Winter steelheading is great in southwestern Oregon, but some of its best rivers like the Rogue attract large crowds and can be slow to drop and clear after major rains.
Some, but not all, streams along Oregon’s southern coast allow very modest retention of wild winter steelhead. In other streams, fish must have clipped adipose fins (marking them as hatchery products) to keep for dinner. Check with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for current regulations.
And while harvest in these streams tends to be small, they also get far less angling pressure than big-name rivers, and catch-and-release fishing can be excellent. Some of these also are faster to recover after a heavy rainfall, which also is true of the forks in the Coos/Millicoma and Coquille river systems, which have excellent hatchery runs.
The following are some of the smaller streams (listed north to south) that can offer good winter steelhead fishing in the Southwest Zone. For similar streams in northwestern Oregon, click here.
Lower Tenmile Creek
This short stream with a hatchery run below Tenmile Lakes is often fishable even when other small streams are out of shape because the big lakes act as settling basins.
The creek has a sand bottom, unlike most steelhead streams, and doesn’t have typical pool and riffle structure.
Hatchery steelhead smolts are acclimated and released at the mouth of Saunders Creek in Spinreel Park, in Tenmile Creek near Highway 101 and at the outlet to Eel Lake. These are popular fishing spots. Anglers also can hike through dunes downstream from Spinreel Park.
The catch varies widely but can hit the 700 mark in a pretty good year.
Eel Creek also opens for steelhead fishing starting in January, and Tenmile and Eel lakes themselves are open to year-round harvest of fin-clipped steelhead. Consult ODFW regulations for additional restrictions.
Floras is a small stream between Bandon and Port Orford, near Floras Lake. It muddies quickly and takes time to clear after a good rain, but it has an excellent steelhead run. Steelhead must have a clipped adipose fin to retain here, and most must be turned loose. Maybe a dozen or so keepers (hatchery strays) come out in a season.
This small stream has good bank access to some nice holes at Humbug State Park for steelhead fishing, but there is no harvest for wild fish. Occasionally there will be fin-clipped fish straying in, and only the rare one of those may be kept.
This lightly fished creek, which goes into the ocean near Ophir (north of Gold Beach), flows mostly through private property. However, land owners here are generally willing to let polite anglers in if they ask. The creek recovers quickly after a heavy rain but is too small for boats. Steelhead without clipped fins may be kept here under a conservative harvest guideline, but often fewer than 10 per year are reported in ODFW harvest statistics.
This small stream just south of Gold Beach also muddies quickly and takes awhile to clear, but it has a good wild steelhead run that is open to some harvest. The annual harvest is light, running from a handful to a couple dozen most seasons. Note that Hunter doesn’t open for steelhead until January.
This stream enters the ocean between Brookings and Gold Beach. It has a good run of wild steelhead that are open to limited harvest, with 40 to 60 total kept in a typical year. However, the Pistol muddies quickly and clears slowly following a good rainfall. Bank anglers can find access at the mouth of Deep Creek and the South Fork. Only the lower four or five miles is floatable.
On the extreme South Coast, just up from the California state line, the Winchuck has an excellent run of wild steelhead, which may be retained in limited numbers (along with stray fin-clipped steelhead). Annual harvest range from a couple dozen to more than 100. This is mostly a bank fishery, with good access on U.S. Forest Service land. See: Winchuck River Fishing.
Also on this website, more articles about winter steelhead fishing:
- Best Winter Steelhead Fishing in the Rogue River and South Coast
- Best Winter Steelhead Fishing in the Coos, Coquille and Umpqua Rivers
- Best Winter Steelhead Rivers Near Portland
- Best Winter Steelhead Rivers on Oregon’s North Coast
- Best Winter Steelhead Rivers on Oregon’s Central Coast
- Best Small Streams in Northwest Oregon for Winter Steelhead
One source for this article was the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s steelhead fishing flyer.