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Flies-only seasons to begin on Rogue stretches

The Rogue River's two flies-only fishing seasons began this week amid one of the stronger returns of hatchery and wild summer steelhead here in five years.

Upper Rogue anglers made their traditional shift Tuesday from fishing for summer steelhead with bait and lures to streamer flies and nymphs upstream of the Gold Ray Dam impoundment.

Also, anglers floating the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Rogue River from Whiskey Creek to Foster Bar are restricted to artificial flies and lures when targeting adult summer steelhead, halfpounder steelhead, coho salmon and chinook salmon — all of which are present in the lower Rogue Canyon.

The first three weeks of September provide some of the more productive fly-fishing for summer steelhead in the upper Rogue, which traditionally has seen the flies-only season as a way for anglers to target steelhead while reducing any intrusion on spawning chinook salmon.

During this season, fly-fishers typically "swing" streamer flies, such as green-butt skunks and red ants, through riffles for steelhead that now prefer the churning, oxygenated water.

Anglers begin to focus more on nymph-fishing in late September, after cooler water releases from Lost Creek Lake render steelhead less active than in early September.

Through Aug. 25, 3,842 summer steelhead had been counted crossing Gold Ray Dam, which is a good early run for the upper Rogue.

The upper Rogue run will appear to increase by 500 fish soon, when Cole Rivers Hatchery workers haul their first set of "retread" steelhead down river.

Hatchery workers Tuesday set aside 500 steelhead there to be trucked downstream and released to run the angling gauntlet one more time.

David Pease, the hatchery's assistant manager, says the fish could be released later this week, but most likely the work will be done early next week.

Pease says he hopes to recycle some of those fish at TouVelle State Park, as well as at the Modoc Unit of the Denman Wildlife Area.

In the upper Rogue, the flies-only season runs through Oct. 31. It allows only the use of artificial flies but does not require traditional fly-fishing gear. Anglers can use spinning rods with a bubble or other form of bobber, but no other added weights or attachments such as swivels. Lead-core fly line also is banned.

On Nov. 1, the restriction will be lifted upstream of the Shady Cove boat ramp. It will remain in effect through December from Shady Cove to the Gold Ray Dam impoundment.

Chinook are now off-limits to even intentional catch-and-release fishing throughout the upper Rogue, and that rule remains in effect through October.

Two water advisories lifted

State health officials this week lifted public-health advisories against water contact at two Oregon water bodies that experienced blue-green algae blooms, leaving five reservoirs and ponds that still hold the ominous declarations.

Wickiup Reservoir in Deschutes County and Hills Creek Reservoir in Lane County were taken off the state Department of Human Services list for voluntary advisories against water contact because of anabaena flos-aque.

This strain of blue-green algae can produce toxins when its blooms die off.

During the advisories, water contact is not advised for people or pets who could inhale or consume algae-tainted water. Also, since the algae cannot be boiled out, catch-and-release fishing is recommended during advisory periods.

The Wickiup advisory went into effect Aug. 12. The Hills Creek advisory went into effect July 30 and was the second bloom at that reservoir to lead to an advisory this year.

The only local water body still on the advisory list is the Whetstone Pond on the Denman Wildlife Area in White City. Others include Devils Lake in Lincoln County, Dexter and Dorena reservoirs in Lane County, and Paulina Lake in Deschutes County. (For more information on toxic algae, visit the DHS's Harmful Bloom Surveillance Program Web site at www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/hab.

Medford angler wins tourney

A Medford man won the $1,000 top prize in an annual fishing derby Saturday in the lower Rogue River bay that raises money for the bay's sea lion abatement program.

Eric Hollis won the grand prize by catching a fall chinook that weighted 41 pounds, 13 ounces.

It was the 14th annual Rogue River Bay Salmon Derby. It is hosted by the Gold Beach Rotary Club and includes several business sponsors from the coast, as well as the Rogue Valley.

In all, 36 fish were weighed in during the tournament.

Proceeds go toward a program in which a sea lion patrol boat hazes the large pinnipeds that are notorious for stealing hooked salmon from anglers' lines during the current fall chinook season in the bay.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.