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Southern Oregon’s Rogue River is renowned for its reliable salmon and steelhead fishing on the West Coast. The Rogue River also offers various trout fishing opportunities, ranging from easy angling for hatchery rainbows in the Cascades to challenging fly fishing for wild trout and steelhead. Additionally, the lower river has a unique run of “half-pounders.”
The Rogue River stands out for maintaining excellent runs of salmon and steelhead, thanks in part to the removal of dams. This effort has allowed fish to access additional spawning and rearing habitat. Furthermore, the river benefits from a steady supply of cold water from its headwaters in Oregon’s southern Cascade Mountains. The abundant water is stored in Lost Creek Lake, providing consistent release throughout the river.
The Rogue River flows through a long Wild and Scenic stretch in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest before reaching the rugged south coast of Oregon. This stretch of the river offers challenging access and reduced human impact, making it a prime location for fishing.
Rogue River salmon fishing begins in the spring with the arrival of spring Chinook salmon. Fishing typically picks up in March in the lower river and bay, with the best catches in April and May. Ample bank and boat fishing opportunities can be found in this area.
The upper river, particularly the Shady Cove area up to the fishing deadline below Lost Creek Dam, is known for its exceptional springer fishing. The most productive area for bank fishing includes McGregor Park, Casey State Recreation Site, and Cole M. Rivers Hatchery. Please note that this section of the river is more technical for boaters and may not be suitable for novices.
Fall Chinook salmon are more widespread across Oregon’s coastal systems, and although the Rogue River doesn’t stand out, it still offers great fishing. The lower sections of the river typically produce the highest quantities of salmon. The bay and river up to Elephant Rock are productive, with the best catches in August and September.
The middle section of the river, including the greater Grants Pass area, and the upper areas also see bright fish starting in August. Bank fishing spots on Gold Ray Road and the Matson Park-Findley Bend area are worth trying. This section of the river is easier to drift, making it more accessible for anglers.
To catch salmon, drift fishing is a common technique from the bank. Use just enough weight for your bait to tap lightly on the bottom as it swings downstream. Drift fishing with a 34-36 inch leader, Size 2/0 octopus hook, and pink yarn or roe is effective. Side planers or planer boards can also be used, provided there is enough space on the bank. From a boat, back-bouncing roe or using sardine-wrapped plugs are popular methods.
Coho Salmon Fishing
Although not the main focus on the Rogue River, coho salmon are available to catch in the fall. They arrive in September, with the best catches typically in October. The lower river and bay usually yield the most successful catches, but coho can be caught throughout the river below Lost Creek Dam. They are often caught by anglers targeting larger runs of Chinook and steelhead.
Similar to Chinook salmon, adult steelhead return to the Rogue River in two major runs.
The summer steelhead run is excellent, especially in the upper reaches closer to Lost Creek Dam. Fishing for summer steelhead begins in late spring and continues through summer and fall. The bay section is not ideal for steelhead, so stick to free-flowing water. The lower and middle sections of the river, from above tidewater up to the Grants Pass area, can be fair to good at times. Farther upstream, the steelhead slow down and hold up in greater numbers.
Fly anglers enjoy the upper river in September and October when it’s restricted to fly fishing only, resulting in lower fishing pressure. Traditional bait and hardware anglers find success in early November. When targeting steelhead, adjust your fishing technique to suit the water conditions. Casting spoons and spinners are also effective. From a boat, back-trolling plugs or side-drifting bait or yarn can yield catches.
Bank Fishing Spots for Summer Steelhead
Popular bank fishing spots for summer steelhead include Casey State Recreation Site, Rogue Elk Park, and various access points along Modoc and Agate roads in the Eagle Point area. The Upper Table Rock Trailhead on Modoc Road and Denman Wildlife Area are also excellent access points.
Winter Steelhead Fishing
Winter steelhead start entering the Rogue River in January, with January and February being the best months in the lower river. The lower river, from Graves Creek downstream to the head of tide, produces the largest numbers of winter-run steelhead. Bank and drift anglers find success in this section, accessed by driving upriver from Gold Beach. Some recommended spots include Huntley Bar and Park and the Lobster Creek Boat Ramp. In the upper river, the best catches occur around Grants Pass in February, with March and April being better in the upper reaches.
The Rogue River has a unique half-pounder run. These immature summer steelhead spend a few months in saltwater before returning to the river in late summer. They are often caught in the lower river sections below Agness and can be aggressive. Trout gear and techniques, including traditional hardware and fly fishing, can be used to catch half-pounders.
For more information about salmon, steelhead, and trout fishing on the Rogue River and nearby areas, visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill.
For trout anglers looking to catch dinner, the sections of the Rogue River in the mountains above Lost Creek Lake are the best bet. The upper reaches of the river, known as the North Fork, and some tributaries are generously stocked with hatchery-reared rainbow trout from before Memorial Day through Labor Day. Additionally, the upper section is home to wild native rainbow and cutthroat trout that count toward the five-fish bag limit. Self-sustaining populations of non-native brook and brown trout can also be caught above Lost Creek Lake.
The lower section of the Rogue River below Lost Creek Dam down to the Pacific Ocean offers different opportunities for trout fishing. All wild trout must be released unharmed, but anglers can target cutthroat trout, which often strike while targeting steelhead and salmon. The “Holy Water” section below Lost Creek Dam is regulated as a fly-fishing-only water and has provided challenging yet rewarding angling experiences.
Please refer to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife resources for weekly fishing reports, trout stocking schedules, fishing regulations, and weather updates.
Remember to follow guidelines and regulations to ensure sustainable fishing practices and a memorable experience on the Rogue River. Happy fishing!