Under the canopy of giant cedars, firs and hemlocks, the rivers of Grays Harbor weave through ferns and meadows, working their way toward the mighty Pacific Ocean. Serving as an artery for trade and commerce, the rivers are the lifeblood of the region, giving us beauty and recreation, with the ultimate river experience along the waterways of Grays Harbor found during the salmon runs.

When salmon season comes, the rivers become full of boats and the shores are lined with anglers, all hoping to catch a giant salmon returning to its spawning grounds. The rivers of the Harbor are some of the best in the continental United States for salmon fishing and each and every year, fisherman of all skill levels find their fishing dreams coming true.

salmon grays harbor
Soon, our rivers will be full of salmon. Will you be out trying to catch them? Photo credit: Ingrid Taylar

If you haven’t yet found yourself casting into the rivers of Grays Harbor, you are missing out on an ideal fishing destination for all. Close to the ocean, there are five favorite rivers to salmon fish, each providing a unique experience while giving you a chance to land some true monsters. It is important to remember that until you become an expert, salmon fishing is hit and miss. That is why we recommend going out with experts if you are a first-time angler. Water’s West Guide Services provides guided salmon fishing trips around the Harbor, helping you transform you into an expert angler and share local areas where the fishing is incredible.

Johns River

Just 12 miles from Aberdeen, access to the Johns River is where you go when you want to catch huge salmon. The area is said to be home to trophy king salmon, with some weighing more than 40 pounds. The fishing here can be tough for those not in a boat or experienced in salmon fishing. Despite that, the area is popular throughout the fall with anglers hoping to catch a behemoth king. There are three launches to head out from in your watercraft, allowing you to have your chance at catching some salmon before they enter the other rivers of the region.

Wynoochee

salmon fishing grays harbor washington
Salmon fishing in Grays Harbor is a quintessential experience, as it allows you to better understand the natural beauty of the region. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

For many, their first salmon fishing experience comes along the Wynoochee River. During the fall months of October and November, large Coho and Chinook return to the waters, with many weighing more than 18 pounds. The salmon that return to spawn along this river are mostly headed to Carter, Shafer and Helm Creeks, but nearly anywhere on the river has multiple fantastic locations for anglers of all skill sets. For a list of excellent locations to try to land a large salmon along the Wynoochee, visit the website of Water’s West Guide Services.

Humptulips

Fishing the “Hump” is an experience like no other. This is where everyone loves to fish, as the salmon runs are incredible due to their size and scale. While fish can be caught in the river year round, the area becomes incredibly popular during the months from October into December. This is when the gargantuan chinook return to the river, with many weighing over 40 pounds. The Humptulips is one of the premier salmon filled rivers in the Pacific Northwest, and no salmon fishing experience in Grays Harbor is complete without at least a day here.

Quinault 

Salmon fishing rivers grays harbor
Landing a salmon on your line is just as exhilarating the 100th time as it is your first. Photo credit: Jeff Bailey

The Quinault is a local favorite of many anglers as there is something amazing about fishing while surrounded by the beauty of the rainforest. While the Quinault is technically closed to the public since the Quinault Nation owns the land, permits to fish in the lake can be obtained in local stores. There are also numerous guide services available to take you out on the private river where salmon run nearly every month of the year. Robert Thomas, a guide at Private Water Adventures, says that people should choose to fish on the Quinault because, “State regulations regarding bag limits, releasing wild Chinook and wild Steelhead, and hook restrictions do not apply!” Just make sure you have the right permits and permission before heading here for your salmon fishing adventure.

The Satsop

Finally, another local favorite in Grays Harbor for salmon fishing is the Satsop River. The Satsop isn’t as world-renowned as the Humptulips or the other rivers mentioned, but it should not be missed. The Satsop is quite popular in October, becoming what many anglers call “a madhouse” by the end of the month.

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Catching salmon from the rivers of Grays Harbor is an amazing experience. Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management

While some may consider it crowded by Pacific Northwest standards, the Satsop is a great place to catch Coho salmon that can weigh between 15 and 20 pounds. Crowds shouldn’t deter you; they are there for a reason. The river is a great place to catch your limit, with the best location found along a few drifts on the East Fork.

If you do decide to take part in this Grays Harbor outdoors tradition, make sure you have the right permits and gear and are fishing on the correct rivers. The best place to gather this information is through the Washington State Fish and Wildlife website, which provides up-to-the-minute conditions and closures.

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