ROGUE - The lower Rogue has slowed for bank anglers targeting winter steelhead, while the Agness area remains decent for boaters and bank anglers. The upper Rogue is starting to get some winter steelhead of its own, but there still aren't enough to target them yet. That leaves the middle Rogue as this weekend's best bet, and life should be good downstream of Grants Pass.
Flows at Grants Pass were a quick 5,300 cubic feet per second of water Wednesday, making for a little bit of a tough time for driftboat rowers pulling plugs like Hot Shots or smallish Kwikfish. But flows will be dropping through the weekend, and winter steelhead catches should go up. Side-drifting eggs or eggs-and-sandshrimp are the best bets, followed by worms and corkies, and then plugs. Cover a lot of water until you find the fish, then pound a hole for a while. Steelhead remain spread out.
In the lower Rogue, bank fishing has fallen way off despite good conditions. The bulk of the run has passed Gold Beach, and only a few fresh steelhead are trickling in. Side-drifting roe has worked fairly well in Agness, but boaters are working pretty hard between fish.
The upper Rogue hasn't really hit the winter steelheaders' radar screens yet. The counts over Gold Ray Dam are light, but climbing. Sixty steelhead crossed the dam on Feb. 8, by far the best day so far. The run, however, through that day is just 329 fish.
The entire river is open for bait fishing. Anglers as of Friday can keep one wild winter steelhead over 24 inches a day as part of their two-fish daily limit.
UMPQUA - The South Umpqua was up and fishing well this week, but a new storm is forecast to put some temporary hurt on the fishing conditions there. Flows at Winston were 6,250 cubic feet per second Wednesday, but the river forecast calls for flows topping out around 26,000 cfs this weekend. Check conditions just before heading over to steelhead fish.
More than 1,400 winter steelhead have been counted in the North Umpqua at Winchester Dam. That's a solid early February count. Remember that only adipose fin-clipped steelhead can be harvested on the North Umpqua.
COQUILLE - The South Fork was up and forecast to stay high through the weekend, which might dampen winter steelhead fishing success. The North Fork has produced good catches of wild steelhead in the past week. Prospect for winter steelhead with roe and puffballs.Fish plugs in migration lanes and the inside turns of gravel bars.
CHETCO - Water conditions were good but catches have slowed dramatically this past week, indicating that most of the winter steelhead likely are high in the system or on spawning beds. A few steelhead remain spread out, and spawned-out kelts have popped up in the catches with greater regularity. Fish roe and puffballs more than plugs and flies. Water flows had dropped to 3,400 cubic feet per second Wednesday, and forecasts are for it to continue to slide down despite 70-degree temperatures.
ELK/SIXES - Both rivers were dropping and clearing, making for reduced winter steelhead catches this week. Both rivers were spitting out large winter steelhead during good fishing conditions last week, but a lack of rain has seen the river drop and turn cold from snowmelt. The Sixes does not have hatchery fish so fish numbers are lower than the Elk.
For the latest river level, telephone the Elk River Hatchery at 541-332-7025.
APPLEGATE - The river is open for steelhead fishing and steelhead already are spread throughout the system. Most of the steelhead are from Murphy downstream to the mouth. Fish have made it all the way to the trap near Applegate Dam. River forecasts are for pretty stagnant flows into early next week. Fly-fishing with egg patterns is fair, while dribbling spoons in riffles is good at times.
No fishing is allowed from a floating device and all wild steelhead must be released unharmed.