Elk River

Elk River

The Elk River is a very scenic mid-sized coastal stream running 29 miles free of any dam control out of the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest. Portions of its upper reaches skirt the Grassy Knob Wilderness and also enjoy a Wild and Scenic designation. Extra protection afforded by this status can only help to benefit the Elk River Chinook population which has been federally identified as providing “ an Outstanding Remarkable Value for this Wild and Scenic River.” The drainage encompasses an area of about 58,000 acres and receives an average annual rainfall of 120 inches. The upper Elk River above the state hatchery, has a pool & drop character, with steep canyon walls and large boulders. The river basin below the hatchery then gives way to a flatter more open valley with riverside residences and cattle or sheep ranches. Given the protective nature of its headwaters, the river often runs clear when the neighboring river just to the north, the Sixes River, is still flowing high and muddy. Upper reaches of the Sixes River lies in federal and privately held timberland sometimes subject to heavy logging. There exist only 2 public state-owned boat launches on the entire Elk River and 1 privately held “for fee” ramp.

Due to the relatively large size and super high quality of the Elk River salmon, many fishermen, some traveling great distances, come to Port Orford each year in late fall and winter to catch these amazing tackle-testing fish. The salmon begin to stage near the mouth in late September and early October, moving in and out with each tide while they wait for sufficient rain to result in enough rise in the river level to allow for passage up to spawning grounds. A long shallow area of tidewater along the sandy bluffs at the mouth can make these fish vulnerable and available to fishermen and seals alike sometimes for a month or two before the regular rains set in. By mid-November, the Elk River Chinook fishing is usually in full swing while in most other Oregon rivers salmon fishing has finished up. This can put a lot of attention and consequent fishing pressure on this beautiful little coastal stream during November and December.

While float fishing and back-bouncing baits are the primary fishing techniques employed to catch these big salmon, back-trolling diving plugs results in many hook-ups on Elk River Chinook each season. Around mid-December, Winter Steelhead begin to show up in the catch and from January through March they are the primary target. Most standard steelhead fishing techniques find success, but jigs and flies often prove very successful on the winter fish, especially during periods of low and clear water conditions.

The town of Port Orford is only minutes away from both the Elk and Sixes rivers. Whenever weather permits, a small fleet of commercial fishing boats are raised lowered by crane off the Port Orford Dock. Observing this process can be a fun diversion. Lodging, restaurants, fishing licenses and groceries are all available in town. (See our recommendation under “Lodging.”)

Betty Opened up a Big Can of Mojo in Pursuit of Elk River Kings

At the start of the trip, Betty wasn't 100% sure about the whole fishing thing.  However, after landing a nice Elk River hatchery…

Kathy was pretty excited with her early morning Elk River catch

Though a fly fishing addict at heart, Kathy acquiesced to running a plug, and was rewarded handsomely!  As the fish ripped off…

Elk-Sixes Fishing in Full Swing

The Elk and Sixes River Salmon Fishing is currently in Full Swing.  This is a weather-driven fishery so timing can be very important. …