The chorus line on the Samish

 Photo courtesy of Jim Boudousquie

Samish River


The Samish River located north of Mt. Vernon in Skagit County is a wonderful and very overlooked stream that has great runs of steelhead, chinook, coho, and sea-run cutthroat trout. The Samish is a small stream that lends itself perfectly for flyfishing. The river can get blown out quickly with only one heavy rain, so pay attention to the weather. The steelheading begins in December and gets hot in late January. Salmon can be caught in October through mid November. Cutthroat fishing is usually best in late September. The river is open below the I-5 bridge for salmon during October, and steelheading is best during the winter downstream from the highway 9 bridge. Pay close attention to the regulations for updates and changes.
-Thanks to Liam Wood for the overview

Recent Reports

Sept. 4-5, 2000
Thanks to: Frank and Micki Helvey
We missed the morning tide on the 4th got to the river around 10:00am. Rumors were morning people did fairly well. We fished till 7:00pm. I cast everything imaginable. We both had hits on the good old cured egg clusters from last year. Boy we could use fresh eggs. seen 4 nice kings caught around us. Some on mepps some on eggs. got up before daylight on the 5th. Seen several fish caught. I lost two , wife had hits all morn. fished until tide started running in hard. came back around 4:00pm. River high. tossed spinners no luck. tossed eggs two hits me wife tossing eggs lost one. seen 4 nice one caught. throughout evening. better luck next time for us. We had to head home. We will be back next week. Alot of people fishing all got along well and were really friendly. Sure wish a farmer would consider turning a field next to river ino a r.v. park. We would pay top dollar for a few nights stay. Be back next week.
Aug. 29, 2000
Thanks to: Brian Dingess
Fished from 9am to 4pm today at Edison bridge and saw only 2 fish taken (fresh Kings, but not huge). Got rained on for 5 1/2 hours of the trip. Only saw 2 Kings roll. Have heard conflicting reports of A) Lot's of fish and B) Hardly any someone's BSing me here :) From what I saw today I would pick B, I don't think a lot of fish are in yet. This river should be red hot come middle of Sept (with fish AND fisherman that is). Sure wish there were some in now with no crowds down there. A fellow came down to the river a couple of hours before I quit and said the Indians were netting and the trollers were working the area, so that probably explained where all the fish were :(
Aug. 20, 2000
Thanks to: Joseph Hoagland
report = fished the samish today with no luck. used both shrimp and eggs on some yarn. i talked to some people and they said that 8 salmon were caught the previous day at the bend just below Edison bridge. they were all caught on fresh cured salmon eggs during high tide around 5:00.
Aug. 19, 2000
Thanks to: john futter
Stopped by the mood to see and seen 2 jump. It's still to soon, the rain will get them in so get ready.
Aug. 1, 2000
Thanks to: Joey Slotemaker
Saw some kings run up by the Thomas Rd bridge. Caught some nice cutthroat. River looked good, get out there!
Jan. 23, 2000
Thanks to Mark Carlson
Fished Samish on the 23rd. And no luck. River was in fair shape.
Samish/Skagit/Sauk - Jan. 18, 2000
Thanks to: Frank Cavender
Went lookin' fer steelhead. Tried the Samish below old 99 for about 2 hours. Not a single bite. Talked to an old guy who caught 1 yesterday on a yellow & orange corkie. Drove up 20 to Howard Miller Steelhead park on the Skagit and tried there for a couple of minutes. Heard of 2 caught that morning but no luck. Decided to go up on the Sauk and try there. Hit my favorite spot just above Govt. bridge about 4:30. Tried drifting shrimp and an orange corkie for a while but no luck. About 5:00 I switched over to a chartreuse steelie spoon and bang! second cast I hit a fat Dolly 23" long. Second Dolly I've hit there in the last week.
