Washington’s Chehalis River Steelhead Get A Boost

By Bill Swann | 01/23/2012
I’ve been fishing the Chehalis River system since 1982. Some years fishing can be so-so, but this isn’t one of those years. It’s a little bit better than normal right now. Actually, it’s much better than that and for a good reason.


Most years there are a lot steelhead that return to the Chehalis system. Nevertheless, our system depends on how much gill netting goes on. Right now, the tribes are only netting three days a week (Sunday, Monday & Tuesday) and because of the reduced schedule we are seeing more fish than we’ve seen in a long time. Some years they might net five to six days a week.

Fortunately, this fall we believed there was a lot of overfishing going on and local anglers, lobbyists and political figures teamed up to tighten the valve on over-netting. Groups like the North of Falcon Usury Group, CCA of Washington, NSIA and guys like Duane Inglin and myself teamed up to keep steelhead moving through the system.

By teaming up and working together these groups generated strong political interest and put pressure on tribes to stick to netting only on awarded days. These guys, especially the old timers of the North of Falcon, have worked tirelessly to keep our rivers full of steelhead and we need to thank them for their efforts.

They’ve forced the tribes to go back to their traditional days and it’s been a blessing for the system. I think right now there’s probably double the amount of steelhead in the system than in the last five years. Now, the tribes and anglers are both winning. We are working together to maintain a sustainable fishery.

For the last two weeks I’ve been get limits for clients and that’s not necessarily normal. There’s a lot more fish in the system right now and people are catching fish throughout the system rather than a concentrated section.

I think because of less netting we are seeing bigger numbers of fish returning, but we are also noticing that there’s more two-and-three salt fish than we are accustomed to. A two-salt fish is 12-14 pounds and three-salt fish is 15-17 pounds. Personally, I think we are going to see more of these big fish this year than we’ve seen in a long time. In fact, I have a close friend who works for one of the tribes who confirmed a 27 plus pound hatchery steelhead in the nets this week, which tells me there’s some big steelies coming in.

I catch my steelhead here on eggs and have been using pink BorX O’ Fire cured eggs. However, when I cure my eggs I always add an extra cup of sugar. When you fish steelhead you have to think candy and think sweet. By adding an extra cup of sugar it sweetens up your baits more.



When fishing for steelhead in the winter another thing to consider is the size of your bait. I adjust my baits to how high the river is and its’ clarity. Normally, I use pieces as large as a silver dollar to the size of a quarter. It’s also important to remember that the higher the water and the more the color, the bigger the bait you’ll need. The lower and clearer the water the smaller the bait.

I’m a firm believe that not all eggs are created equal. With the pressure on the river these days it’s important to get the most out of your eggs. I accomplish this by using a lot of red Pautzke Nectar and Fire Power (pure krill powder). The reason why I add krill to the Nectar is because there isn’t any in it. By mixing the Nectar (pure egg juice) with the Fire Power you give a boost to the eggs.


Some guys worry about the color change to the Nectar when you add the powder. Doing so causes the red Nectar to turn more reddish brown, but that doesn’t bother me because the scent is not about the color rather the smell. Krill and egg juice are dynamite scents that boost my catch rates.

Using it is pretty simple. Sometimes I’ll sprinkle it on my baits as we are fishing. Usually though, I’ll cut my baits that morning and mix my Fire Power and Nectar before we fish. Then it’ll pour the mixture into my bait container to allow it to absorb into the bait. I’ll also keep extra on hand incase I see a bait that needs to be rejuvenated. Try giving your eggs a boost this way and I’m sure you’ll see a difference in your strikes.


Let’s Fish
Bill “Swanny” Swann

A full-time fishing guide, Bill Swann is the owner of Swanny’s Fishing. To learn more about his guide service please visit swannysfishing.com