The Green River twists and turns across 65 miles of Western Washington, providing residents of the Seattle and Tacoma areas with fresh drinking water and endless fishing opportunities.
At its headwaters in the Cascade Mountains’ Stampede Pass, the Green River is a tumultuous alpine stream.
It rushes through rugged canyons and picturesque forests before the landscape flattens out closer to the coast, and the river becomes broader and less prone to mood swings.
The lowest 12 miles of the Green River—a section also known as the Duwamish River or the Duwamish Waterway—traverse the urban landscape of Seattle before the river eventually drains into Puget Sound.
This last section of the river, lined with shipyards and industrial buildings, may not be the most scenic portion of the Green River.
The lower Green, however, is the most heavily fished, and because it’s the section closest to the river’s mouth, any salmon or steelhead must pass through it before heading farther upstream.
Like most coastal rivers in Washington, the fishing in the Green River fluctuates wildly with the strength of the annual runs.
A look at past years’ fishing surveys reveals a pattern of lofty highs and abysmal lows. Boom years followed by total busts.
Ask any angler who’s been fishing the Green River for long enough, and they’ll tell you the runs aren’t what they once were. Yet that isn’t the entire story.
In several recent years, numbers of Chinook and coho salmon have seen a significant uptick.
And hatchery operations along the Green River release 100,000 winter steelhead smolts most years, making it one of the most abundantly stocked rivers in the state.
The bottom line is: Don’t write off the Green River. Folks still catch some massive salmon and steelhead here, and this river might just surprise you.
Green River Salmon Fishing
For most anglers who fish the Green River, salmon are the main quarry.
Several species of salmon spawn or return to hatcheries in the Green River and its tributaries, initially making their way through the Duwamish Waterway, within easy reach of Seattle salmon fishermen.
Chinook salmon are the undisputed heavyweight champs of Green River salmon, reaching sizes up to 50 pounds. King salmon that size are rare in this particular river, but giants have been caught here.
Chinook salmon spend much of their lives in the Pacific Ocean, and enter Puget Sound every summer as they prepare to migrate up coastal rivers to spawn.
Seattle anglers troll for big king salmon in open water, or cast for immature chinooks (known locally as “blackmouths”) from piers and jetties around the shore.
By the time the calendar turns toward fall, there are opportunities to catch them in the Green River.
Of course, it’s worth acknowledging that Chinook salmon no longer run anywhere close to their historic volume in the Green River. Still, they’ve been making a gradual comeback since their numbers bottomed out a couple decades ago.
Most years see quite a modest run, with some better years in the mix.
Local salmon fishermen catch them on plug-cut baitfish, and on wobbling plugs like Kwikfish and Flatfish. Natural salmon roe becomes an increasingly effective bait as the season wears on.
The best places to catch Chinook in the river are deep holes, which the fish use as resting places while they make their way upstream.
There’s a lot of great access along the industrial shoreline of the Duwamish River, but many anglers choose spots farther upstream.
Chinook salmon eventually make their way upstream past Flaming Geyser and through the Green River Gorge as far as Kanaskat-Palmer State Park. The hatchery that raises Chinook salmon is in this area, and most mature salmun return here to spawn.
At our most recent check, the majority of the Green/Duwamish River is closed to Chinook salmon retention, and they must be released immediately if caught.
The only place you can keep them is from the 212th St. Bridge in Kent downstream to the Tukwila International Blvd./Old Hwy. 99.
Check the most recent regulation updates before fishing.
Coho salmon make up the largest annual salmon run in the Green River.
Also referred to as silver salmon, some years coho can be abundant in Puget Sound, while other years are tough.
These fish are a mixture of wild salmon and hatchery-raised fish, with the latter providing the bulk of the sport fishery, and coho provide a bustling summertime fishery before they take up their annual fall spawning run.
Many anglers in the Seattle area focus their efforts on Puget Sound itself in August and September, when the coho are still fattening up on baitfish and are quick biters on trolled herring and other offerings.
When the fall rains raise the river levels, anglers shift their focus to rivers like the Duwamish and eventually up into the Green River as fall wears on.
October is most often the best month to catch coho salmon on the Green River, although eager anglers will get after it in September and stick with it closer to the holidays.
Most days, there’s a solid morning and evening bite when salmon are in the river, and flows this time of year are usually manageable enough to make fishing relatively easy.
Overall coho are smaller than Chinook salmon, averaging 5 to 10 pounds but occasionally reaching 20 pounds.
