Warmer Days Perking Up Steelhead On The Rogue in Grants Pass

By Troy Whitaker | 03/11/2013

From what I’ve seen the last couple days steelhead fishing on the Middle Rogue should be the best we’ve seen in a while. After a slower February we are seeing fish finally moving into the Grant’s Pass area. I think it’s going to be a phenomenal March.

Whereas there’s going to be a lot of spawned out summer run fish, there’s also plenty of winter run steelhead that are just migrating in. The river should be plugged with steelhead. On an average day we expect to hook up to a half-dozen and land up to half of that. These fish are averaging four to 12 pounds.


There’s a lot of holding fish in the Rogue right now. They should start getting active this week because we’d had a few warmer days and some rain. We had a great beginning to the season and then it petered off because we didn’t have any rain, but now I’m seeing lots of people catch fish again.

Fortunately, we’ve been seeing larger hatchery fish in the last week or so. There’s been a few 36 inchers caught and some up to 16 pounds. Prior, most of the hatchery fish we’d seen were averaging four to eight pounds. I’m excited to see the larger fish.


While there’s an endless amount of water on the Rogue, I focus my drift trips in the Grants Pass area from Shroeder to Robinson Bridge, roughly an eight-mile stretch. Another good float extends from the Ferry Boat Ramp down to Hog Creek, about six miles long.

Fishing in March will be dictated by the weather. Nonetheless, what I’m hoping is low and clear water will extend through the month. The only thing that could change that is higher temperatures, which would bring snowmelt and muddy up the river. Regardless, we’ll still find good fishing. Perhaps only our techniques will change.

If conditions remain status quo and the water stays clear we have to start thinking small and turn to small baits and longer leaders. Normally, I prefer a size 2 or 4 hook, but may downsize to a 6 if it gets any clearer. Right now I’m using Maxima 10-pound test, but with this low clear water I’ll switch to fluorocarbon because it’s harder to see.


To get the steelhead to bite in this low and clear water I’m using smaller pieces of roe. Rather than nickel size pieces we are now down to dime size and smaller. However, if it warms up and the river gets muddy and rises I’ll go back to nickel size. Sometimes I’ll run a yarn ball and a piece of roe, which adds a little more contrast in the water. We soak all our yarn in Pautzke Nectar to help with the scent trail.

I’ve changed the way I cure eggs, too. In previous years we’d cured our bait in Orange BorX O Fire. However, this season I’ve found that the Natural BorX O Fire has worked better. What I like about the natural is it gives the bait a more natural color. I haven’t been dealing with a lot of colored water this year and haven’t needed to color up the eggs to give them more of a presence.


I’m also seeing action on plugs. I’ve been using K-9X and K-11X KwikFish, mostly in silver and pink and gold and red. And, it’s important to scent those heavily. I still have some Gel Krill, however, those that don’t can learn how to make krill paste with Fire Power by following Duane Inglin’s recipe.


On cooler days in March steelhead tend to be found in deeper pools. They’ll pile up where it’s slow and there’s less current. Also, check behind big bounders. Meanwhile, when the water starts to warm up you’ll see them migrate into flats. I’ve also found that they’ll hang out below tributaries as they prepare to spawn.


To learn more about Whitaker’s Grants Pass area steelhead trips please call 541-761-0015 or stop in U Save Gas & Tackle in Grant’s Pass (541) 476-9871.