ROGUE - Winter steelhead are busting out throughout the lower -middle Rogue amid fluctuating water flows that should taper off for the weekend.
That makes the best bet a dual one — fish winter steelhead on either end of the Wild and Scenic Section.
On the lower Rogue, good schools of winter steelhead have been moving in daily, with great plunking conditions Monday and Tuesday before a rise in water levels Wednesday slowed things down.
From Quosatana Creek on down has been best for plunkers using Spin-Glo's spiked with some eggs or live sandshrimp. Powerboaters got into the act Tuesday fishing HotShot lures on the inside turns of gravel bars. Focus on water six feet deep and less. These steelhead are on the move so don't bother looking at holding water.
Some of these fish so far have been big. A few 17-pounders were caught earlier this week by plunkers on the lower Rogue, and that's a darn big fish for this stream, where the steelhead average is closer to 8 pounds.
In the middle Rogue, side-planers have worked well at Ennis Riffle and even a few fish around Griffin Park. Driftboaters are hitting winter steelhead in the Galice area on roe or egg/yarn clusters. Anglers may now keep one wild winter steelhead a day below the Hog Creek boat landing, but the fish must be at least 24 inches long.
A handful of winter steelhead have been caught near the mouth of the Applegate River so far, but the action is light.
The upper Rogue is slow for late-run summer steelhead and coho. Virtually nothing moved over the dam at the end of December. The last counts available Wednesday from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were 2,431 coho and 5,849 summer steelhead over the dam through Dec. 29. Those both are poor numbers.
All wild steelhead must be released unharmed upstream of the Hog Creek boat ramp through January. The rest of the mainstem Rogue opens Feb. 1 to the retention of one wild steelhead over 25 inches a day and five per year.
UMPQUA - Winter steelhead fishing has been hit-and-miss riverwide as heavy changes in flows have occurred. The mainstem was OK for plunkers battling high and turbid waters. Spin-Glo's with roe were the top choices. The South Umpqua on Wednesday was flowing at 7,300 cfs. When it starts dropping quickly, look for great winter steelhead fishing in the Canyonville area. The North Umpqua was high and fluctuating dramatically.
The estuary has been erratic for sturgeon. All wild steelhead throughout the system must be released unharmed.
COQUILLE - Winter steelhead fishing was good this week amid fluctuating flows that weren't as extreme as on other streams. The North Fork was fishing well with jigs under bobbers earlier this week, and flows on the South Fork were down to 1,500 cfs Wednesday. The fish are well-distributed. Side-drifting roe or roe and sandshrimp should be best.
State fish biologists will be tagging both hatchery and wild steelhead for the next four months. All radio-tagged steelhead must be released alive. Eleven steelhead were tagged as of Tuesday.
ELK/SIXES - Both systems were high but fishing decently for winter steelhead, which are well dispersed. The Elk River at the Elk River Hatchery was a nice shade of green, and the water level was 5.2 feet and holding. That's a bit high, but look for great catches once water levels start dropping again. That could be as early as Friday. Anglers can telephone the hatchery at 541-332-7025 for daily river heights and water color. Side-drifting roe and sandshrimp will be effective on the Elk for a mix of wild and hatchery steelhead. Fly-fishing on the Sixes should improve as water levels drop.
APPLEGATE - The river is open to steelhead fishing, and flows have risen enough that some fish are present. Very few winter steelhead have reached the Applegate so far, with mostly wild summer steelhead present in spawning mode. These fish shouldn't be targeted in early January, though it is not illegal to do so.
CHETCO - The river was high but still fishing fairly well up high for winter steelhead, with some large fish caught in the past week. Fish in the 17-pound category have been confirmed in Brookings, mostly from plunkers and other bankies working upstream of the North Fork mouth. Flows Wednesday were at 4,225 cubic feet per second and rising, but forecasts are for the river to drop and pull into excellent steelhead-fishing shape this weekend.