Skykomish River Fishing

Skykomish River fishing offers a very memorable experience.

The Skykomish River drains from the west side of the Cascade Mountains in the southeast section of Snohomish County and the northeast corner of King County. The river starts with the confluence of the North Fork Skykomish River and South Fork Skykomish River approximately one mile west of Index, WA.  The main Skykomish River then flows northwesterly towards Puget Sound. It is joined by the Sultan River and the Wallace River at Sultan. It then meets the Snoqualmie River to form the Snohomish River just outside Monroe, WA.

Skykomish River

One of the many creeks that flow into the North Fork Skykomish River

The Skykomish River’s main stem is 29 miles long. The length including its head water tributaries, South Fork Skykomish and Tye River, is 62.4 miles The Skykomish drainage basin is 834 square miles in area.

The Skykomish is sometimes referred to by the nickname “The Sky”.

The North Fork and South Fork are about equal in size and neither is clearly the main course of the Skykomish River. However, the South Fork’s true source, in terms of stream flow, is the Rapid River, a tributary of the Beckler River, which in turn is a tributary of the South Fork Skykomish River.

The headwaters of the North Fork Skykomish River are located in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness near Dishpan Gap along the Pacific Crest Trail. It flows as a small stream off the north slope of Skykomish Peak. The Wild Sky Wilderness protects tributaries and forests adjacent to the North Fork Skykomish, although not the river itself. The river flows generally in a southwestern direction from its source to its mouth. Just before picking up Goblin Creek, the river flows through a short but impressive canyon and within that canyon the river drops over Deer Falls. A short ways down from that, the river flows through an even shorter but very twisted and interestingly shaped canyon at Bear Creek Falls.

Fishing Opportunity

The Skykomish River provides natural spawning habitat for fish. The runs include;

  • Chinook – which are known in Washington as King Salmon, Blackmouth, and Springers
  • Coho – which are also known as Silvers
  • Chum – which are known as Dogfish
  • Pink – which are known as Humpies
  • Steelhead – Winter & Summer Steelhead
  • Cutthroat trout
  • Bull Trout

Skykomish River fishing can be done by walk in, drift boat and river sleds.  The WDFW fishing regulations can change dramatically, depending on which part of the river you are fishing.  Our guide staff is fully up to date on the regulations for the sections of the river we fish.

We have several boat launches we use to launch and start our fishing trips.  Depending on the time of year, we will launch at the following boat launches;

  • Lewis Street at Monroe
  • Sultan Boat Launch
  • Big Eddy Boat Launch
  • Snoqualmie High Bridge

The Skykomish is a great conventional gear and fly fishing river.  It is best known for its steelhead fishing. The river opens June 1st to a mixture of late wild winter steelhead, early hatchery summer runs and summer Chinook Salmon.   Summer run steelhead and Chinook Salmon fishing continues throughout the summer.  In mid to late late fall heavy rains bring the river back up to winter time flows.

In the fall, Coho Salmon and Pink Salmon (in odd years) crowd the river.  Chum Salmon arrive sometime in November with numbers building to a peak around Thanksgiving.  The river is closed to fishing in March, April and May to protect the fragile run of native winter steelhead that spawn during this time.


  • The Skykomish River has been a destination for anglers and whitewater enthusiasts from around the world for many years.  The Skykomish River is a free flowing river with no dams.   The Skykomish River is only 45 minutes from downtown Seattle!
  • World Record Pink Salmon was caught on the Skykomish River Saturday September 22, 2001. The fish was 14.49 lbs, with the previous record being 13.1 lbs. The angler was Avis Pearson. Her choice of lure was a #114 (50/50 Nickel/Brass) Dick Nite Spoon!  This record was broken October 23, 2007 when an angler on the Stilligaumish River caught a Pink Salmon weighing 15.4 lbs.
  • The Skykomish River is used for rafting and kayaking, especially around the Index, WA area during the summer months. The Skykomish River is mostly ranked between Class III and Class III+ rapids, depending on the circumstances and season, but includes Boulder Drop, a class IV+ rapids.
  • In the 1890s the Great Northern Railway was built along the Skykomish, South Fork Skykomish, and Tye Rivers, crossing the crest of the Cascades at Stevens Pass. Today the track is owned by BNSF Railway, known as the Burlington Northern Railroad from 1970-1995.
  • Stevens Pass is named after the Great Northern surveyor John Frank Stevens. Two railroad tunnels, both called Cascade Tunnel, were built at Stevens Pass. The first one was built slightly north of the pass. It was replaced in 1929 with the New Cascade Tunnel, which at 7.8 miles long was for nearly 60 years the longest railroad tunnel in North America and is still the longest in the United States. The New Cascade Tunnel is a few miles south of Stevens Pass. Its western entrance is near the confluence of Tunnel Creek and the Tye River. A small amount of the water flows out of both tunnels into the Tye River. An interpretive center for the Iron Goat Trail, located at Scenic on the upper Tye River, describes the history of the area including the old railroad and new trail. The interpretive center was built near the site of one of the greatest railroad tragedies in American history, the Wellington Disaster.
  • The Skykomish River system has a total of 5 waterfalls. The North Fork has Deer Falls and Bear Creek Falls.  The South Fork has Eagle Falls, Canyon Falls and Sunset Falls.
  • The name “Skykomish” comes from the Northern Lushootseed word /sq’íxʷəbš/, meaning “upriver people”, from /q’íxʷ/, “upstream”. It is the name of a Southern Coast Salish group.



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