   Where are the steelhead? The only one I've seen caught was on Pilchuck Creek last Saturday. It was the most beautiful fish I've ever seen. A BIG native fish over 20 lbs. Right under I-5. It was caught on an orange corkie with orange yarn and a small sandshrimp. All I'm getting there is some big cutthroats from about 12 to 24". Nice fish but not the Steelhead I'm lookin' for. Guess I'll try again tomorrow.
Jan. 17, 2000
Thanks to: Scotty
Friend and I fished from "99" to Sheep Bridge. Talked to two others and no luck for anyone. Seems only a few fish to be had by lucky few and then not very often. Slow would be an improvement! What's up with the other rivers? Am I doing something wrong or are there not any reports since Dec. on any of the rivers statewide?
Dec. 26, 1999
Thanks to: mike crowley
I didn't fish but I looked and scouted. Talked to 4 skunks and didn't see anything happening. The river is dropping into shape today and should produce soon.
Dec. 22, 1999
Thanks to: Jerry johnson
It was foggy and damp fished from the highway 99 bridge down for winter steelhead.The river is running high and visibility was not good at all counted about ten fishermen never hooked a fish or saw anyone hook any fished for about four hours maybe try it again tomorrow.
Oct. 3, 1999
Thanks to: Brian Dingess
Fishing remains good on the Samish, but the fish are getting darker by the day. I hooked 5 today and beached 3, but all were foul hooked and had to be released (one was around a 24-lb. hen). Did hook a nice buck and a Coho in the mouth, but both spit the hook. Lots of nice silvers showing up and still a few chromer Kings (not many though). Did manage to hook a nice 25-lb. hen yesterday as a keeper and lost several more nice ones. Better hurry if you want to get a King this year, it won't be long before they're gone (but the Coho will be there!).
Oct. 1-3, 1999
Thanks to: Frank Cavender
I've been fishing the afternoon and evening bite lately and I think I've found the magic lure. I've been using a large chartreuse spoon with orange spots (98 cents at Walmart!) and I can't keep the kings off of it! I've caught at least 1 fish a day the last three days. Yesterday I got to the river about 11 a.m. and it only took me 5 casts to hit my first fish and my biggest king of the year, a huge bright buck that weighed just over 30 lbs. He made several reel smokin' runs and jumped 5 feet into the air 3 times. I finally got him in and then I learned a very valuable lesson. If your going to catch big kings bring someone to help net them! After 10 minutes of trying I finally got him in the net. The people fishing across the river got quite a laugh out of that one but I got him without getting too wet! What a battle! There are a lot of silvers coming up on the incoming tide so I switched to a small #3 blade mepps spinner. I had a few hits but no solid hookups. They're rolling everywhere but not very many are being caught. Time for more experimenting I guess. Any ideas?
Oct. 1-2, 1999
Thanks to: Marc T.
Kings are still there, looking colored-up though. I haven't fished the river much, so I don't know the characteristics of the fish very well. I do know the kings are looking pretty bronze in color. There are a few silvers being caught, I brought a nice silver jack home for dinner. Much rather take one of these bright silvers than a colored up king.
Sept. 27, 1999
Thanks to:
I went back Monday, but neither my wife nor I got anything except a hit or two. My buddy had a king on but it got loose. I think the water may have been too high that evening.
Sept. 26, 1999
Thanks to:
Fished with the horde on Sunday. Fish jumping all over, mostly kings rolling but a few silvers getting airborne. Went with eggs for a while, with no luck. Switched to a lure and had a hit after about 5 minutes. 10 minutes after that came a hookup. Got the king to my feet but it rolled and spit the hook out (long distance catch and release). I got another hookup about half an hour later and landed this one- about a 13 or 14 lb'er. Saw one other fish landed but lost as it flopped away from a guy who had broken his (bass) rod fighting it. Lots of people, but not a lot of fish being caught.
Sept. 26, 1999
Thanks to: Brian Dingess
Fishing has been good at the Bayview Edison bridge. Saw lots of Kings caught (average about 23-24 lbs. and several 35+) and several really nice Silvers. In 2 trips I've hooked 35-lb. and 25-lb. hens and a 19-lb. buck...missed several strikes too. Roe is the bait of choice and make sure you bring lots of it. Low tide is my preferred time to fish, however fellas are hooking into fish using spinners at high tide as well.
Sept. 20, 1999
Thanks to: Robert Coopersmith
Me and a friend caught a case of the Friday sickness at school and decided to go try our luck on the Samish. I love fishing the kings and silvers on it every year. Well we baited up, checked the tides, and headed out to Thomas Rd. bridge. Saw some fisherman on their way out as we were arriving. Nothing caught, seen or anything. No sign of fish. We fished for about an hour without anything but some wannabe-sneaky gammies up in a barn with binoculars 1/4 mile away. If you fish it watch out, they're everywhere. Follow the reg's.
Sept. 15-16, 1999
Thanks to: Frank Cavender
Been out the last 2 days at first light.Early low tides the bait fishermen are getting a few fish, but things warm up when the tide comes in. I've done better fishing #5 Chartreuse Blue Foxes or Mepps Aglia spinners. I caught 2 nice kings the first day 16 & 12 pounds and a 10 pound king plus a beautiful 8 pound chrome silver the second day. The fish seem to be more acrobatic caught on spinners, all 4 fish jumped at least 5 times! Try fishing just above the Bayview-Edison bridge (watch out for the mud & seaweed) on the incoming tide. The fish go nuts for about 15 minutes right at high slack tide so be patient. Gotta go the tides comin' in! Good luck.
Sept. 6, 1999
Thanks to: ?? Guess I was a day late or so. I fished from 7 am to noon and didn't get a bump. I estimated about 100 anglers out there, but I also counted less than 15 fish on the bank. Weather was great, too bad the fishing was terrible. The tide level was perfect. There were so many people out there, I would have expected more fish caught. Most everyone was friendly, which is nice when you just about have to sit on your neighbor's lap because there are so many fishing.
July 5, 1999
Thanks to: Mike Warren Jr.
Right now cutthroats are just starting up from the bay making it possible to latch into a good fish ever so often some spring steelhead are milling around one caught that I know of (32 inch female) every good rain brings more fish up. Have heard about some kings in the bay early do not know if any are being brave and running up or not. Right now the hot spot is from the Burlington northern tressel to the old hwy 99 bridge with many fish turning the corner and heading up Friday Crk. toward Lake Samish. Friday Crk. can be hot at times if you can locate a good pool and be patient. If anyone wants directions to hot spots on Samish or middle fork of the Nooksack email me at and I will be happy to provide information.
Jan. 31, 1999
Thanks to: Dennis Geissler
Arrived about 9:30 am at 99 bridge. River High and fast. Saw ten fishermen, no fish, one guy said He had one on at about seven am. Would really like some info on Samish river as I am getting back into winter river fishing after a layoff of 25 years!
Oct. 14, 1998
Thanks to: Brian Dingess
Myself and Michael Pulley hit the river at daybreak during low tide. There were a few fish rolling in the deep channel, but other than that it was quiet. About an hour into fishing the bite turned on and some nice fish were landed (almost everyone was using eggs). Mike hooked into a nice Silver and as soon as he got it to shore I hooked into a nice one as well. However, luck wasn't with me this day as the Silver took off like a bottle rocket out of the river and broke my line! Several gents hooked fish, but one particular guy hooked into 2 30+ pound Kings in less than 20 minutes. He tried to release the 2nd one as it had turned dark, but when he saw it wasn't going to revive he kept it. 60+ pounds of fish in 20 minutes...not bad.
