ROGUE - Winter steelhead fishing has slowed down riverwide as low and clear conditions persist, slowing migration of steelhead that remain extremely skittish. Potential storm fronts forecast for as early as Friday could change that, but they need to pack a pretty good punch to break this mid-winter lull.
The best bet remains the Galice area of the middle Rogue, where fishing has been spotty on holding fish. Guides are out-producing private driftboaters, focusing on deeper glides around boulders and ledges. The winter steelhead seem to be kegged in a few areas, with lots of dead water between them. Small roe clusters and K-11 Kwikfish have worked equally well in the Ennis Riffle area. Eight-pound leader or even 6-pound would work now. What fish are getting caught have been big, with plenty over 10 pounds.
The problem is low and clear water, with flows at Grants Pass down to a ridiculously low 1,700 cubic feet per second and dropping through the weekend. The best catches seem to be at first light.
About three out of four of the steelhead now are wild fish, and only one a day over 24 inches can be kept by anglers fishing from Cole Rivers Hatchery downstream to the ocean.
Bank anglers are not faring very well now, with the lower and clearer water making plunking and side-planing somewhat ineffective until flows rise and the water colors. Places like Griffin Park and Ennis Riffle remain very slow and plunking won't work until the rains swell the river.
The lower Rogue winter steelhead success has slowed to next to nothing. Flows at Agness were down to 2,672 cfs and dropping. Flows are forecast to spike to about 12,000 cfs late next week, so that's when the next good steelhead bite likely will be.
No spring chinook have been seen or caught yet.
In the upper Rogue, early winter steelhead fishing remains slow and migration over Gold Ray Dam has all but halted. Through Jan. 31, 2,190 winter steelhead had been counted over Gold Ray Dam, but half of those were probably spawning-ready summer steelhead. The first few winter steelhead made it this week to Cole Rivers Hatchery, so the fish are spread out.
Roe and plugs are the mainstays for the upper Rogue winter steelhead run, with fish concentrated in slower water, tailouts and near the mouths of creeks.
ILLINOIS - A few steelhead are being caught near Briggs Creek and at Eight Dollar Bridge, but the river remains low and very clear. Small blue-and-silver spoons and 6-pound leader are a decent bet. No bait is allowed. Flows were down to 172 cfs Wednesday at Kerby.
UMPQUA - Winter steelhead fishing has been good on the North Umpqua despite lower flows, with anglers in the bait section occasionally having very good days. Flows in the South Umpqua are very low and a freshet is needed to jump-start that fishery. Fishing has been good with small bait clusters or yarn balls.
In the mainstem Umpqua, plunking around Elkton remains fair with Spin-Glo's and sandshrimp, if you can find live ones. Because of smolt loss in the 2007 releases, this year's returns of hatchery winter steelhead will be light basin-wide. All wild steelhead throughout the system must be released unharmed.
The estuary has been slow for sturgeon.
COQUILLE - Winter steelhead fishing has slowed way down. Steelhead are holding in deeper holes, where they are wary of even the lightest of gear.
State fish biologists 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 were extremely low and clear and not fishing well at all for winter steelhead. Fish are scattered and skittish. New rains are needed to jump-start the fishery.
Anglers can telephone the hatchery at 541-332-7025 for daily river heights and water color.
APPLEGATE - The river is open to steelhead fishing, and flows have remained low and clear. No winter steelhead have reached the Applegate trap near the dam, and the little angling activity that's occured on the Applegate is along the lower section downstream of Fish Hatchery Park.
CHETCO - The river was down to a miniscule 540 cfs Wednesday, and that's ground boat angling virtually to a halt.
HUNTER CREEK - The flows are extremely low and winter steelhead fishing is slow.
TENMILE CREEK - No fresh winter steelhead have made it up to the trap at Tenmile Lakes.