River Outlook

ROGUE - The middle Rogue is holding on for winter steelhead while the lower Rogue has mostly dried up of fresh steelhead and the upper Rogue is slowly getting on the radar screen of Rogue Valley anglers itching to catch fresh fish. But the middle Rogue remains the best bet, and that bet will look even better this weekend after the latest storm raises and warms the river.

The problem river-wide is cold water that has slowed the bite from the Hatchery Hole on down. Snowmelt has been the issue. Flows at Grants Pass were a palatable 3,600 cubic feet per second of water Wednesday, but catches early this week have been just fair to pretty good because of cold water. Roe and egg patterns side-drifted from driftboats has been best, with plugs a decent second choice. The fish are hugging the banks of late and are holding near the tops of pools. Plug fishermen are focusing on Hot Shots or smallish Kwikfish. Flows are expected to spike to a little over 5,000 cfs Friday at Grants Pass then drop again Saturday before spiking even higher Sunday. That makes Saturday a pretty good bet. Steelhead remain spread out.

In the lower Rogue, bank fishing has fallen way off amid low and cold water conditions. The bulk of the run has passed Gold Beach, and only a few fresh steelhead are trickling in. Side-drifting roe has worked fairly well in Agness, but effort has remained light there.

The upper Rogue has decent, but cold, water levels and the fish are starting to move in. As of Feb. 13 there were 504 fish over Gold Ray Dam, and a few anglers are stumbling into them with roe and yarn side-cast from driftboats. Look for catches to improve.

The entire river is open for bait fishing. Anglers may keep one wild winter steelhead over 24 inches a day as part of their two-fish daily limit.

UMPQUA - The South Umpqua was up and very cold from snowmelt, making steelhead fishing slow after a hot week last week. Water levels are high in the South Umpqua and the North Umpqua despite the lack of rain. Look for steelhead to become active again this weekend if the stormfront moves in as promised. Until then, afternoon catches are better than morning catches because of ambient air temperatures.

The North Umpqua had more than 1,800 winter steelhead counted at Winchester Dam as of Feb. 5. That's a solid run. Remember that only adipose fin-clipped steelhead can be harvested on the North Umpqua.

COQUILLE - The South Fork was up and cold, making late-run winter steelhead fishing a bit slow. The North Fork continues to produce good catches of wild steelhead. Prospect for winter steelhead with roe and puffballs.

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

CHETCO - Cold water conditions have slowed the winter steelhead fishing to fair at best, with most of the steelhead spawned-out and heading to the sea. Some late-run "blueback" steelhead — smaller fish in the 4-6 pound range — have moved in and catches have been decent on roe and corkies.

Water flows had dropped to 2,400 cubic feet per second Wednesday, and forecasts are for it to spike to around 4,000 cfs on Saturday. When the water level starts to drop again, look for some good catch-and-release fishing on downstream kelts.

ELK/SIXES - Both rivers were very low, clear and cold this week, making for poor winter steelhead catches. More rains should add a few fresh late-run fish to the mix, but expect most of the catch to be spawned-out kelts headed downstream. For the latest river level, telephone the Elk River Hatchery at 541-332-7025.

APPLEGATE - The river is open for steelhead fishing and steelhead already are spread throughout the system. Water levels are very low, clear and cold. That has made fishing quite slow this week. If new storms raise and warm the Applegate, look for fresh fish to move into the lower section throughout the weekend and early next week. Fish worms and watermelon corkies during and immediately after the storms, then try flies or spoons between events.

No fishing is allowed from a floating device and all wild steelhead must be released unharmed.

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