Lost creek lake, a reservoir on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon

The Best Trout Fishing Spots in Southwest Oregon

Take advantage of a region that’s rich in all forms of trout fishing by targeting a handful of high-yield destinations, from steelhead-packed estuaries and rainbow-stocked lakes to wild cutthroat on remote rivers.

Few fishing regions in America are as revered as southwest Oregon. It boasts vast stretches of wilderness, deep emerald pools, remote whitewater, and, best of all, vigorous trout in all forms. Steelhead, rainbows, cutthroat: Hundreds of miles of river around Medford are continually the best for targeting these species, and that’s without adding salmon to the limit. With the sheer number of options, it helps to know where some of the best spots are for the type of trout fishing you’re after. 

Best For: Kayak Fishing Sea-Run Steelhead

Rogue River Estuary, Gold Beach

Before steelhead and salmon attain their way up the Rogue River to spawn, they stage in the estuary where the Rogue meets the Pacific. Anglers join the swarms of fish near Gold Beach, circling in motorboats, and trolling in hopes of a fight. Make use of your kayak by getting to the harder-to-reach branches where the Rogue braids around sandbars. Or join the crowd and drop a trolling line in the deeper channels.

The town of Gold Beach has a boat launch available at the harbor within the jetty on the south side of the river. To reach the harbor, take U.S. Route 101 north from Brookings. After you enter Gold Beach, turn left onto Moore Street. In 500 feet, turn right onto Harbor Way, then make your next left on South Jetty Road to the parking lot and boat ramp on your left. There is a $5 day-use fee for the ramp. For boats over 10 feet long, you’ll also need an Oregon Waterway Access Permit.

Best For: Fly Fishing 

North Umpqua River, Steamboat

Up the North Umpqua River are 30 miles of the finest fly fishing to be found anywhere. In fact, the section between Rock Creek and Soda Springs Dam is open to fly fishing only, and fishing from a floating craft is prohibited. The management regulations add to the allure of working the fast-moving jade green waters of the North Umpqua for wild rainbows, cutthroat, and monstrous summer steelhead rising to dry flies. The center of North Umpqua fishing is about halfway up the stretch where Steamboat Creek flows in from the north (river-right). The area here (known as Steamboat) is one of the best access points for the North Umpqua. The inside bend of the river has numerous options for bank fishing, and is paralleled by a section of the North Umpqua Trail. After fishing, don’t forget to stop into the angling social haunt, the Steamboat Inn.

From Roseburg, take state Route 138 east for 38 miles. A half-mile after passing the Steamboat Inn, you’ll soon see Steamboat Creek Road on your left. Continue another 0.25 miles to Mott Bridge. Just over the bridge is the Mott Trailhead where you can access the North Umpqua Trail.

Best For: Day Float Trip

Rogue River, Hog Creek to Rand Boat Landing

After passing through Grants Pass, the Rogue River leaves civilization and the open valley that’s home to the Interstate 5 corridor. It veers east and north into the Coast Range, where the forest and gorge walls begin to rise and the Rogue begins its designation as a Wild and Scenic River. The 10-mile stretch from Hog Creek to Rand Boat Landing offers stunning scenery through sections like Hellgate Canyon. Beyond the prime drift-fishing for ordinary trout and migratory fish on mild Class I-II whitewater, this stretch of the Rogue also hosts plenty of famed “half-pounder” steelhead (alongside whitewater rafters and kayakers who paddle this popular summer day-float).

From Grants Pass, take I-5 north to Exit 61. Turn left onto Merlin Road for 3.5 miles, where it becomes Galice Road. Continue 5 miles. Hog Creek County Park will be on your left. To reach the takeout at the Rand Recreation Area, continue along the Rogue for 9.5 miles down Galice Road. Rand will be on the right. An Oregon Waterway Access Permit is required for boats over 10 feet long.

Best: Lake for Catching Rainbows

Lost Creek Lake

Each year, more than 50,000 rainbow trout are stocked in Lost Creek Lake. At 3,500 acres during full capacity, there’s plenty of room to spread out and cast a line. Though the majority of stocking occurs in spring, the lake remains a prime destination for panfish and smallmouth bass in warmer summer months. You’ll find every amenity you need at Joseph H. Stewart State Recreation Area—including more than 200 campsites available for reservation to turn a lake trip into a full weekend outing.

Take state Route 62 east from Medford for approximately 30 miles. The recreation area will be on the left; if you cross the Peyton Bridge, you’ve gone a mile too far.

Best For: Wilderness Fishing Native Cutthroat

Illinois River, Six Mile Recreation Site

The Illinois River is one of the few West Coast watersheds that’s never contained a major hatchery. That means the cutthroat and other salmonids swimming in its waters are of one of the purest genetic lineages found in the Pacific Northwest. Chalk up that habitat health to its location; the Illinois features some of the most remote sections of river in the country, which makes fishing it an all-around wild experience. Aim for one of the river’s best stretches for bank fishing: before it disappears into the mountains of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Near Six Mile Recreation Site, anglers can follow the river, fishing deep pools and casting lures behind boulders.

From Grants Pass, take U.S. Route 199 south 20 miles to Selma. Turn right onto Illinois River Road for 8 miles to Six Mile Recreation Site.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.