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River Outlook: Dec. 10, 2009

ROGUE - The upper Rogue remains barely fair for summer steelhead for both fly- and bait-fishing, while the middle Rogue is so low and cold that steelhead will chatter their teeth more than bite a bait, and the lower Rogue remains so low and cold that some decent fly-fishing for halfpounders is happening ... but that's about it.

The best bet might be to get some chores and shopping done over the next few days. The Rogue simply isn't fishing very well now, and it will take a decent storm to raise and warm the river to where late-run summer steelhead will start moving and biting.

The problem is low and cold water conditions forecast into the weekend. The flows at Grants Pass were down to 1,200 cubic feet per second of 34-degree water. If the Rogue didn't flow, it would freeze at night.

Some backwaters on the lower Rogue actually had sheets of ice on them Wednesday, and the upper Rogue was a few degrees short of skating-worthy.

But rains could make the Rogue inhabitable by anglers Sunday.

When it improves, hit the middle Rogue for a mix of late-run summer steelhead and coho moving through the deeper holes. Entice the coho to bite purple, chartreuse or pink Flatfish plugs or spinners. Focus on deep, slow water where you see a few coho rolling. All wild coho must be released unharmed.

Steelheaders in the middle Rogue should focus along the mouths of creeks. That's where wild steelhead are congregating. All wild steelhead must be released unharmed.

Plunkers in the lower Rogue are fairing poorly in low and cold conditions. Flows at Agness were down to about 1,600 cfs Wednesday. That's good conditions for fly-fishing halfpounders with streamer flies. However, plunkers are watching fresh, early-run winter steelhead swim right past their Spin-Glo's at places like Dunkelberger Bar and Lobster Creek.

In the upper Rogue upstream of the Shady Cove boat ramp, anglers are side-drifting small pieces of roe or egg flies, and they might scare up a few summer steelhead in tail-outs and around boulders.

Downstream of the Shady Cove ramp, anglers are relegated to artificial flies, lures and plastic baits but no regular baits like roe or worms.

About the best thing an angler can say about the cold snap is that it slowed salmon and steelhead migration to such a crawl that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's fish counter was able to catch up on the Gold Ray Dam counts. As of Tuesday, 5,919 summer steelhead and 2,340 coho salmon had been counted at the dam.

UMPQUA - The coho and steelhead have slowed to a crawl in the mainstem, and a fresh shot of rain is needed to jump-start the fishery. That could come as early as Sunday. Summer steelhead fishing is slow throughout the North Umpqua. The South Umpqua is open for steelhead and fin-clipped coho salmon, but effort has been light and fish numbers are low.

CHETCO - Fishing has slowed dramatically for fall chinook and winter steelhead amid very low and cold water flows. The Chetco's flows at Ice Box were down to around 700 cfs Wednesday. The chinook limit remains two a day but only one wild per day and two wild per season.

ELK - Chinook have distributed throughout the river and fishing has slowed dramatically amid very low and cold water conditions. A few anglers side-drifting roe were hitting chinook kegged up in holes just downstream of the hatchery.

The bag limit is two chinook a day, but only one can be wild. The wild limit is five per year in the zone.

SIXES - Fishing for chinook has slowed dramatically amid low and cold water conditions.