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Cowlitz Fisheries Programs

Protecting fish habitat is important to us

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.


Cowlitz Fisheries Public Meetings

Tacoma Power, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Cowlitz Fisheries Technical Committee host a series of public meetings each year. Please join us!


1) Cowlitz River Fisheries and Watershed Science Annual Conference | Thursday, April 20 | 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Veterans Memorial Museum (100 SW Veterans Way, Chehalis, WA 98532) - 60+ attendees


  1. Welcome, Cowlitz River Fisheries Work Overview
  2. 2016 Cowlitz Falls Collection: 1996-2016 Summary, Preliminary 2017 Results
  3. Cowlitz Falls North Shore Collector Update
  4. Lower Cowlitz Rotary Screw Trap Update
  5. USGS Cowlitz River Studies: Past, Present and Future
  6. Lower Cowlitz Creel Surveys
  7. Lower Cowlitz Adult Abundance Estimation Methods
  8. Additional Cowlitz Basin Updates


1) Cowlitz River Fisheries and Watershed Science Annual Conference | Wednesday, April 20 | 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Veterans Memorial Museum (100 SW Veterans Way, Chehalis, WA 98532) - 60+ attendees


  1. Basin Maps and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Overview
  2. 2015 Cowlitz Falls Fish Facility Collection
  3. 2015 Collection Covariants and Adaptive Management
  4. Cowlitz Falls North Shore Collector Construction Update
  5. Cowlitz River Radio Telemetry Studies
  6. Lake Scanewa Drawdown Outcomes
  7. Mayfield 2015 Juvenile Passage Update
  8. Lower Cowlitz Rotary Screw Trap Results
  9. Lower Cowlitz Creel Surveys
  10. Coweeman River Fish Population Monitoring Overview
  11. Lower Cowlitz Steelhead Monitoring
  12. Cowlitz River Chinook Natural Origin Brood Collection

2) Cowlitz Fisheries Annual Project Review Meeting | Thursday, May 19 | 6 - 8 p.m.
Centralia College, Walton Science Center, Room 121 (620 Centralia College Blvd.) - 22 attendees

  • Participate in the Cowlitz Fisheries and Hatchery Management Plan review process
  • Review the hatchery production plan for the Cowlitz River
  • Ask questions and provide input

Send questions in advance to



1) Cowlitz Fisheries Informational Meeting | Thursday, March 26 | 6 - 8 p.m.
Veterans Memorial Museum (100 SW Veterans Way, Chehalis, WA 98532) - 35 attendees

2) Cowlitz Fisheries Annual Project Review Meeting | Thursday, April 23 | 6 - 8 p.m.

Centralia College, Walton Science Center, Room 121 (620 Centralia College Blvd.) - 20 attendees

3) Cowlitz Fisheries Annual Project Review Meeting | Wednesday, June 3 | 6 - 8 p.m.

Centralia College, Walton Science Center, Room 121 (620 Centralia College Blvd.) - 20 attendees

4) Upper Cowlitz River Basin Fisheries Update | Wednesday, Oct. 14 | 6 - 8 p.m.
Packwood Senior Center (12931 Hwy 12, Packwood) - 33 attendees


Questions and answers from the March 12, 2014 meeting.

Presentations from the Sept. 9, 2014 meeting:

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.


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.