The East Fork of the Lewis River flows out of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, a 1,368,300-acre swath of mountains, river valleys, waterfalls and wilderness areas in southwestern Washington, northeast of Portland, Oregon. The Gifford Pinchot is home to more than one thousand miles of streams and more than 100 lakes, holding some 20 species of fish, hundreds of trails, and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
East Fork Lewis River
Outside of the Gifford Pinchot (where the river is closed to fishing to protect spawning anadromous fish), the East Fork of the Lewis offers anglers a chance at hooking (and releasing) the steelhead of a lifetime.
“Though it’s a relatively small stream, it’s home to a large race of wild winter steelhead,” said Ed Wickersham, who serves on the board of Clark-Skamania Fly Fishers, a local conservation group. “I’ve handled fish over 25 pounds, and have friends who’ve landed fish over 30.” The East Fork also boasts a population of wild summer fish. The significance of its wild runs has resulted in the river being given gene bank status for both populations, meaning hatchery fish are no longer introduced.
“While there is some private property along the East Fork, Clark County has done a masterful job of acquiring land for public access,” Wickersham added. “I’d suggest that newcomers fish around Lewisville and Daybreak Parks. There’s great water in that stretch, whether you fish with flies, spoons or bobber and jig. It can be a productive float if you have some experience on the oars.” (The upper reaches of the North Fork of the Lewis, it should be mentioned, host some wonderful trout water…and is a considerably larger river.)
I’ve handled fish over 25 pounds, and have friends who’ve landed fish over 30.Ed Wickersham
Watch the river gages. “In the winter, the river fishes best at between 600 CFS to 1,800 CFS,” Wickersham added. “A dropping river’s best. In the late spring and summer, a spike in water levels – say from 150 CFS up to 300 or 400 CFS – will stir fish up. It’s a good time to get out there.”
The Lewis, like a number of other Washington rivers, has suction dredge mining, a process where the bed of a river is vacuumed-up and processed through a sluice to search for gold. Processed sediment is released back into the river in a turbid sediment plume. Suction dredging results in erosion, sedimentation, the mobilization of heavy metals buried in stream sediments, and impacts eggs, juvenile fish, invertebrates and other organisms “vacuumed” by the dredges. TU is advocating for an overhaul of suction dredging regulations like those adopted in Oregon, California and Idaho—other states with ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.
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We need your help building awareness and support for suction dredge mining reform within the Washington State Legislature. Please contact your legislators to voice your concerns for impacts to Washington’s native fish populations when it comes to suction dredge mining and encourage your friends to do the same. Learn more about TU’s efforts to reform suction dredge mining in Washington.