Rogue River Flying Under The River Despite Large Run Looming

By Steven Theel | 09/12/2013

While most rivers around the region are waiting for the arrival of their fall salmon runs, the Rogue River receives an early shot of kings. Fishing has already been great in the lower river and those fish are now upstream in the middle section. With huge runs of fall kings predicted for the Columbia and Sacramento Rivers, the Rogue has been a bit under the radar this year. However, we’re expecting a very large return as well, and all signs are pointing to that fact.

August brought much cooler weather than July, which dropped the temperature 12 degrees on the Rogue. The kings that were stacked up in the bay shot upstream towards Grants Pass, and Gold Hill. The first day of cooler weather saw an estimated 5,000 kings head upriver. Through the next week, ODFW estimated that another 5,000 fish also went up stream. That bodes extremely well for the Middle Rogue fishery, which has had some great days to start September.


The Baits

The Northern Pikeminnow are extremely aggressive during the summer months, making it difficult to fish eggs. This makes sardine wrapped plugs the go-to bait on the Middle Rogue. After reading the Fire Blog by Scott Feist on infusing sardine wraps with Pautzke Nectar (, I had to give it a shot. I instantly saw results last year, with the Nectar soaked wraps out fishing plain ones frequently. I now try to make sure that at least one rod is fishing a Nectar soaked wrap at all times.

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The Middle Rogue has a lot of deep canyons, so it’s often ineffective to flat line plugs like you would in the upper portion. Instead we back bounce them much like you would eggs. This not only makes sure the plug is near the bottom, but gives it some extra and erratic action. The best part, however, is experiencing the take first hand, instead of just watching it in a rod holder.


There are some days where the salmon just won’t hit plugs though. For this reason I always keep a jar of Fire Cured eggs in the cooler. Typically, I don’t add anything special to the eggs besides the cure. Fire Cure works perfectly out of the package. However, there are times that a little extra sugar, sodium sulfite, and/or Pautzke Fire Power will make the difference in getting bit.


We almost always back bounce the eggs, and you’ll have to sort through a lot of Pike Minnows to find the salmon. Tying your eggs up in spawn sacs can also help to keep your bait fishing through all of the minnows. When the salmon aren’t biting plugs, switching to eggs can help save the day from a skunk. During high water years, side drifting is also effective in the longer, deep stretches.

Big Fish Year

This year we’re not just expecting a lot of fish, but large ones as well. We’ve already caught a few fish pushing 40 pounds, with most averaging 20-25 pounds. Besides the jacks, we’ve only landed a few under 20. Every year there’s a few big fish caught, but this year it’s happening most days.


The main push of fish has arrived to the Middle Rogue, so now’s the time to get out. Fishing should stay good until the season closes on September 30th.


Editor’s Note: Pautzke pro Steven Theel operates SO Chrome Guide Service in Southern Oregon. For more info on his Rogue River salmon trips please visit[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]