Salmon Fishing the Rogue with a Rogue River Fishing Guide
Let a Rogue River Fishing Guide take you on the trip of a lifetime. The Rogue River is possibly one of the most storied and famous Salmon and Steelhead rivers in Oregon. The Rogue River is located in Southern Oregon and flows from Crater Lake National Park approximately 200 miles to the ocean at Gold Beach. The river supports the largest Fall King Salmon fishery on the Oregon Coast, as well as a strong spring Chinook Salmon Fishery. The Chinook (King) Salmon are over 90% Wild Stocks and the River produces some of the largest average size in Oregon. Fish are caught throughout the Rogue, from the mouth all the way to Lost Creek Dam, more than 100 miles upriver, but it’s the Rogue Bay that produces the bulk of the catch. It has the perfect conditions to catch salmon, and fish are present for a long time, often for more than three months.
Aside from a healthy number of fall-run kings, the Rogue has a well-earned reputation of producing big fish as well. It has one of the highest average sizes in Oregon for fall-run salmon. It is one of the best places to use a Rogue River Fishing Guide service. Fish over 30 pounds are common. Even 40-pounders fail to get a double-take. People come to the Rogue with hopes of hooking into a 50-plus-pounder, and it happens multiple times each season. It often takes a fish over 50 pounds to raise eyebrows. Salmon to 70 pounds are not unheard of. The Rogue produced the world record fly-caught Chinook, a 71-pounder, caught in the fall of 2002, by Grants Pass resident Grant Martinson. The same year, a 68-pounder was caught in the bay.
The Rogue Bay also has one of the longest summer and fall salmon fisheries anywhere, typically beginning in late June or early July, peaking in August and early September, and continuing through October.
Almost every July, a few giant kings are caught in the bay, along with an assortment of 10- to 30-pounders. August produces the hottest action, with some days yielding more than 100 fish to the flotilla of jet boats, cartoppers and drifts boats with motors trolling the bay. Over 200 fish a day being caught in August is not unheard of. By September, the average size of fish increases, as more 4-, 5- and even 6-year-old fish bound for the lower portion of the Rogue or the Illinois River, a major Rogue tributary, show up. Big fish continue to move into the bay in October, along with a large batch of 15- to 20-pound cookie cutters headed to Indian Creek Hatchery.
The majority of the Rogue’s fall salmon are wild fish. They spawn in the tributaries near Grants Pass, including the Applegate River, and in the main stem itself. Those fish often enter the bay in July and August, and stack up, waiting for the days to get a little shorter before heading upstream. New fish continue to arrive throughout the season, with many of the September and October fish spawning in the lower portion of the river.
The fishery gets a late-season boost in October, when the only hatchery Chinook arrive and return to Indian Creek. The Indian Creek Hatchery is located on a small creek that flows into the tidewater of the Rogue, and before rains allow the fish to complete their spawning run they stage in the bay.
Coho also show up in big numbers in September and October.
August is the peak month to use a Rogue River Fishing Guide for Rogue Bay salmon fishing, since new fish show up every day on each tide, and the salmon stack up, waiting for the right time to leave the bay, head through the canyon and complete the 120-mile swim to their spawning grounds. Warm water in the river keeps the fish in the brackish water of the bay until rains and fall weather cool the Rogue’s upstream temperatures. The cool ocean water mixing with the warmer river flows creates a safe haven for the salmon as they hold and wait before continuing upstream. With thousands of salmon stacking up in the bay, fishing can be phenomenal. Even though over 100 boats can be present in the bay, multiple fish days are common. Over 5000 fish are harvested from the bay alone by recreational anglers each year.
Much of the success of the fertility of the run is due to the fact that most of the Rogue’s fall kings head south during the ocean portion of their lifecycle, feasting on anchovies and herring off the extreme Southern Oregon and Northern California coasts. Their southerly migration is thought to be a factor in why the fishery has been so strong in recent years, while the northern-migrating fish from the Tillamook, Nestucca and Nehalem systems have generated somewhat slower fishing. Several dams have been removed on the Rogue as well improving access to spawning grounds and higher survival rates for smolts returning to the ocean.
History of the Rogue River
The Rogue River was originally called ‘River of the Rogues’ after the Native Americans that occupied the area and refused to give up their land to early settlers without a fight. When trappers and fur traders first began moving into the territory in 1836, and until 1856, there were countless numbers of battles between the native Shasta, Takelma and Rogue River tribes and the new comers to their land. The largest surge of new settlers came with the passing of the Donation Land Act in 1850. This Act gave couples 320 acres and single white men 160 acres, if they agreed to live on and cultivate the land for a minimum of four years. In 1851 the area saw another huge increase in settlers when gold was discovered on the Rogue. There was a total of over $70 million in gold taken from the river; $5 million was taken from Tyee rapids alone by a group of Chinese miners. Some of the mines are still visible along the river including the Alemeda Mine near Galice easily visible from the large 40 foot tailings piles leading from the mine entrances almost to the waters edge.
