Fishing the Rogue River, Oregon: Consistent Water Temps Make for Consistent Fish Runs
The Rogue River in southern Oregon is known for its incredibly consistent fishing, year in year out. This is because the Rogue River begins in the Cascade Mountains, where the water is always cold, and then rushes south into Lost Creek Lake, where there is a dam and release point. The cold water from the Cascade Mountains means that there are consistently ideal environments for salmon and steelhead runs, whereas other nearby rivers might be affected negatively by weather patterns more.
Just before the Rogue River empties into the Pacific, it goes through an unhewn natural landscape in southern Oregon that makes it difficult for many people to reach it and can also provide underfished hidden gem locations. The Rogue River offers many species of fish to be caught, but their premiere offerings are the salmon, steelhead, and trout, which are the three types of fishing that we’ll cover in this article.
Salmon Fishing the Rogue River
The two popular types of salmon caught in the Rogue River are the Chinook, or “king” salmon, and the Coho, or “silver” salmon. The easiest way to tell these two types of salmon apart is from their mouth coloring. Chinook salmon have darkly colored lower jaws, whereas Coho salmon have banded coloring in their lower jaw where the band will be dark, but just below their teeth will be white or light-colored.
It’s important to know these identifications since regulations can vary for the two different salmon species. Also, chinooks might have spots in the top and bottom halves of their tail, whereas Coho salmon will only have spots in the lower half of their tail, and never in the upper.
In the spring, you can find chinook salmon primarily in the upper portion along the Rogue River, but some popular areas include the Shady Cove area all the way to the Lost Creek Dam. Fishing in the spring for chinooks is ideal in May and begins to taper all the way into July.
In the fall, you can get chinook virtually anywhere in the Rogue River, but opposite of the spring runs, you’ll find them in abundance in the lower portion of the river, with popular spots being Elephant Rock to the bay. Prime months for fall chinook fishing are August and September.
The best way to catch chinook salmon is by drift fishing and allowing your lightly weighted line to bounce along the bottom of the river, using a 3-foot leader and a 2/0 octopus hook with pink yarn. Chinooks are the majority of the salmon that you’ll see on the river.
Steelhead Fishing the Rogue River
The steelhead runs are strong in the Rogue River in the summer, especially in the upper portion near Lost Creek Dam. You won’t find steelhead near the bay. The best month for steelhead fishing on the Rogue is August, and they’ll be taper off all the way to December.
There are two different methods that are equally effective for fishing for steelhead, fly fishing or using bait or a lure. In many restricted locations, you’re only allowed to fly fish, which can make that a more preferable choice, such as in the restricted area below Lost Creek Dam, where some of the best summer steelhead fishing is.
If you prefer to use bait and lures, a recommendation by those who fish the river regularly is a jig or worm underneath a bobber. If the water is muddy and has low visibility, use bigger and more obvious baits, if the river is clear, you should use smaller baits. Spoons and spinners, as with almost any fish, are also a good alternative.
You can also fish for steelhead on the lower river in January and February, such as south of Graves Creek. The most effective method in the winter is drift fishing.
You can catch adolescent steelhead, called “half-pounders,” near the end of the summer in the lower portion. Their numbers will be big, but their size is small.
Trout Fishing the Rogue River
Trout are stocked on the upper portion of the Rogue River, above Lost Creek Lake. They’re stocked weekly starting Memorial Day and running through Labor Day. The release sections vary, but some recurring locations are near Highways 62 and 230, and also at many of the campgrounds in the upper river, such as Mill Creek, River Bridge, and more.
These locations also see wild trout, so the supplementation of the stocking makes a good fishing location great. Trout love nightcrawlers and worms along with salmon eggs and mealworms. Popular artificial baits include bright pre-molded doughs, such as PowerBait.
The Rogue River is a freshwater paradise where the water is always cool and there’s never a bad year. If you’re in the area, you have to stop by this legendary river and see for yourself just how consistent and beautiful this location is.
Here a just a few Rogue River fishing possibilities: