Big Quilcene River

The Big Quilcene River is located in the Olympic Peninsula originating in the hills of the Buckhorn Wilderness. The big Quil is a small river about 15 miles in length and flows through the Quilcene valley and empties out into Dabob Bay section of the Hood Canal. This small river is the true definition of skinny waters with no portion of the river navigable by boat. Some outdoors enthusiasts can however enjoy some white water rafting in some sections of the upper Big Quilcene River however most of the Big Quilcene runs through private land.

The Big Quilcene is host to several species of Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead and is a major attraction for fishing enthusiasts from around the state. With populations of chum, steelhead, coho, pink, and chinook salmon. Only coho salmon are allowed to be retained. The Big Quilcene River coho population is augmented through a Quilcene National Fish Hatchery which produces consistent healthy runs of coho that not only feed an avid sports fishery but tribal sustenance and commercial nets as well.

When to Fish The Big Quilcene


Traditionally the best time to fish for salmon on the Big Quilcene River is from the end of August till the middle of October. During this time coho, chum, chinook, and every other year pink salmon enter the river to spawn. Although there are four species of salmon that spawn in the Big Quilcene river, currently under state law only coho may be retained and chum which are considered endangered on the Big Quil may not be removed from the water is you happen to inadvertently catch one.

Of the two runs of coho that migrate every year to the Big Quil, the first run referred to as the A run tends to consist of smaller coho in the 3-7 lbs. range. Around the middle of September the B run begins to enter the river and is when the larger coho arrive. These fish can range anywhere from 8 lbs. to 20 lbs. depending on the health of the coho run that year, but over the last decade the larger fish have notably began to decline in numbers.


The trout season starts in the beginning of June and runs through the middle of August. During this time cutthrout trout and wild rainbow trout must be released.

Where to fish on the Big Quilcene River

During the trout season the Big Quilcene river is open from the mouth the the falls.

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