River Outlook

ROGUE - Low and cold water put a damper on most winter steelhead fishing this week, when only the toughest steelheaders braved the cold air and snow storms to get skunked. Rain and increased snowmelt will make fishing the middle and lower Rogue tough again next week.

That leaves the upper Rogue, where early-run winter steelhead are just starting to nose their way to Gold Ray Dam, as the best bet.

The big news is that Friday triggers the opening of the wild winter steelhead harvest period on the Rogue. Anglers as of Friday can keep one wild winter steelhead over 24 inches lng per day as part of their two-fish daily limit. Through January, only anglers fishing downstream of the Hog Creek Boat Ramp could keep a wild steelhead.

For the middle Rogue, effort has been very light as cold water conditions severely slowed steelhead fishing. When the water warms, look to intercept steelhead moving out of the Lower Rogue Canyon, with driftboaters near Grave Creek catching them on eggs and yarn, sand shrimp and K-11 Kwikfish colored silver and pink.

Flows at Grants Pass were low and cold, but they were forecast to spike to 9,000 cubic feet per second today, then drop enough Friday and Saturday that it could produce a good window to fish for migrating steelhead. The river at Grants Pass is forecast to jump up to about 9,800 cfs Sunday, which means taking the Giants in the Super Bowl could be a better bet than steelhead fishing.

The counts over Gold Ray Dam are light, but climbing. Through Jan. 24, the winter steelhead number was up to 196 fish — still not enough to cause sane anglers to venture into the snow.

The entire river is open for bait fishing.

UMPQUA - That clicking noise you hear around Roseburg is the chattering teeth of winter steelhead trying to wait out a stretch of frigid temperatures.

The entire system was fishing poorly for winter steelhead much of this week, with water temperatures as low as 36 degrees recorded in the basin. Water that cold virtually shuts the fishery down. The opposite is forecast to occur beginning today, when rain and snowmelt are expected to raise the North and South Umpquas enough to blow them out for driftboat fishing as early as Friday.

COQUILLE - The South Fork was up and forecast to reach close to flood stage as more rain and snow runoff continues to frustrate winter steelhead anglers. When the river drops and clears, look for the South Fork to be excellent for winter steelhead on roe and puffballs.

Fish plugs in migration lanes and the inside turns of gravel bars.

CHETCO - Winter steelhead fishing should be very good as soon as Saturday, as the river is forecast to peak Friday and then drop quickly. Once it does, the winter steelhead fishing could be excellent as fresh fish will be moving through the lower river. Roe and yarn clusters will work best, along with Cop Car plugs fished with long leaders in tail-outs and the tops of holes.

ELK/SIXES - Both rivers were hit with extremely cold water conditions, which made for poor winter steelhead fishing. Flows should increase with rain and snowmelt and the rivers could be in very good steelheading shape this weekend. Catches have been best on roe, with plug fishing working best when the steelhead are huddled in holes. Steelhead now are well spread out.

For the latest river level, telephone the Elk River Hatchery at 541-332-7025.

APPLEGATE - The river is open for steelhead fishing, but few people are choosing to wade the frigid water during snowstorms. Those who have braved the conditions have picked up a few fresh winter steelhead downstream of the Highway 199 bridge. Worms and watermelon corkies are best, with spoons also good in riffles.

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