more than 1 adult. Release Chinook.

Species Date Additional Rules

from bridge at Schafer State Park upstream to 400’ below Bingham Creek Hatchery dam CRC (329)

All species

Aug. 16-Oct. 31

Single-point barbless hooks required. Night closure.

Trout

Sat. before Memorial Day-Oct. 31

Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.

Other game fish

Sat. before Memorial Day-Oct. 31

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

from 400’ below Bingham Creek Hatchery dam to the dam CRC (329A)

All species

Night closure. Open only to anglers with disabilities who permanently use a wheelchair and have a designated harvester companion card.

Aug. 16-Nov. 30

Single-point barbless hooks required.

Trout

Sat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31

Statewide min. size/daily limit. Except: Cutthroat trout and wild rainbow trout: min. size 14”.

Other game fish

Sat. before Memorial Day-Mar. 31

Statewide min. size/daily limit.

Salmon

Oct. 1-Nov. 30

Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6 including no more than 2 adults. Release adult Chinook.

Dec. 1-Dec. 31

Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6 including no more than 1 adult. Release Chinook.

You should always check WDFW’s Emergency Rules page before you go to ensure you have the latest information about what the regulations are.

While you can fish the main sections of the Satsop River, the experience on the East Fork around Schafer State Park is better in my opinion because there are more fish for the amount of water you are fishing since the Bingham Creek Hatchery is on the East Fork.

Here are a few well-known fishing spots I will provide some information about:

Fishing Keys Rd – S Curves of the mainstem Satsop River

Keys Road Satsop River Fishing Spot

You have to know where the private land boundaries are, but there’s a lot of public land west of Keys Road to the river and south of the structures at the top of the satellite image above.

Schafer State Park Satsop River fishing spot

There’s a tremendous amount of bank access in and around Schafer State Park that just requires a Discover Pass to access.

East Fork Satsop River near schafer state park

The Satsop River is part of the Chehalis River Basin, which is a hugely important river basin for aquatic species and communities throughout the area.

One of the major challenges that is not unique to the Chehalis River Basin, but perhaps is felt more acutely is the extreme nature of some of the recent floods.

This extreme flooding has has a negative impact on communities around the Chehalis River, but also on salmon and steelhead.

One of the major factors that worsens this effect has been habitat loss and bank armoring, providing no refuge for salmon/steelhead and their redds.

If you’re interested in the many projects being worked on to counter habitat loss, you should check out the Chehalis Basin Strategy website.

The primary salmon and steelhead conservation concern on the Satsop River lately has been related to the natural origin winter steelhead numbers.

There are also conservation and habitat concerns for chinook salmon on the Satsop Riverr which are still struggling to maintain stable populations.

Chehalis Steelhead returns

Returns of these natural origin winter steelhead have missed spawning escapement targets for the last several years sparking concerns among tribal and sport-fishing communities as well as regulatory groups.

You can read more about some of the work being done to restore habitat on the Satsop River at the WDFW page on the topic here.