Over time the abundance of gold dwindled and most of the valuable animal pelts had been trapped out forcing the settlers to turn to agriculture. The valley was largely used for farming because of its mild climate which allows for an extra long growing season, especially for fruit and Commercial salmon fishing was also once popular along the Rogue until it was outlawed in 1962 by state legislation banning the use of gill-nets.
The Rogue River became famous in Hollywood in the 1930’s. Many famous actors and actresses such as Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers, Zane Grey and Herbert Hoover loved the Rogue River area. Clark Gable was reportedly once overheard at a start studded Hollywood diner saying “I’d rather be eating flapjacks at the Weasku Inn,” an historic inn located near Savage Rapids Dam. Zane Grey, the famous western writer, loved to fish for Salmon and Steelhead and his cabin at Winkle Bar is still intact and able to be visited by boaters floating the wild ans scenic section.
Starting with such shows as “Gunsmoke,” “Rooster Cogburn” and “Butch Cassiday and the Sundance Kid” (remember that jump from the cliffs to the water below?) among more recent movies such as “The River Wild” and “Dead Man”, the Rogue is used for its savage beauty and versatile landscape to create the backdrop for many movies and T.V. shows. It has also become home to many stars such as Ginger Rogers, Kim Novak, Tom Selek and Kirstie Alley.
The Rogue River has been the home of many legendary characters but maybe none more locally known and respected than Glen Woolridge. He was the first person to run the Rogue River from Grants Pass 120 miles to Gold beach in 1915. He was single handedly responsible for helping to shape the river into what it is today. At Blossom Bar he used dynamite to remove several car sized bolders to make the river navigable. He also saved more than a few parties who dumped their boasts and had to be saved by Glen in his boat. He ran the river well into the 1980s and developed a style of boat used all over the Western United States. The company he started still makes boats sold all over the west today.
The Rogue is one of eight rivers Oregon designated as a wild and scenic river. The river begins its journey high in the Cascades at Boundary Springs located inside Crater Lake National Park. From there the river twists and winds its way through the Cascade, Siskiyou and Coastal Mountain Ranges, entering and leaving four counties, before emptying into the Pacific Ocean 215 miles later at Gold Beach, OR. There are three sections to the Rogue, the upper, middle and lower. The major tributaries of the Rogue River are the South Fork Rogue, Elk Creek, Bear Creek, the Applegate River and the Illinois River.
Rogue Salmon Fishing tips
Rogue River Fishing Guide for Bay Salmon
The Rogue Bay is a troll fishery. It’s too shallow to mooch, and doesn’t have the holes for bobber fishing like the North Coast of Oregon. The vast majority of boaters troll what is known as a Rogue Bait Rig, a spinner blade fished above an anchovy. A few anglers troll plug-cut herring, but the spinner bait rigs really shine here.
For decades, guides trolled plain anchovies. In the early 1990s, the secret of the most successful local guides was discovered — Rogue salmon can’t seem to resist a green or metallic spinner blade fished above an anchovy. The concept is used by walleye fishermen back east who put a blade in front of a nightcrawler. The guides who developed the Rogue salmon rig also learned threading a loop through the anchovy’s mouth and out the vent and then adding a treble hook led to a lot more hook ups, and helped create a super-tight drill bit spin that Rogue salmon like. The tighter, and faster the spin, the better.
Guides kept the spinner-bait rig a relative secrete for a few years, but in the late 1990s, a crew from the tackle manufacturer Luhr-Jensen fished the Rogue and saw what the local guides were using. The company developed a copy of the local rig, sold as the Rogue Bait Rig, which became a top seller for fishing bay and tidewater salmon in Southern Oregon.
When rigging a Rogue Bait Rig, use a round-bend treble with a straight point, such as a size 2 Eagle Claw L934. A small single hook is used as a nose hook. Anglers will use a rubber band to keep the mouth and gills of the anchovy closed, enabling the bait to spin tight and fast.
Custom-tied Rogue Bait Rigs are available at a few tackle shops in Gold Beach, where a large selection of blades also can be found. Greens and chartreuses work well on cloudy days, while copper is a favorite in the fog and silver is preferred on sunny days. The last few years a dark green blade on the front and back has been popular, especially with the G Spot hole to increase vibration.
A bait threader is needed to pull the loop from the bait rig through the anchovy.
Most guides troll with a wire spreader, using a 5- to 6-foot leader and a 15- to 18-inch dropper. A bead chain swivel placed halfway down the leader will help eliminate the twists caused by the tightly spinning bait. Since the Rogue often has a large amount of moss and sea weed, local anglers usually add a clear plastic cover to the bead-chain swivel.
Under most conditions, 2 to 3 ounces of weight works well on the Rogue. Sometimes 4 ounces is needed. During a swift outflow near the sand spit, even heavier weights are used.
