Chehalis River Salmon / Steelhead Fishing in the Upper River

Spring Chinook ; IF there are enough spring Chinook predicted to return for any given year, WDFW may open the Chehalis River for salmon fishing above the Porter bridge for spring salmon May 1 thru July 31 and for fall salmon, from the middle of October thru the end of February. Trout and Steelhead season is usually closed from April 16th thru May 31. The marine area code for punching your salmon punch card from the Porter Bridge to Black River is (317). The old boundary pre 2012 was to the high bridge on the Weyerhaeuser 1000 line above PeEll. This was changed in 2012 to the upper boundary being the Highway 6 bridge at Adna because of the fewer number of predicted returning fish, and is code (315).

There are only natural spring Chinook and steelhead in this river (no hatchery supplementation). There are a few volunteer RFEGs for Coho egg raising and fry release however.

Salmon and steelhead fishing here is not that great because of the fact that the Quinault Indian netting that occurs on the lower river. Yes, I know the 50/50 Boldt decision and the fish co-management with the tribe, but it really cuts down on fish above the nets. And the legal length for retention of cutthroat trout is 14″ which you will rarely encounter.

There are NOT a lot of boat launches in this stretch of water and the water is not a slow lowing river in many places, a jetsled or driftboat is recommended. Bankfishing is somewhat limited by the combination of fishable water/banks and obtaining landowner permission.

Boat Launches:

(1) The lowest boat launch in this described section is at the Porter Bridge.

(2) Oakville launch

(3) Black River launch

(4) Borst Park launch at Centralia

The Porter bridge boat ramp appears to be a WDFW unit. It is located just west of the river bridge and the first road to the left goes into a large gravel parking lot. The single lane concrete launch is located in a slight back-eddy for protection. There is lots of parking and restroom facilities here.


 Porter bridge boat launch

The Oakville launch is situated off Highway 12. This launch is on the 1st road to the left as you exit Oakville going west and is on the Gate Elma Rd. West. It is only out there about 1/4 mile from Highway 12. Gravel parking for about a dozen vehicles and appears to have a spot for bank fishing just downstream from the launch. There are no signs off Highway 12 or at the site indicating public fishing or boat launch.



Oakville launch on a frosty morning

The Black River launch while not on the Chehalis is close enough to access the main river. It is immediately downstream from Highway 12 where it crosses Black River, about 2 1/2 miles east of Oakville. Gravel parking for a dozen vehicles. The Chehalis River is downriver about 2 miles as the crow flies, but farther by water as Black River winds around a bit before it empties into the Chehalis.




Black River launch

Downstream from the Black River launch

For the Borst Park launch, from I-5, at the Centralia northern exit onto Harrison Street (exit 82), go west 2 or 3 stoplights, (depending which side of the freeway you exited from). Between the 2nd and 3rd light Safeway store will be on your left. At this 3rd light (Johnson Rd) get into the left turning lane. Turn left, head south, about 2 blocks there is a 4 way stop with the Centralia middle school beyond on the right. Go straight ahead and at the end of the school parking lot, the road tees at the ball fields. Turn right for about a block and then a left. Follow thru the ball field parking lots then ahead you will see the restored Borst home. There is a sign for Historic Borst home and boat launch with an arrow to the right, take the road to the right which will take you past a park maintenance shed. Just beyond this shed/lot is the launch parking on the left. The parking lot has chuck holes, and the parks dept may use it for dumping loads of dirt /gravel in the center as a dump/storage dwindling the parking area. However there are ball fields near with some parking areas that if not being used could act as an overflow.


When you leave, you do not have to go back the way you came, but can head west from the parking lot, then north and back into the residential area which will take you back to the 4 way stop at the school. You could come in this way also, but it is harder to describe.


Borst Park launch

Most of the fishing in this area of the Chehalis will be from boats and will be from the Skookumchuck, downriver to below Rochester.


Not a Lot of Boat Accessible Water Above the Mouth of the Skookumchuck ; The river here is really only conducive to prop outboards from the launch upstream at a mid water lever, as there are a few large rocks just above the launch area that eat props at low water. Above that is a lot of flat frog water where a prop boat could navigate, but not conducive to salmon or steelhead fishing until you get upstream to the town of Chehalis. Below this launch can be navigated for about a mile until you get to the bend shown below is Jetsleds or drift boats are usually used from the launch downriver toward Rochester.

About a mile downriver from this launch is a island and a corner riffle combined. This can be tricky for a jetsled, depending on the water flow for a first timer thru.


Google map view of area described above with the flow from the right to left.


Above this Borst Park launch about 300 yards or so is the mouth of the Skookumchuck River entering from the left (east). There is a trail thru the main park, south to a bankfishing area at the downstream side of the mouth of the Skookumchuck. Upriver father in the city limits, east off Harrision Street “restaurant row” is Riverside Park with some bank access. Across the river is bank access from the Church of the Nazerene parking lot, but by a free parking permit from them for use of their parking lot.


The mouth of the Skookumchuck at the far bend, looking upriver from the Borst Park launch The Chehalis at the mouth of the Skookumchuck (on the left) looking upstream from the bank fishing spot on a foggy morning


The Skookumchuck itself has a fish run in it as there is a hatchery upriver very near the base of the dam.  Coho and steelhead are the prime targets for this river.  River access can be at the Schaffer Park on the northern edge of Centralia where the road Ys to the Centralia Steam Plant.   Also river access upriver from north of Bucoda has a couple of public access with limited highway access but plenty of public walk-in below the parking lot.  Above this public access, with walk in beyond the gate, there is access to the river along the old field up to the deadline below the base of the dam.

Skookumchuck River at Riverside park in Centralia Skookumchuck River at Schaffer Park just north of Centralia


Above the Skookumchuck’s entrance, the Chehalis River water is flat, meandering, slow flowing until you get upriver to the city of Chehalis.  There are a couple of riffles behind the city of Chehalis and fishable water at the mouth of the Newaukum River.  This hole at the mouth of the Newaukum can be public accessed bank fished with the access from Alexander Park, which is accessible from the 1st road to the left after you cross the Highway 6 bridge just west of I-5.


Upper 1/2 of pool below the mouth of the Newaukum River Newaukum River in background entering the Chehalis


There will be fishable water in the Newaukum all the way up to Onalaska where there the school raises and releases Coho and steelhead.  Again bank access would be the prime consideration.

Above the Newaukum River, the main Chehalis River has not really much fishing/holding water and from Adna upstream, only conducive to drift boat fishing, with only a few private gravel bars to launch or take out on.

As mentioned, there are a few bank access areas above Adna to the Rainbow Falls area.   At the Boistfort area, the South Fork of the Chehalis empties into the main Chehalis.  This picture below is taken off the railroad bridge crossing the South Fork just above where it meets the main river.   This South Fork is closed to salmon fishing above the Boistfort school bridge, but is open for trout and steelhead.  It however also has little or no public access as it goes thru private farmland.



The South Fork of the Chehalis on right, looking downstream to the main river Casting into a pool on the upper Chehalis above Adna for trout during a summer pontoon boat  float trip


Above the Boistfort/South Fork bridge about 3 miles on Highway 6 (just past the garbage transfer site) is the River Rd to the right, down it about a mile or so on the LH corner is an unimproved parking area  (owned by WDFW) that leads to the river which is close by.  Here is a deep hole with a rocky riffle above on a corner.  This pool below has fishable water, but usually a float/bobber works best as there are large jagged rocks in the bottom, precluding drifting.




Here is a rocky riffle at Meskil The upper head of the pool below the Meskil riffle

Above the Boistfort/South Fork bridge about 5 miles is Rainbow Falls State Park, which is right on Highway 6.  The pictures below  were taken off the bridge across the river entering the park’s picnic/camping area.   The bridges were wiped out by the December 2007 flood.   There is parking along the wide shoulder of the highway at this area and a trail down to the falls under the old now missing bridge from the upstream highway side.


This falls will usually stop fall salmon migration until the fall rains raise it enough to allow fish passage, and they usually use the LH side channel as most salmon can not jump the falls.    The photos below were taken before the 2007 flood that wiped out both bridges to the park that these photos show or were taken from.  One of these bridges is scheduled for replacement  2013 / 2014, but has not happened yet.


Rainbow Falls showing the LH side channel Pool below the falls

Above Rainbow Falls, the locals seem to think the river belongs to them, and with very little access unless you know or are related to the landowner.




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