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Cowlitz Fisheries Programs


Protecting fish habitat is important to us

Thanks to all who attended the Upper Cowlitz fisheries public meeting in Morton at the Bob Lyle Community Center on Sept. 9.

View presentations from the meeting:

We will post answers to questions asked at the meeting in the next 2 weeks.

Answers to questions from previous Cowlitz fisheries public meetings:

Questions? Email us

Learn about the Fisheries Technical Committee.

About Cowlitz Fisheries Management

Tacoma Power’s Cowlitz River fisheries management program is among the largest in Washington. Today's program evolved from continuous efforts to support an excellent fishery in the Cowlitz River Basin.

The anadromous fisheries are supported by two hatcheries owned by Tacoma Power. 

Our trap-and-haul program assists the passage of juvenile and adult fish around Mossyrock Dam and Mayfield Dam. In addition, Riffe Lake, Mayfield Lake and Swofford Pond are stocked with a variety of fish and provide a diverse sports fishery.

Retaining and restoring quality fish habitat was the primary concern of most agencies, tribes and organizations participating in Tacoma Power's relicensing process. Tacoma Power's settlement agreement and 2003 federal license are consistent with regional efforts to restore wild salmon.

For recorded information about river flows, lake levels and boat launch usability, call the Fishing and Recreation Line at (888) 502-8690.

Learn more about Cowlitz River fisheries and hatcheries management.


Downstream & Upstream Migration

Juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating downstream from the upper Cowlitz River are collected at Lewis County PUD's Cowlitz Falls Dam, upstream of Riffe Lake, and transported by truck to "stress relief ponds" at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. After acclimating in the ponds, the fish are released to the lower river to continue their journey to the ocean.

Downstream migrating salmon entering Mayfield Lake from the Tilton River are diverted with a screen to a fish passage channel at Mayfield Dam so they can swim to the lower river without passing through the powerhouse turbines.

Upstream migrating salmon and steelhead in the Cowlitz River below the dams are diverted to a fish ladder at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. From there, Tacoma Power transports them by truck to upper or lower river sites. Some of the adults are retained at the hatchery to produce the next generation of fish.


Lake Fishery

Tacoma Power stocks fish in Mayfield Lake to provide fishing opportunities.

Riffe Lake contains coho salmon, rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, along with landlocked Chinook salmon, brown trout, crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, brown bullhead and bluegill.

Fish from the north shore of Riffe Lake at Mossyrock Dam: 4788 US Highway 12, Mossyrock, WA 98564.

Mayfield Lake contains most of the same species, with one addition. In 1988, the State of Washington experimentally planted tiger muskies as a sport fish and for biological control of the undesirable northern pike minnow population. Plantings of these fish continue today.

Swofford Pond
, a shallow, 240-acre artificial pond, contains rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout stocked by the State of Washington, and also offers resident largemouth bass, channel catfish and bluegill fishing. Only electric motors are allowed on Swofford Pond, but there are many locations to fish from the bank.


Fish Transportation

Tacoma Power uses a trap-and-haul strategy to transport wild and hatchery salmon and steelhead past the Cowlitz River Project dams and reservoirs.

Trap-and-Haul

Dam construction blocked natural fish passage up and down part of the Cowlitz River. Tacoma Power built the salmon and trout hatcheries as part of owning and operating the Cowlitz River Project.

We collect upstream migrating adult fish at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery downstream of Mayfield Dam. We sort them by species and destination. Many fish that were born at the hatchery (hatchery-origin) are kept at the hatchery to produce the next generation of salmon. We transport wild salmon by truck to sites on the Tilton, Cowlitz and Cispus rivers to continue their spawning journey. Winter steelhead, fall Chinook, spring Chinook, coho and sea-run cutthroat trout are transported to each upper basin release site.

Hatchery Management
Tacoma Power owns and pays all costs for the salmon hatchery and trout hatchery. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manages and operates the hatcheries with funds from Tacoma Power. Tacoma Power employees are responsible for sorting the returning adult fish and for all fish transportation.

The Future
Tacoma Power’s Cowlitz River Project license calls for continual assessment and improvements to fish passage and survival. The Fisheries Technical Committee, which includes biologists from state and federal agencies, Tacoma Power, the Yakama Nation and a representative from Trout Unlimited and American Rivers, directs the scientific studies needed to determine the most effective fish-passage enhancements.

Tacoma Power, Lewis County Public Utility District (PUD) and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) have signed a long-term agreement that will improve natural fish runs in the Cowlitz River. The agreement allows Tacoma Power to take ownership of existing BPA-owned fish collection facilities at Lewis County PUD’s Cowlitz Falls Dam and to install, operate and maintain improved fish collection structures at the dam to increase fish survival. The upgraded facilities will attract more juvenile Chinook, steelhead and coho as the fish migrate downstream.