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.
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: