Our Spring here in Southern Oregon has been atypical so far this year. The rain left us in February and has instead been replaced with sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures. The lack of precipitation has delayed the winter steelhead migration up the Rogue, and most of the fish are kegged up in the middle river. Also by this time of year there are usually plenty of reports rolling in about springers in the lower river, with the first confirmed fish caught a week or two ago.
That’s what makes this Spring even more bizarre. Before yesterday there were only a few rumors floating around about a springer or two being caught in the Middle Rogue, and no one had come out openly with a fish. When I received a call yesterday about a possible first springer finally being caught, it didn’t surprise me, but the location sure did. Instead of the usual spot of Rainie Falls producing the first springer, this fish had already completed it’s journey up the Rogue.
One lucky angler fishing for winter steelhead at the hatchery hole on March 7th got what was probably the surprise of his life. The fish at the other end of his line ended up not being an early Upper Rogue winter steelhead, but instead one of the earliest springers ever to reach it’s end destination. The Fishin Hole Fly Shop in Shady Cove confirmed the catch today and is displaying the picture of the 14lb springer in their shop.
The early Upper Rogue springer was likely due to a few key factors. First, February saw cold temperatures in the lower river which would have turned off the bite for any springers moving through. Then with Savage Rapids and Gold Ray dams being removed there were no obstacles to delay it’s migration upstream, expediting it’s return to Cole Rivers Hatchery.
It’s hard to tell whether the early Upper Rogue springer is a sign of a good run or not. With abnormal river conditions for this time of year, it’s still a waiting game for the majority of the run to show up. One thing is for certain though… If the rest of this Spring lacks precipitation and stays warm, the springers will shoot up river. A low and warm Rogue speeds up the migration and the majority of the run will be in the upper river before June.
Anglers should expect the springer fishing to start taking off any day now in the Lower Rogue. The river temperature went over 50 degrees at Agness for the first time this year. As the temperature continues to increase, the salmon moving through should start to bite. 52 degrees is often considered the magical number to spur migration and turn on the bite.