We stopped fishing as the tide started rolling in, but resumed around 1PM when the tide was slowing down. This is when the fireworks started. Mike put on a #4 solid silver Vibrax and couldn't keep the fish off of it! He was by far the hottest angler on this stretch of river. He hooked/landed/released a total of 6 fish in an hour's time. Most of the fish were silvers fresh out of the bay, very pretty and not bad sized at all and 1 was a King around 11 pounds that was turning dark. Still looking for the "nice" one to finish off his daily limit he doesn't have to fish much longer to find it! A few minutes goes by when all of a sudden Mike has on a great fish. After a good fight Mike lands a fantastic 12+ pound Coho! Sweet fish, and limited out.
As for me, well, that's a different story. I fished every Vibrax I had (all colors) and not a take down. Right before we left a fella fishing up from Mike hooked and landed a nice 20+ pound King (fresh too) on a #4 Blaze Orange bell Vibrax. Although myself and many others on the river didn't land any the fish are still in there and getting thicker every day. This may be the end of the King run, although they're still being caught, but the Silvers are starting to roll in. In about 1-2 weeks they should be in the river THICK! All in all, a great day's fishing!
Oct. 12, 1998
Thanks to: Rodney Bramel
I arrived at the dike at midday for the afternoon low tide. I saw about 100 anglers total. The low tide was poor as predicted. I only saw 1 King caught (on eggs) and a very big silver caught on a Dick Night spoon. There were so many fish rolling that it was difficult to believe that more were not caught.
September 12, 1998
Thanks to: Daniel Cox
Well let me start by saying.. I wish this were a secret spot! This River is littered with fisherman at all access points. On this day I showed up to the river about 6:30am and the tide was out. I spent the next hour with only one bite and seeing a few fish here and there. I was using a size #1 salmon hook with yellow and pink yarn and threading a few salmon eggs onthe hook.
Around 8:00 I hooked into my first fish, it was amaizing to me how slight these fish bite. The First fish was a 30+ lb hen 40" long and close to 26" in gerth. The next fish game about 30 minutes later and was just beautiful! 40" long and 27 1/4" around this was the most silver colored fish yet And what a fight too. He took me up and down that canal/river for about 15 minutes of hell! After landing the fish the hook popped out of his mouth. (Just in time too almost lost him) Limit on the Samish = 2 fish, time to call it a day. must have been 75 fisherman down there today. I think I am going to try the NOOK! Till next time...Good luck out there!
Sept. 11, 1998
Thanks to: Steve VanRensum
Started fishing at daylight without alot of people around. Within the first hour I landed two beautiful chrome bright kings, one was 20lbs the other 15lbs. I saw numerous others caught including one of 35lbs. Make sure to some good eggs and you need plenty of them.
September 21, 1997
Thanks to for the following report:
I took a little trip to the Samish this past weekend and found one of the most sickening displays I have ever seen. The river at the highway 9 bridge was low and clear and there were HUGE kings stacked all over the river. The fish were in great shape, but it is illegal to fish for them. I counted 7 people illegally snagging kings right at the bridge. I walked down the river a ways and found schools of kings that flashed because of all the lures and hooks in their backs. I wish the State Patrol had enough man power to stop the illegal fishing, but they unfortunately don't. If anyone observes people fishing illegally, please call the State Patrol to report it.
Anyway, I went back to my car and grabbed my 5 weight and some elk hair caddis and went back to the river. I fished tight to the bank right below the kings and I took 2 beautiful cutthroats. They were the largest cutts I've ever caught on the Samish (16 and 18 in.) They provided great sport and I wasn't fishing illegally.
January 11-17, 1997
Thanks to Ryan Bennett for the following report:
This small river is producing fish, if you don't mind standing in one spot. On monday I hooked & landed two fish & saw two others caught. Thats a good day of fishing on the Samish. On Tuesday I only had about 2 hours of fishing time until dark & 1 lost one fish & talked to another fisherman who said he had heard of three fish caught throughout the day.
Wednesday I fished in the morning & released one native fish about 12lbs. a real beauty! Thrusday I had to work. Friday I hooked & lost two fish & saw 3 small hatchery fish retained. This is a great little river to spend a couple hours on after or before work.

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