The Winchuck River is a small Oregon stream barely (and not entirely) north of California with modest opportunities to catch wild fall Chinook salmon and winter steelhead and a good population of native cutthroat trout.
The river enters the Pacific Ocean at a small community of Winchuck, a half mile north of the state line.
At the very lower end, there is public access to the estuary at Crissy Field State Park on the south side of the river between Highway 101 and the ocean. That’s probably going to be your best bet for Chinook salmon, which might show up as early as September one year but then peak in November the next, depending on river conditions.
Like some other South Coast rivers, the mouth of the Winchuck can be impassable during the low flow seasons, until the rivers rise enough to unplug the sand that builds up near the beach.
Other than at the mouth, public access is fairly hard to come by on the lower river but is plentiful upstream where sections are within the Rogue River-Siskyou National Forest. A small bit of the mainstem and the river’s South Fork are in California.
Check the regulations for current deadline and gear restriction rules that have been imposed at times. There has been some issues here with anglers illegally snagging salmon.
The upper area is likely to be your best bet for steelhead, because steelhead tend to move higher into river systems and live longer, and you’ll find plenty of bank access close to Winchuck River Road (National Forest Road 1107) on publicly owned lands.
The Winchuck is among several smaller rivers in southwestern Oregon that recovers well for steelhead fishing after rainstorms. At this writing it also has a modest bag limit for winter steelhead, but always check current regulations before fishing.
Angling from a boat is not allowed on this small stream.
For both Chinook salmon and winter steelhead, catch rates are modest. In some recent years the river has produced 200 Chinook and about half that many steelhead, while other years the catch rates for these species are only a couple dozen for a calendar year. While it’s small size is appealing, especially if bigger rivers are blown out of shape, driving a short way north to the Chetco River or 45 minutes to the lower Rogue River could often be more productive for salmon and steelhead.
The Winchuck also is home to native cutthroat trout, both a searun version that returns in the mid- to late summer in a more silvery and larger form after foraging in the nearby ocean areas and a resident form that is more colorfully spotted and has a brighter red “gash” of color at its throat.
Searuns can aggressively strike flies and lures and are likely to be found entering the lower river from late July through the end of summer. Cutthroat that stay closer to home are likely to be more numerous in the upper river system, where it’s cooler. Note the artificial lure and fly requirements in place for much of the trout season (currently through August 31) on this and many of Oregon’s coastal streams.