But most years they’re more abundant in the Green, and if you hit them when their mood is right, they are aggressive and more easily hooked and landed. At other times, coho in freshwater are notoriously lock-jawed.
A wide range of lures work for coho salmon.
Plugs are popular, including casting plugs and Flatfish. Many anglers also favor Blue Fox spinners or hoochies, while others choose to drift natural baits like salmon roe.
Generally speaking, the brightest, most aggressive lure colors work the best. Chartreuse, silver, hot pink, red and firetiger patterns often draw the most strikes.
There’s a lot of easy access for salmon fishing in the industrialized portion of the Duwamish River. The Spokane Street Bridge is an early hotspot, followed by Herrings House Park, the 1st Ave. Boat Launch and Duwamish Waterway Park.
As the fish make their way farther upstream, popular fishing spots include Riverview Park in Kent, and the WDFW Access Site near the Highway 18 Bridge in Auburn.
As the coho make their way up the Duwamish and Green rivers, they typically pause to rest in deep holes and at the mouths of creeks. When a rain comes and raises the river, they’ll push onward upstream.
Many eventually end up in tributaries of the Green River, including the Black River and Soos Creek.
Usually the latest of the fall-spawning Pacific salmon, chum salmon enter the Green River a little bit behind coho salmon. The best time to catch them is October through December, though some likely remain in the river system past the new year.
Chum salmon are also referred to as dog salmon—a nickname that may stem from the canine-like teeth the male fish develop while spawning—and often are between Chinook salmon and coho in size.
Look for chum salmon in deeper holes, along the slow side of a current break, or the inside corner of a riffle. Drifting fizzy marabou jigs beneath a float is the most effective way to catch them.
Hot pink, chartreuse and green marabou jigs, spinners and drift presentations often tempt chum salmon.
Fly-fishermen also target them using streamers in similarly high-visibility colors. The brightest, flashiest flies are often the best, and green hues are often the hot ticket.
Most of the same spots where anglers target Chinook and cohos are also good for chum salmon. There’s plenty of access on the Duwamish, but the Kent and Auburn areas of the Green River get most attention.
Chum salmon don’t head as far upstream as other species, but a few make it up the Green River to Flaming Geyser State Park or the Green River Gorge.
Unlike most salmon, pink salmon follow a two-year life cycle instead of having some of their kin spawn every year. In Washington, pinks spawn on odd-numbered years.
So if you happen to visit the Green River during a year that ends in an odd number, you have a decent shot at catching pink salmon, or “humpies” as they’re often referred to among local anglers.
True to their name, pink salmon do have a slight pinkish hue, but they’re most recognizable by the hump-backed appearance they take on while spawning.
Pinks are the smallest of the Pacific salmon, only occasionally exceeding 5 pounds. But they’re still hard fighters, can show in huge numbers, and are simply great fun for anglers.
On years when they run in the Green River, they’re both plentiful and aggressive.
Pink salmon are fall spawners that actually arrive in the summer, and the best time to target them is late August through October, with early September often very good.
Pink salmon often strike jigs, with the most popular being squid-like hoochies and fuzzy marabou jigs known as twitching jigs. Hot pink is the favorite color, and Green River anglers catch salmon either by actively jigging or letting jigs drift below a float.
More Salmon Fishing
Best Salmon Fishing Rivers in Washington
Salmon Fishing: Simple Techniques and Tips
There was a time when the Green River was consistently ranked among Washington’s best steelhead rivers. These days, we must admit, the steelhead runs aren’t what they once were.
Catch rates for steelhead in the Green River have hovered right around 1,000 in recent years, though there also have been some far more disappointing runs.
That’s nowhere near the numbers you would see decades ago. But there’s still a modest steelhead run here, and there’s also a lot of hope that consistent stocking efforts will continue to boost populations.
For now, your best bet for catching steelhead is to arrive early in the season. Winter run steelhead is at its best in late December through January, and tapers off in February and March. There’s a small summer run as well.
Natural baits fare best much of the time, with salmon roe being the top producer. Shrimp works too, but it’s tough to beat salmon eggs.
A corky rig is often the most effective way to drift natural baits on the Green River. The rig involves one or two hooks and a sliding drift float, with or without a piece of yarn.
Spinners, spoons, jigs and other lures sometimes tempt steelhead in the Green River, and seem to be more effective when the river is low and clear. But during typical winter/spring flows, natural baits are the all-around winners.
The section of the Green River from Kent to Auburn is often the best stretch for steelhead angling, and abundant access is available in the area. The Highway 18 bridge in Auburn is an especially popular spot.
