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Halfpounder run is half as big this year

Last year we heard a lot about the size of the halfpounder run in the Rogue River, but not as much this year. Can you tell us how this year's run compares to last year and maybe give us a tip about how to catch them?

— D.S., Talent, via e-mail

This year's halfpounder run started off with a bang and ended somewhat wimpishly, resulting in a drop from last year's returns of these immature steelhead to the Rogue River.

According to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates based on regular netting near Gold Beach, the Rogue's run of 12- to 15-inch steelhead this fall was about 70,000 fish, says Todd Confer, the ODFW's Gold Beach District fish biologist.

That's far less than last year's return of about 119,000 and pretty far below the 33-year average of about 102,000 halfpounders. But it's still the second best since 2003, which started a cycle of poor halfpounder returns most likely because of poor ocean-survival conditions.

Most of the halfpounders are now distributed in the Rogue from the Agness area upstream to Grants Pass. And they'll hang out there until March, when they will blast downstream to the ocean before returning as spawning summer steelhead adults as early as next fall.

As for catching them? Well, it's harder to find them than catch them. These aggressively feeding halfpounders are normally in tail-outs and riffles, where you can catch them on anything from worms and streamer flies to spinners such as small Panther Martins (black with the yellow dots has been a Rogue favorite for decades).

Only halfpounders with clipped adipose fins may be kept, and anglers can keep up to five fin-clipped halfpounders a day. Since they're under 16 inches long, they legally are considered rainbow trout at this stage.

Send questions to "Since You Asked-Outdoors," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to oregonoutdoors@mailtribune.com (please type SYA in the subject line).