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River Outlook: Dec. 24, 2009

ROGUE - The Rogue is still in flux as the summer steelhead run wanes in the upper Rogue and the winter steelhead run starts to present itself in the lower Rogue.

So the best bet will remain the lower Rogue, which is still seeking its first real turn-on for winter steelhead. Water levels spiked Wednesday, and flows were dropping at Agness, where the water level was a hair under 5,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday.

Plunkers and driftboaters are hitting fresh fish Dunkelberger Bar, Lobster Creek and Huntley Park. However, there's a lot of organic debris in the water, and anglers are having to clean leaves and junk off their hooks every 10 minutes or so. Look for the next freshet to clean the system out. Focus on the top insides of the heads of the runs with Spin-Glo's spiked with roe or sandshrimp. These fish will be on the move and likely will move through in small schools, so expect the action to be on and off. Boat anglers using K-11 Kwikfish or WeeWarts should do well in the same areas. Focus on water 4 to 7 feet deep.

In the middle Rogue, the flows at Grants Pass were up to a still-low 1,840 cfs on Wednesday and forecast to continue dropping. That's not doing steelhead anglers any favors.

Most of the fish are wild summer steelhead that must be released unharmed, but a few late-run hatchery fish remain in the mix. The halfpounder run is below average this year, and the fish are widely scattered from the mouth of the Illinois River up to Grants Pass.

In the upper Rogue upstream of the Shady Cove boat ramp, a few anglers are side-drifting small pieces of roe or egg flies and hitting a few summer steelhead in tail-outs and around boulders. A few spawned-out fish are starting to show in the catch.

Downstream of the Shady Cove ramp, anglers are relegated to artificial flies, lures and plastic baits but no regular baits like roe or worms. That ends New Year's Day.

As of Dec. 16, 5,983 summer steelhead and 2,571 coho salmon had been counted at Gold Ray Dam. That represents very little movement from the previous week.

UMPQUA - The South Umpqua was fishing well for fresh winter steelhead in the lower sections as the water continues to drop and clear. The mainstem Umpqua has been fair to good for winter steelhead near the forks. All wild steelhead in the mainstem must be released unharmed year-round.

The estuary is slow for sturgeon.

CHETCO - The river was dropping quickly Wednesday, and fishing for winter steelhead turned hot very quickly for driftboaters side-drifting roe and puff balls. Plunkers were hitting fish Tuesday and Wednesday, and the next few days could bring some excellent holiday angling for those who can get away.

Forecasts are for the river to drop daily into mid-week before another system adds flows. The flow Wednesday afternoon was 4,500 cubic feet per second at Ice Box. Fishing doesn't normally turn hot until it drops to 4,000 cfs, but side-drifting in the slower water and along current seams was very good throughout the day Wednesday. Start fishing more traditional runs later in the week. Small Kwikfish will be working soon, as well.

ELK - Winter steelhead will join chinook in the mix as early as this weekend as the Elk drops and clears after this week's rains. Fish will be scattered from the hatchery down to tidewater, with most anglers focusing on the fresh winter steelhead. Side-drifting roe from driftboats will be very good river-wide. Plug fishing will be slow until the water drops significantly. Many of the chinook are dark now, but they are biting roe or Kwikfish.

SIXES - Fishing for fresh winter steelhead and late-run chinook salmon should kick in today, with the river dropping and clearing for what should be good holiday angling. Side-drifting roe will work best as the river continues to drop; then start considering K-11 Kwikfish or Hot Shots by Saturday.

COQUILLE - The South Fork, mainstem and North Fork of the Coquille have all been fishing well for winter steelhead after a hot weekend bite. Roe side-drifted from the bank has been best. Hot Shots and Wee Warts also have done well from driftboats. A new rain will turn the system red-hot for steelhead again.