ROGUE - Low-water conditions triggered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' plans to hasten filling of Lost Creek Lake put a damper on winter steelhead fishing this past week, putting the brakes on migrating steelhead river-wide. But rain forecast for the rest of this week will wash that clunkiness out of the Rogue, increasing river levels and improving winter steelhead catches from Grave Creek all the way to the Hatchery Hole. That still makes the middle Rogue the best bet, with anything from the mouth of the Applegate River on down providing the runs where anglers will fish over the most steelhead.
A K-11 Kwikfish should be the ticket for plug fishermen, while yarn flies soaked in egg juice should work great when fished near banks and along rocks ledges. The steelhead will be moving so focus on migration lanes and the insides of turns. Look for the paths of least resistance; that's what the steelhead do.
In the lower Rogue, bank fishing remains dead for winter steelhead because of low and cold water conditions. A few anglers continue to pick up a few winter steelhead in the Agness area, but catches and effort remain fairly light.
The upper Rogue is just starting to get interesting with 1,711 winter steelhead over Gold Ray Dam through March 6, which remains the last updated fish count provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Unfortunately, last week's drop in water releases slowed migration to less than a dozen fish a day. The fish over the dam will be hunkered down and not moving much, so driftboaters should try backing a plug right down their throats. Afternoon fishing should be best. The entire river is open for bait fishing. Anglers may keep one wild winter steelhead over 24 inches a day as part of their two-fish daily limit.
UMPQUA - The South Umpqua was fishing very well for winter steelhead river-wide, and look for catches to improve again Sunday after a recent freshet will lead to a fast drop in water levels. That will trigger some steelhead migration. Some very large hatchery steelhead have been caught this year, and a few fresh steelhead should move in from the main stem this week. Fishing in the North Umpqua remains good for winter steelhead, while the main-stem Umpqua is slow for early spring chinook and improving for sturgeon. All wild steelhead must be released unharmed in the North Umpqua and main-stem river.
COQUILLE - The South Fork should turn on for some excellent winter steelhead fishing Sunday, when flows are forecast to spike and drop after a few days of rain. Fish roe or plugs. Spawned-out kelts should be released unharmed. Fishing has been good on the North Fork.
CHETCO - Water conditions are very low and the winter steelhead catches have tapered off to poor fishing.
ELK/SIXES - Both rivers remained a bit low but fished very well this past week for winter steelhead, which are well spread out through both systems. The Elk gets a late run of fresh fish, and those fish could sprint into the river Sunday as Saturday's spike in flows were expected to drop.
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. Water levels remain very low and clear as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hastens its effort to fill Applegate Lake. Saturday's rain should suck some winter steelhead into the lower river from the Rogue, with Sunday and Monday likely bringing the best fishing there in more than a month. Catch them on spoons, worms and corkies, or egg flies. All wild steelhead must be released unharmed and no fishing is allowed from a floating device.
PISTOL - Catches of winter steelhead have slowed a bit this week in the lower stretch of this Curry County river. Public access remains limited.