The Angler’s Guide to the Rogue

Fish Oregon’s iconic Rogue River at these three beginner-friendly spots.

With more than 215 miles of fishable shoreline and some of the healthiest trout, salmon, and steelhead populations in the U.S., Oregon’s Rogue River is an angler’s paradise. That said, it can come with a bit of a learning curve, especially if you come from a lake-fishing background. Here’s everything you need to know to master the Rogue, including:

  • Rogue River fish species 
  • Best seasons to fish the Rogue  
  • Recommended spots 
  • Essential gear
  • Licenses

Rogue River fish species

The Rogue is most famous for its Chinook salmon, Coho salmon, and steelhead trout. It’s also home to four other varieties of trout: rainbow, brook, brown, and cutthroat. If you can’t positively identify the species on your line, you’re required to release it. It may be a threatened or otherwise protected species. Also be sure to check with the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife for the latest catch reports, quota updates and regulations


Rainbow trout are the most common trout species in the Medford area of southwestern Oregon. They can be up to 30 inches long—a striking contrast to the cutthroat’s average 9-inch length. 


Steelhead, a type of ocean-dwelling trout that migrates upstream to lay eggs, can get even bigger. Most steelhead live at sea for one to two years before returning to freshwater. But in late September, parts of the Rogue see runs of “half-pounders,” a name given to immature steelhead that return after just a few months in the ocean. (The name is a misnomer; half-pounders are usually 12 to 15 inches long and weigh around 2 pounds each.) Because they’re rare elsewhere in the world, half-pounders are one of the more prized fish on the Rogue.

In contrast to the half-pounders, a mature steelhead weighs 5 to 10 pounds. They tend to arrive later in the season. 


Chinook salmon are notoriously huge—generally 20 to 40 pounds each. Coho salmon, which arrive in the fall, look similar to Chinook salmon, but they’re generally smaller and tougher to catch. Cohos weigh in around 8 pounds on average and can be up to 24 inches in length. ‘

Best seasons to fish the Rogue  

You can fish the Rogue River pretty much any time of year. Your ideal season will depend on what you’re hoping to catch. 

Spring Chinook

Springers, usually regarded as the tastiest fish you’ll catch on the Rogue, usually begin heading upstream in March or April. The run usually continues through June. (Try to hit the water early in the morning, as this is when Chinook are often most active.)

Fall Chinook

You’ll find these salmon heading upstream in late summer to early fall. The run usually begins in late August or early September and lasts through October. 

Half-pounder Steelhead

The annual half-pounder run usually begins in September and can last through December. 

Coho salmon

While coho salmon are typically harder to catch than steelhead or Chinook, experienced anglers can often find them on the Rogue in late August to early November.

Winter steelhead

Mature steelhead usually begin to return from the ocean in late December and stay through mid-March.

Recommended spots 

There are dozens of places to fish the Rogue River within a 40-minute drive of Medford. Here are some of our favorite river sections and sites.

Grants Pass

Located on one of the most productive sections of the Middle Rogue, Grants Pass is just 35 minutes west of downtown Medford. The area is home to several parks with great fishing. 

  • Matson Park, right on the Rogue River, has convenient bank access and a gravel bar suitable for launching craft, making this a great spot for kayak fishing
  • Chinook Park—an aptly named honey-hole for chinook salmon, steelhead, and various species of trout—is equipped with a fishing platform, boat launch, and several beaches.
  • Fish Hatchery Park (on the Applegate River just south of the Rogue) offers gravel-bottomed wading pools and excellent winter access for steelhead anglers. 

Gold Hill

Only about a 15-minute drive from Medford, Gold Hill is home to several great access points for salmon, steelhead, and trout fishing.

  • The Gold Nugget Wayside offers convenient shoreside access. You’ll find three BLM-managed sites here, each with access to picnic tables and restrooms. 
  • Looking to launch a fishing kayak or other craft? Head to the nearby Gold Hill Boat Ramp (day-use fee or parking pass required). 
  • Valley of the Rogue State Park, a little farther up the road, offers a campground, which makes it easy to escape town for a quick fishing weekend. It’s also equipped with a boat ramp and ADA-accessible restroom. 

TouVelle State Park

Located just 12 minutes north of downtown Medford, TouVelle State Park is one of the easiest places to get in a quick cast before work. You’ll need to pay for a day-use fee or annual pass to use it, but you’ll be rewarded with easy access to the river, both in TouVelle and in the adjacent Kenneth Denman Wildlife Area. Both parks are equipped with picnic areas and restrooms.  

Essential Gear 

The fishing gear you’ll need on the Rogue River will vary from season to season and species to species. It may also depend on your preferred location and fishing style. (If you’re new to fishing, consider stopping by your local fly shop or Public Lands store and having an expert walk you through everything you’ll need.) 

If you’re single-hand casting with a traditional fly rod, an 8 weight is likely the best bet for year-round use. If you’re going after bigger fish (like salmon or steelhead) on wider sections of river, you may want to try a spey rod, which will allow you to make longer casts. A 12-foot, 6-inch spey rod is typically recommended.

Many anglers also find success with a spinning rod, sinker, and a baited hook in areas where bait is permitted. This setup is most reliable paired with a method like side-drifting. To do that, you’ll need a boat, which will allow you to drag and twitch your line back and forth across the river, or bounce bait along the bottom. 


To fish the Rogue, you’ll need both a valid Oregon fishing license and a combined angling tag, which helps Oregon Fish and Wildlife track the species caught and therefore keep tabs on the health of the fishery. 

If you’re purchasing an annual license and tag, you’ll need to purchase each separately. Licenses can be purchased online. If you only plan to fish for one to three days, you can buy a bundle that just covers the relevant period of time. If you’re an Oregon resident and you plan to fish for more than three, however, you’ll need to shell out for an annual license.

While adults will have to pay full fees, anglers under 18 years of age can take advantage of youth discounts. A youth license is just $10, and a youth angling combined tag is only $5 for Oregon residents. If your child is younger than 11, you’ll only need the tag—no license required. 

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.