Summer Steelhead can be very lethargic in water that creeps above 65 degrees, it can also be deadly for the fish if they are caught in warm water because they are expending so much energy trying to get away, they may not survive if released. As I write this article, the middle stretch of the Rogue River is at 66 degrees and climbing (temp reading taken in Grants Pass). Before the sun goes down today we'll see the river spike up to 70 (it actually hit 72). That's great water for Bass fishing, but Summer Steelhead like cooler temps. So, what is a Steelheader to do? Skip the bath water and head up river!
Justin Payne hooked this Summer Steelhead on a hot day in the cool water of the Upper Rogue River (caught with a Mini Shirmp Pink XFactor Egg Cluster)
Summer Steelhead generally thrive in water that is 50 - 62 degrees. Before we continue...I have to add that there are exceptions to every rule. Keep in mind that this is an overall guideline and a rule that is good for every Steelheader to keep in the back of his /her mind. So where can we find cooler water? Look no further than the Upper Rogue River. As I write, water temps coming out of Lost Creek Lake are 51.6 degrees....now that's more like it! You may be thinking : "That's nice Jeff, but I don't live in southern Oregon." Not to worry, you can apply the tips below to any steelhead stream in the country. Here are some tools I use before I even think about hitting the water:
Oregon Water Levels:
I would like to point out that there are other sites such as NOAA and USGS for getting water flow and water temp. I use the link above because I can get a quick glance of the Rogue River water flow and temp in multiple locations, all at the same time. Other rivers such as the Umpqua are also listed on the chart. If your favorite river doesn't have a water temp listed you can either bring a thermometer with you or be on the safe side and drive up to the head waters of your favorite river where water temps will almost always be cooler.
This temp gauge can be purchased at most sporting good stores for under $10.00
This gauge is very nice and costs closer to $50.00
The bottom line is, don't waste time casting to fish that don't want to bite and or might be in danger if they do. Plan your trip in a way that gives you the best possible chance of catching fish, even if it means you have to drive a little further to find optimal conditions. Think about it this way: in prime conditions where fish are present, you are one cast away from hooking a fish, or you can stay close to home and make cast after cast in poor conditions, catching nothing. I like the first option better, I'm heading up river.