Fishing Opportunities Abound on the Southern Oregon Coast

By Paul LeFebvre | 08/09/2010
How about a place that offers offshore fishing for Kings, Silvers, and Tuna…, trophy winter Steelheading on the Smith and Chetco rivers…, blue ribbon Salmon fishing on a river called the Rogue River… There are few places on this planet that compare to the Southern Oregon Coast for it’s diversity of angling opportunities.


Special care must be taken to preserve marital relationships, job responsibilities and normal maintenance activity around the house. On the southern Oregon Coast one can easily be bitten with Chinook fever, Tuna madness, Steelhead mania, or other such diseases that can literally bring all other aspects of life to a screeching halt and cause major course changes in the things we are supposed to do as responsible individuals. Such has been the case here since my grandson Joey and I began fishing this summer at the conclusion of his summer baseball league.

Rogue River Fall Chinook Run is in Full Swing

Offshore fishing here has been limited this year by long periods of high winds and the Chetco, Smith, Elk, Sixes Rivers are all at summer lows. This means that the fishing opportunity has been, and continues to be, on the Lower Rogue River for its trophy fall Chinook.

After a banner Spring Chinook run resulting from a two year halting of commercial salmon fishing off the California and Oregon coasts, we are seeing good quantities of fall Chinook in the lower Rogue along with an unusual abundance of four year fish. So far this season we have landed a half dozen fish over thirty pounds in the Rogue River bay.

The lower Rogue estuary fishery is created by warming inland water temperatures near 70 degrees, combined with staging Chinook salmon which move in and out of the Rogue estuary acclimating and waiting for cooler water temperatures to move upstream.

As the fall season approaches us, fish will begin actually holding in the relatively cooler waters of the estuary. This will provide us with constantly improving fishing conditions moving into the fall season.

Boat traffic often is in the range of 75 – 100 boats at the peak of the season so experience is critical and often it is in the angler’s best interest to hire a guide to learn the trolling protocol and safety aspects of trolling the Rogue bay before venturing out into the combat zone.

Terminal Gear for the Rogue Estuary Fall Chinook Fishery

Boats troll the bay using spreaders, long leaders, and droppers with 2-3 ounces of weight. Anchovies, sardines, or hearing are rigged behind a spinner blade as shown below. The most popular bait is a 5.5″ – 6″ anchovy. The most popular spinner blade is a #4 green blade (front and back) that is separated from the nose of the anchovy by 7 green beads.

I often wondered….Why…with some 400 spinning anchovies with green blades in the bay… would a self respecting HAWG take mine over the all of the choices available to it. How could I ever expect to hook anything? One answer I found is to change things up…

Different Colors and Scents make a difference in how many fish you hook!

Pautzke’s makes a great line of nectars that can change the scent of a bait fish as well as the color in such a way as to single our bait out from the multitudes of green on green spinning anchovies. Because our baits smell more attractive (different) and are more visible to the fish, these cured baits will deserve more attention from the fish.

Many times I have put on a Pautzke’s dyed bait after trolling standard stuff for hours and been bit on the first couple of passes through fish I knew were there and were not biting.

For example since green and yellow have proven to be an effective colors on the Rogue, the bait pictured above can be made to look different, and also attractive to the fish, by curing the bait in Pautzke’s Yellow nectar. In addition, changing things up by using different blade combinations can also add another attractor to accent the bait color.


One can alter the saturation of color by altering the cure time. Extending the cure time to two days versus one day leads to more saturation and will deepen the color as shown below for comparison.


Process for Curing Baits using Pautzke’s Nectar


Here is a brief process for curing your baits that is simple and easy to do.

  1. Start with good looking baits. Any curing process cannot change bad bait into a good one. Be sure the baits have all of their scales, clear/black eyes, and tails in tact. I prefer Yellow for Chinooks in the tidal area and lower river, Orange for Silvers and Chinooks in the upstream environment.
  2. In a quart jar place 1/4 cup of rock salt and 1/2 – 1 full bottle of the desired Nectar color.
  3. Roll the jar until the entire compliment of rock salt is absorbed. Cool the jar, and mixture, in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
  4. Arrange baits in a vertical way with the tails up. Limit is about 8ea. 6″ anchovies per quart jar
  5. Leave this mixture in the refrigerator for 24 hours or longer if more color saturation is desired. Keep the baits cold, on ice, during use.
  6. You can shift the color a bit by adding food coloring, for example by adding three drops of green food coloring to the Pautzke’s Yellow Nectar cure just described will tint to a deep green.


Think Out of the Box for Big Kings

Having talked a bit about changing things up to induce strikes, it sometimes helps to have a creative grandson who is constantly running new ideas through our spread of rods on the bay or in the rivers. After all if you have been fishing over a school of rolling kings for two hours with no strikes you might conclude that what you are doing is not working so..

Here is one of Joey’s to share…


  1. Filet the tail sections of 8″ sardines about 4″ in length and be sure not to remove the tail.
  2. This section should fit in the scent cavity of a Brad’s super bait as shown below.This was taught by Monty Moncrief in the June issue of Northwest Sportsman
  3. Before loading the Brad’s super bait, soak the tail sections overnight in a mixture of 100% Pautzke’s Nectar and one teaspoon of Pautzke’s liquid Krill. Keep the baits cold while using.


Now you have a Brad’s “FIRE CHARGED” super bait that can be interchanged on the leader of the Rogue bay trolling rig and used to present something “different” to stubborn kings that are unwilling to take standard offering.

What to Expect Going Forward on the Southern Oregon Coast

Fishing for the fall run of Kings in the Rogue estuary will continue to get better as we approach mid August and into early September. In addition to the Rogue Fishery we will be looking to fish for ocean kings, silver salmon, and albacore as conditions allow.

Looking into September we will be fishing the Rogue upstream and will look for Silver Salmon in the 10-12 pound class mixing in with the upriver Kings as we move into October.

Then the real fun begins….HAWG season on the Chetco and Smith will begin around the first of October and carry us through until steelhead season in the winter months. Here is where you may get into HAWGS as large as 60#

As the fall brings rain and big changes to river levels look for an update to this Blog on techniques that we will use as we shift into these other fisheries. We will be talking about using live sand shrimp; Fire cured eggs, plug pulling, different scents, and many other approaches to catch fish here on the Southern Oregon Coast.

Tight Lines,