Half Pounder Steelhead on the Rogue River

It’s Fall which means it’s time to start thinking about hitting the lower Rogue for the annual half pounder steelhead run.

If you’re unfamiliar with just what a half pounder steelhead run is, let me explain.

Normally Steelhead (basically sea run trout) are born in the river, stay until they’re around 7 inches long then head downstream to the ocean where they stay for 2 to 3 years, getting big and strong.

Half pounders, though return to the river after only a couple months. This is an unexplained phenomenon which happens only on the Rogue the Klamath, and the Eel rivers.

 

The half pounder steelhead aren’t sexually mature when they come upriver, so they don’t spawn and die, but hang out eating then return to the ocean in the Spring. They return again the next year as fully grown mature steelhead.

What does this mean for steelheaders? It means some amazing fishing. Though they’re called “half pounders” most are more like 2 pounders.

half pounder steelhead
hatchery steelhead perfect for eating

What they lack in size they more than make up for in viciousness. They’re amazing fighters, hitting a fly like a ton of bricks, jumping, shaking and spooling line like they’re much larger than they actually are.

Since the half pounders seem to travel in pods, once you hook one you’re likely to hook a lot more in the same area. If you’re fishing from a boat it’s not uncommon to have doubles going.

The most efficient way to fish for half pounders is swinging flies in front of a drift boat. It’s not essential to fish sinking line, but it helps.

Many different flies will work, but I have the most success with the common Prince nymph. More traditional streamer flies like the red ant and the green butted skunk also work well.

The half pounder run usually starts in September and can last through the Winter. The later in the season it gets the more often you’ll start hooking larger mature Winter run steelhead.

The half pounder steelhead will usually make it up as far as Grants Pass.

Every year is different, but there’s usually decent numbers of half pounders in the Fall if you time it correctly. The only way to know for sure whether or not they’re in is to get out there and try it.

You’ll have the most success fishing in the Agness area. Agness is an out-of-the-way town, which can be difficult to get to, but if the half pounder steelhead are running you won’t come away disappointed.

As of this post, the half pounder fishing hasn’t started yet. My brother is a Rogue river fishing guide so I get the straight scoop from him every few days. It’s not happening yet but give it a few weeks and they should start coming in.

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