The bay is shallow, with many of the fish caught in 4 to 6 feet of water. Unlike some bays, Rogue anglers will troll both directions — upstream and downstream.
An 8 1/2- or 9-foot rod rated for 12- to 25-pound test works well on the Rogue. The longer 10-foot and 10 1/2-foot rods can be troublesome when it gets crowded. Six- to seven-inch anchovies seem to work best on the Rogue. Remember to keep them cold in a cooler as firm bates tend to hold up better and hold scales to give off extra flash. Lastly, anyone who has fished Gold Beach knows it can get windy. To avoid the wind, fish early, from daylight to noon. On days when it is not windy, plan on fishing well into the afternoon, as the afternoon low tide often produces the best bite of the day.
While temperatures in Southern Oregon often top 90 degrees in July and August, the Oregon coast is cool. Highs in the mid-60s to lower 70s are common. Morning temperatures can dip below 50 degrees, so dressing in layers is important.
There is little shade on the bay, so sunscreen, sunglasses and hats are vital to avoid a sunburn.
Rogue River Fishing Guide for Salmon Grants Pass to Gold Beach.
Spinner fishing is effective upstream from the bay. Brass and copper-plated spinners in No. 4 and 5 work well throughout the river. Any inside bend will hold fish and often they will be found in 5 to 6 feet of water as opposed to deep holes. When the water starts to drop and warm they will keg up in more traditional holding water. Rainie Falls is one of the best bank-angling hotspots for Chinook Salmon on the Rogue River. The road crosses the river at Grave Creek, the upper limit of the Wild and Scenic Area, and there are trails on both banks downriver. The hike is approx. a mile and a half and a very beautiful walk. Most people carry backpacks with a couple of garbage bags to pack the fish out. Many also bring a spare rod, since broken rods are common especially on the spring salmon run. Just like any other area on the middle Rogue, bobbers with eggs or sand shrimp will work well as well as more traditional drift set ups with 1-4 OZ of weight and corkies or spin and glows with yarn bated with eggs. Green seems to be the hot color as well as flame orange and during low and clear water, purple and deep red. Sturgeon eat eggs and sand shrimp, too, and they’re the wild card throughout the river.
Upstream, near Grants Pass, consider the good holding water, some of it deep, above Pierce Riffle, Horseshoe Bend, Whitehorse Park, Lathrope Landing, and Indian Mary Park. The fish can be deceptively shallow and in any given traditional run, there may be a lot of fish, but people miss them by fishing close to the bottom. Try different depths until you get a grab. Many Drift boat fisherman pull or back-bounce Kwikfish with cut herring or anchovy tied to the body. Start shallow in the morning and as the sun rises in the sky move deeper into the holes and tail outs of riffles. Rogue Chinook will hang tight to outside bends in water 15-30 feet deep late in the day.
Upper Rogue River Fishing Guide in Grants Pass to Lost Creek Dam
More than half of the total springer catch each season is hauled in by bank anglers in the upper section of the Rogue. The typical Upper Rogue bank fishing rig is a 4- to 6-foot leader with a 2/0 hook like an Eagle Claw octopus fished with a medium-size Corky. Rocket red, green/chartreuse and watermelon are favorite colors, although glow-in-the-dark Corkies are the best bet at first light. Most bank anglers fish without roe, although some use yarn soaked in scents like Patuzke Nectar or Liquid Krill. Bank sinkers are the weight of choice for shore-bound anglers. A good selection of weights ranging from half an ounce to three ounces are needed depending on the hole. With lots of snags in the Upper Rogue, many anglers will tie loops with 10-pound monofilament line to their sinkers, making it easier for them to break away if snagged. Drift boaters will back-bounce roe early in the season and switch to plugs like FlatFish or Mag Lips in July. Back bouncing was invented on the upper Rogue by guides in the 1930s Chrome with a chartreuse bill is the go-to plug for springers. Most back-bouncers fish roe without a Corky or Spin-N-Glo in the Upper Rogue, using a nickel to quarter-size cluster. Some will use a red or orange Puff Ball to help float their bait just off the bottom. Roe cured in Pautzke’s Fire Cure is among the most popular bait on the Upper Rogue. Some of the best success out of boats on the Upper Rogue is enjoyed by visiting anglers who bring live sand shrimp with them. Fresh sand shrimp are difficult to find in the Rogue Valley, so most people use roe. The rigs with sand shrimp, with a cluster of eggs, historicaly have fished the best. Sardine wraps are a good addition to FlatFish or Kwikfish in the Upper Rogue. Many people use a shrimp or sardine oil instead of fresh cut bait. Great spots for both Spring and Fall Chinook Salmon include: Touvelle State Park, Casey State Park, Elk Park, the water down river from Shady Cove, and the few miles of river below Cole Rivers fish hatchery.