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River Outlook

ROGUE - Those doing the rain dance overdid it for the Rogue and most coastal streams still trying to flush out from intense rains and near-flooding conditions. That makes the best bet USC to cover in the Rose Bowl against Penn State, because there just isn't a good bet on the Rogue now.

But that doesn't mean things aren't looking good for winter steelhead anglers.

On the lower Rogue, plunkers have been hitting a few fish between spikes in flows. The flows Wednesday at Agness were a hefty 22,600 cubic feet per second and dropping. If the drop is fast, look for excellent plugging for winter steelhead at places like Lobster Bar, Dunkelberger Bar and Lucas Bar at Agness. When plunkers have been fishing, catches were running about 24-percent hatchery fish.

The lower Rogue's so-called one-and-five rule goes into effect today in the lower Rogue, where anglers may keep up to one wild steelhead over 24 inches long a day, and no more than five a year.

The middle Rogue should see some plunkers at work soon, as well.

Already, fresh winter steelhead have moved into the Grants Pass area in the past two weeks, and they could be presenting themselves en masse once water conditions drop. Boat anglers will be rolling bait in the deeper, slower waters and around the inside turns. When plugging gets good, look for Cop Car plugs to be hot.

Flows continue to drop, but a shift in where the rains fall could sweep that away.

In the upper Rogue, fishing has been extremely slow throughout the past month as a combination of poor conditions and low summer steelhead counts have made for a bust of a season. Today marks a return to bait fishing throughout the upper Rogue after the series of flies-only and artificials-only is over. Flows into Lost Creek Lake were around 5,500 cubic feet per second Wednesday, with out-flows up to 1,838 cfs.

Coho fishing remains poor in the upper Rogue. Through Dec. 23, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has counted 2,417 coho and 5,832 summer steelhead at Gold Ray Dam near Gold Hill.

UMPQUA - Winter steelhead fishing has been a bust this past week amid near-flood conditions system-wide. If the river drops and clears as expected, look for fresh winter steelhead in the North Umpqua and throughout the South Umpqua, where fishing for a mix of hatchery and wild winter steelhead should be good. The North Umpqua's bait section should fish well for winter steelhead if the rains don't get worse.

The estuary has been erratic for sturgeon.

All wild steelhead throughout the system must be released unharmed.

COQUILLE - Winter steelhead fishing has dropped off for the immediate future as near-flood conditions were reported Wednesday evening throughout the mainstem and the South Fork Coquille, where winter steelhead fishing will be best with roe and sandshrimp when conditions improve.

The North and East Forks were fishing earliest because they clear faster.

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 and unharmed.

ELK/SIXES - Both systems were way up and out for winter steelhead and fall chinook fishing this past week. Most anglers will switch over to winter steelhead once the water conditions improve enough for some decent steelhead fishing. But that could happen as early as this weekend for driftboaters on the Elk, who will be effective with plugs, as well as roe and sandshrimp, as the water drops and clears. Focus on migration lanes.

APPLEGATE - The river is now open to summer steelhead and winter steelhead fishing, but flows remain low, high and swift. The steelhead now in the Applegate are wild summer steelhead waiting to spawn. They must be released unharmed if caught and perhaps should not be targeted at all during this part of their life cycle. The flows at Wilderville were up to 1,200 cubic feet per second Wednesday, a six-fold increase from a week ago before these storms began swelling local streams.

CHETCO - The river was chugging along at 15,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday, which puts even plunkers in a bad way. But the forecast was for a quick drop in flows to about 4,300 cubic feet per second as early as late today. If that's the case, then plunkers should have a good New Year's Day and should be able to target fresh winter steelhead into early next week. But flows were expected to hover just above 4,000 cfs at Ice Box throughout the weekend. That's just a hair above the upper threshold for good driftboat fishing conditions.

Still, give it a shot in the Ice Box and Loeb areas, focusing on pitching roe and sandshrimp along inside turns and the tops of pools.