ROGUE - A break in the weather has finally generated steelhead fishing excitement throughout much of the Rogue, with fishing getting better the lower in the system you go.
That makes the best bet the lower river downstream from Agness, where plunkers are catching fresh winter steelhead, and some even reporting they've seen hundreds of fish swim by. Water conditions are the best they've been this season. Tuesday's water had plenty of leaves and debris in it, but conditions improved today for plunkers using Cop Car plugs or sandshrimp. Flows at Agness were at 3,748 cubic feet per second and dropping Wednesday, but new rains have flows forecast to creep over 4,000 cfs through the weekend.
In the middle Rogue, the first winter steelhead of the season were caught last week by driftboaters side-casting roe near Schroeder Park. A few others were reported in the Galice area by driftboaters dragging roe through some of the deeper canyon pools. Decent schools of winter steelhead have been seen moving through the Lower Rogue Canyon, indicating that a good early winter steelhead season is upon the Grants Pass area.
In the upper Rogue, summer steelhead action is spotty, with wild fish starting to stage off creek mouths for their spawning runs. Most tributary flows remain low. The river was flowing at less than 1,900 cfs at Gold Ray Dam, where steelhead and coho migration has been slow. Through Dec. 15, 5,817 summer steelhead were counted over Gold Ray Dam, but only seven fish were counted in the past week. Look for a short burst of late-run summer steelhead before the run ends there Jan. 1.
UMPQUA - Winter steelhead fishing was good in the mainstem river for driftboaters side-casting roe. A few plunkers using sandshrimp have done well in the upper section near the Forks. The North Umpqua has been fair for winter steelhead in the bait section, where roe is out-producing everything. The South Umpqua's flows are up above 1,500 cfs for the first time this month, and that should be drawing fresh winter steelhead into the lower section. All wild steelhead throughout the system must be released unharmed. The estuary has been erratic for sturgeon.
COQUILLE - Winter steelhead fishing turned on this week as the river dropped and cleared enough for decent catches of fresh fish. The North and East Forks were fishing earliest because they clear faster, but look for good fishing in the South Fork this weekend. Side-drifting roe or roe and sandshrimp should be best.
State fish biologists have begun a steelhead radio-telemetry project and will be tagging both hatchery and wild steelhead for the next four months. All radio-tagged steelhead must be released alive.
ELK/SIXES - Both systems have risen and warmed enough for good winter steelhead and chinook angling. Bobbers and eggs have produced chinook, with about half the fish pretty dark. Steelhead are hitting roe and sandshrimp combinations. The water level Wednesday at the Elk Creek Hatchery was 4.5 feet, which is close to ideal.
APPLEGATE - The river is open to trout fishing, but flows remain low. The flows at Wilderville were 232 cfs Wednesday. Summer steelhead have moved in for spawning, and they are off-limits until New Year's Day.
CHETCO - The river was in excellent shape and fishing extremely well for winter steelhead Wednesday. Flows were overing around 3,400 cubic feet per second, and the fish are on the move. Plunkers have done very well with sandshrimp or HotShot plugs. An 18-pounder was caught by a plunker earlier this week just upstream of Social Security Bar.