Rogue Story

Salmon & Steelhead Journal Look for my feature article on one of North America's finest steelheading rivers the - Rogue River - in the Spring 2012 issue of Salmon & Steelhead Journal.

With a focus on the middle Rogue, you'll learn effective techniques to fish this classic steelhead water.


Rogue Salmon Crash '07

As Reported by the Seattle Times

The article opens with "It's been a dull fall for anglers on the Rogue River. Spawning beds that are normally full of splashing chinook salmon in October look sparse."

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife marine biologist, Eric Schindler supports a theory based on ocean temperature and location of food for the collapse of spawning salmon on the Rogue. Ocean conditions do play an important role in returning adult salmon and steelhead numbers. He said sport catches of salmon off the coast during summer were poor, and that warm water came in closer to shore than normal.

"With the warm water we had off the Oregon coast, combined with (nutrient rich waters) off of California, the fish simply may have not left California," Schindler said. "What we saw in the ocean this year was probably related to a lowered abundance of chinook."


Rogue River - Steelhead Country

Fly fishing along the Middle Section of the Rogue River near Grants Pass Oregon for steelehead

Lathrop Boat Landing to Hog Creek

The section here is commonly referred to as the Lower Middle Rogue which starts below Savage Rapids Dam in the town of Grants Pass, Oregon and ends at Grave Creek. (Note: most of my years steelhead fishing the Rogue, I've not fished below Carpenter's Island.) Excellent fly fishing for Summer steelhead can be had throughout most of this section.

A big steelhead caught on the Rogue River

Just out of Grants Pass, the Rogue is pretty flat and lacks good habitat for steelhead until about Lathrop. Bank access is limited, so the optimal approach to covering water here is from a drift boat. The river below Lathrop is generally a productive fishey since both salmon and steelhead pushing for the upper river must pass through this section - often resting or feeding behind active salmon redds. And in good years with healthy chinook runs, the fall chinook will stack up to spawn just down from Grants Pass. (Unfortunatley, 2007 was not a good year. See sidebar story.)

Spey Casters and Fall color are evident along the Rogue River

The lower Rogue River and associated tributaries provide critical habitat for steelhead and salmon. All five runs of Pacific salmon are found in the Rogue River - fall and spring chinook, coho and summer and winter steelhead. The lower and middle sections of the Rogue are used by these fish for spawning, rearing and as migration. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined that the tributaries proposed for Wild & Scenic designation are among the most important areas in the entire lower and middle Rogue River for spawning and rearing for winter and summer steelhead and Coho salmon in particular.

Drifting the Rogue River in Oregon fishing for steelhead

Rogue Summer Steelhead

The typical Rogue summer steelhead weights from 4 to 8 pounds with the exception being much larger (e.g., greater than 10 pounds). The Rogue produces both native and hatchery strains of steelhead with the ratio being about half and half. These steelhead can enter the Rogue in late Spring and depending on conditions can push upstream to the Middle section pretty quick. By late August, a fair number of the fish can be found in the waters outside of Grants Pass with the peak numbers arriving in September through October.

Fly casting for  steelhead

The early Fall months can typically offer good fishing combined with comfortable weather (especially compared to winter steelheading conditions) and the river banks exploding with fall color.