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Your Guide to Winter Steelhead Fishing Tips on Oregon's Adventure Coast

Your Guide to Winter Steelhead Fishing Tips on Oregon's Adventure Coast

Thu, Jan 7, 2021

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Winter steelhead fishing is one of our most popular outdoor recreational activities here on Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston during the winter months. Local fishing expert, Gary Vonderohe from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, shares some tips to help anglers get the most out of their winter steelhead fishing trip.

More rain in the forecast means that winter steelhead have begun moving into the Coos and Coquille basins. Here’s what anglers need to know this season:

Coos and Millicoma rivers.

  • If you are fishing in the Coos Basin, anglers can only harvest hatchery adipose fin clipped winter steelhead.
  • Hatchery steelhead are released in the West Fork Millicoma, East Fork Millicoma, and South Fork Coos rivers.
  • Steelhead fishing on the East Fork and West Fork Millicoma rivers is best from December through mid-February.
  • Public access on the East Fork Millicoma River is limited mainly to the Coos County’s Nesika Park.
  • On the West Fork Millicoma River, public access can be found at the Millicoma Interpretive Center and scout camp.
  • Steelhead fishing on the South Fork Coos River is best from December through mid-March.
  • Access on the South Fork Coos River above tidewater is all through Weyerhaeuser property. Anglers will need to purchase a fishing access permit from Weyerhaeuser on their recreation access website.

Coquille River.

  • In the Coquille Basin, hatchery steelhead are released in the North Fork and South Fork Coquille rivers.
  • Public angler access on the North Fork Coquille is primarily through Coos County’s Laverne Park. When fishing conditions are good most of the fishing holes are taken.
  • On the South Fork Coquille River there is some limited public bank fishing access sites but the river fishes best from a drift boat. The best stretches are from Beaver Creek (roughly halfway between Powers and Myrtle Point) downstream to Myrtle Point.
  • Best fishing on the North Fork is from December through early March.
  • Best fishing on the South Fork is from December through early April.
  • The East Fork Coquille River is the only river in the Coos and Coquille basin where an angler has the option to harvest a wild winter steelhead.  Harvest is limited to 1 wild steelhead per day and only 3 per year.

The best time to head out is after a heavy rain. Fishing for winter steelhead is almost always best after a heavy rain to get fish moving upstream but heavy rain will make the rivers unfishable for a few days.

The West Fork Millicoma and North Fork Coquille rivers are the first rivers in the area to clear up after a rain. The East Fork Millicoma River will be the next river to become fishable followed up by the South Fork Coos and South Fork Coquille rivers.

Avoid the crowd by going mid-day. To escape some of the crowding on these winter steelhead rivers, I like to start fishing mid-day.  Most steelhead anglers will be on the river at first light and typically quit by late morning.

Gary’s advice for beginners: For a beginning steelhead angler, fishing with a jig under a bobber is an easy way to start which can be very effective with catching steelhead. The local fishing tackle shops can set you up with the appropriate gear if you don’t know where to start.

Be prepared to lose some tackle. The rivers in the Coos Basin and the North Fork and East Fork Coquille rivers are dominated by jagged bedrock.  Because of this be prepared to lose quite a bit of tackle when drifting your hook near the river bottom. The South Fork Coquille River has a lot less exposed bedrock and more gravel runs which makes it easier to drift your bait/lure near the bottom.

Tips for fly fishermen: For those anglers that like to fly fish for winter steelhead, drifting an egg pattern under a strike indicator is a popular technique which fish well in these bedrock dominated rivers.  There are a few places on all these rivers where it works well to swing flies through a run.

Three adult fish per day. From December 1 through April 30 each season, steelhead anglers in the Coos and Coquille basins are able to keep an additional fin-clipped steelhead per day for a total aggregate of 3 adult fish harvested per day.

To learn more, be sure to check with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife  for the most up-to-date recreation report and visit Oregon’s Adventure Coast  for a list of local bait and tackle shops. Visit our website to learn about more fresh water fishing options  in Coos Bay.

You can also learn more by reading the following resources:

Fishing on Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston

Oregon’s Adventure Coast Fishing Guidelines

Winter Steelhead Fishing Trip Idea

Fishing Southwest Zone

Winter Fun On Oregon’s Adventure Coast

Winter Steelhead Fishing in Oregon’s Umpqua, Coos and Coquille Rivers

Editor’s Note: As the developments in Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to unfold, please follow the direction from our public health authorities including the CDC, Oregon Health Authority, and Coos Health & Wellness to protect yourself, our community and our visitors.

Face coverings are mandatory for all when inside a public space AND outdoors when 6 ft distancing cannot be maintained.

If you are ready to travel, we are ready to welcome you back to Oregon’s Adventure Coast. However, if you are feeling ill or not comfortable traveling right now, we encourage to stay home and stay healthy. Let’s all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Please visit for more information.


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(541) 269-0215
50 Central Ave, Coos Bay, OR 97420

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