"The broad run before us looked like the most perfect place to find a Steelhead. White alders lined the far bank as far as I could see, it seemed fitting that this place should be protected forever as a National Park."
Queets River Fishing
The Queets River is sourced deep in the Olympic Mountains and most of its length is protected and accessible in the Olympic National Park. Few rivers in the Pacific Northwest afford such wide-open public access. As the river flows out of the Park it immediately enters into the Quinault Indian Reservation, and is open to fishing with a tribal fishing guide for much of the year.
The river’s main target species are Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon and Steelhead. Salmon start to return to the river in August and can be caught through November. Steelhead can be found in the river most of the year, but the real excitement surrounds the Hatchery Steelhead return from November to January and the Wild Steelhead catch & release season which is usually later in the winter.
Dolly Varden, Bull Trout and Cutthroat Trout can be found in the river year-round and are a draw to hikers and campers in the upper watershed during the summer and fall.
The Salmon River is a major tributary to the Queets and its lower sections are accessible to the public through the National Park and National Forest. Access via the Lower Queets Road's bridge over the Salmon as well as the Q1000 Bridge further upstream. The Salmon River above Q1000 is within the boundary of the Quinault Indian Reservation and a tribal fishing guide is required here. The Quinault Tribe operates a major hatchery here that produces Steelhead and Coho, making the Salmon River a draw for many anglers.
Getting Around the Queets River
For many years a single road, Queets River Road, provided the exclusive road access to the Queets River in the park. About a decade ago, a landslide washed out the road and in fact was so massive that there was no way to repair roadbed. Access to the upper river above the slide was reestablished via a series of logging roads to the upper portion of Queets River Road. The Olympic National Park’s road access to most of the salmon fishing areas is from Lower Queets Road below the slide. Upper Queets Road takes you to the campground and trailheads upstream, where Steelhead, Trout and Dolly Varden are found. The ONP has excellent signage on Highway 101 for both the upper and lower road access.
All salmon fishing occurs from the Hartzell Boat Launch just above the mouth of the Salmon River, downriver to the boundary between the Quinault Indian Reservation and the Olympic National Park. While the Quinault do allow non-tribal members to fish their waters with a tribal guide, most of the angling public fish in the park.
Bank fishing access is excellent at Hartzell Boat Launch, the Salmon River and it’s confluence with the Queets (there are established trails from the Salmon River Bridge (Lower Queets Road) down to the mouth of the Salmon. Some anglers choose to park and hike the gravel bars for miles, others congregate around the mouth of the Salmon. Fishing in the Salmon itself can be good when rainfall swells this little stream, usually a good option when the Queets is too high to fish.
The Upper Queets River has ample access via the road and trails, and can be a great option for a little more solitude. It can be a great place to catch Cutthroat Trout, Steelhead, Dolly Varden and Bull Trout throughout the year. Queets River Campground at the very end of the upper road is a great basecamp for anyone looking to continue up the Queets River Trail and hike-in to more secluded fishing spots.
Boaters use drift boats and rafts to float from Hartzell Boat Launch in the park down to the mouth of the Clearwater River, near the boundary of the Quinault Reservation and the Park. The float is around 4 river miles and offers great fishing for Fall Salmon and Winter Steelhead.
Queets River Fishing Techniques & Gear
Spinners: Castings spinners can catch pretty much everything that swims in the Queets, and is one of the most popular techniques. Run Size 4 and Size 5 Steelhead Slammer Spinners or Blue Fox Vibrax Spinners for Steelhead, Chinook and Coho Salmon and smaller Roostertail and Mepps Spinners for Trout and Dolly Varden.
Spoons: Swinging spoons can be a very effective way to target Steelhead, Dolly Varden and Bull Trout. We like the P-Line Pro-Steel Spoons in ¼, 2/5 and 2/3 Ounce depending on the river flow.
Float Fishing: Fishing with floats can be a great way to fish the Queets and Salmon Rivers for Steelhead. You can choose to fish with a Steelhead Jig, Pink Worm or Soft-plastic Bead under a 3/8 to ½ ounce bobber.
Drift Fishing: When the Queets has moderate to higher river flows, drift-fishing with a Corky & Yarn or a Pink Worm can be a great choice for Steelhead.
Plugs: If you are fishing from a drift boat or a raft, fishing with plugs can be effective for both Salmon and Steelhead. For Salmon, anchor or back-troll a Mag Lip 3.5 during moderate flows and a Mag Lip 4.0 or Flatfish M2 during moderate-high flows. For Steelhead, a Mag Lip 3.0 or 3.5 is our recommended plug for any fishable river level.
Additional Queets River Fishing Resources