There are also opportunities to catch steelhead from Auburn up to Flaming Geyser State Park. The park is a popular launch site, and it’s possible to launch there, and make it a full day drift trip all the way down to Auburn.
Often the best way to fish this river is from shore. But a drift boat can be used as a water taxi of sorts, making it easier to hop from spot to spot as you make your way down the river.
More Steelhead Fishing
Best Steelhead Fishing Rivers in Washington
Steelhead Fishing: Simple Techniques and Tips
Several species of resident trout inhabit the Green River. These include non-migratory rainbow trout, as well as bull trout and cutthroat trout.
Your best bet for catching these fish is farther up in the Middle Green River, where the stream is narrower and better suited to the Puget Sound region’s fly anglers.
The water also stays pretty cool this far upstream, including in the summer when the lower river is running warm, and there are some beautiful pools and riffles that harbor trout throughout the year.
Some of the best opportunities to go fly fishing for trout are late spring and early summer, when water levels are manageably low and trout are feeding heavily.
The water can be crystal-clear this time of year, so a stealthy approach is in your best interest.
Elk Hair Caddis are often the most productive fly patterns here. Parachute Adams and Stimulators can be effective too, and some spin-fishermen catch trout on tiny Panther Martin spinners.
Don’t expect giant trout, but there are lots of 10- to 12-inch fish in the area.
Kanaskat-Palmer State Park is a good spot to try some bank and wade fishing, and there are several places to access the river in and around the communities of Franklin and Palmer.
Be sure to check up on current regulations and limits before you hit the water, and brush up on your trout identification as well.
A lot of the smaller “trout” you catch may actually be salmon or steelhead smolt, which should always be handled with care and released.
Bull trout also are highly protected in Washington and must be released unharmed if caught incidentally.
Learn how to catch more with Trout Fishing: How-To Techniques and Tips.
Planning Your Trip
Fishing opportunities exist on the Green River during almost every season.
One of the great things about fishing the river is that access is rarely hard to find (though beating the crowds during peak salmon and steelhead seasons may prove more challenging).
These are some of the best public access areas on the Duwamish and Green Rivers, listed from the mouth of the river upstream.
Duwamish River Access
- Spokane Street Bridge: A popular early season salmon spot, the Spokane Street Bridge access site is close to the mouth of the Duwamish River, and offers a covered fishing pier.
- Herrings House Park: This urban park in Seattle offers walking trails alongside the river.
- Duwamish Waterway Park: Another Seattle Park, this one offers riverside trails and picnic areas, with a good stretch of open shoreline for fishing.
- Codiga Park: In the city of Tukwila, Codiga Park offers walking trails down to the water. It’s a popular spot for kayakers and bank anglers, and one of the few access sites in the section of the river where Chinook salmon fishing is permitted.
Lower Green River Access
- Fort Dent Park: A popular salmon fishing spot, Fort Dent Park is right around the area where the Green River becomes the Duwamish. Ample shore access is available here. The park is located along the Green River Trail, a hike and bike path that parallels the river for 19 miles and provides a lot of great fishing access.
- Three Friends Fishing Hole Park: Fishing is the main attraction at Three Friends Fishing Hole Park in Kent, with ample parking and easy access to the river.
- Riverview Park: This Kent park offers ample shore access on the Green River.
- Isaac Evans Park: In the community of Auburn, Isaac Evans Park includes a broad stretch of open riverbank. Directly across the River, Brannan Park also offers access.
- Green River WDFW Access: Just upstream from the Highway 18 Bridge, WDFW provides a free public access site at Porter Levee Nature Area. This is one of the most popular fishing spots on the river, with ample bank access and suitable shoreline for launching drift boats.
- Green River Natural Park: Several distinct former parks (Metzler, O’Grady and Green River Waterway Parks) were recently combined into Green River Natural Area, which offers a lot of quality bank access.
Middle Green River Access
- Flaming Geyser State Park: The first in a series of state parks along the middle Green River, Flaming Geyser State Park is a popular put-in location for float trips. There is excellent shore access here as well.
- Green River Gorge State Park: Although relatively undeveloped, Green River Gorge State Park does provide river access to a rugged section of the river via walking trails.
- Kanaskat-Palmer State Park: Located within the Green River Gorge, this state park offers camping and yurts, along with access to the river. Some salmon and steelhead make it up this far, and there’s also fly-fishing for resident trout.
WDFW Fishing and Stocking Reports
WDFW Fishing Regulations
National Weather Service forecasts