Elk and Sixes Rivers Fall Salmon
Strong salmon runs make Elk and Sixes rivers a late fall favorite
Oregon salmon anglers have long been intrigued by the fall and winter king fishery on the Elk and Sixes rivers near Port Orford. Thousands of kings enter the two small coastal rivers from November through January, providing the best late-fall salmon fishing on the West Coast. The rivers also have healthy runs of winter steelhead, producing some of the biggest steelies in Oregon. Both rivers also are among the most scenic and enjoyable for drift boaters.
The Elk and Sixes rivers are best known for their healthy fall Chinook fisheries. Fueled by the release of 325,000 salmon smolts from Elk River hatchery each year, the Elk has perhaps the biggest run of kings of any small river in Oregon. The river also boasts a healthy run of wild kings. The Sixes also has a strong run of wild salmon.
While October and early November are prime time on many Oregon coastal rivers, late November through January is the peak of the salmon run on the Elk and Sixes. When the water is dropping after a big rain, fish-after-fish action is common on both rivers.
No motors are allowed on the Elk, so it's a prime drift boat fishery. On the Elk, pro guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing launches at the hatchery and fishes customers on a lengthy stretch of river covering 8 miles. The Sixes has numerous launches and takeouts. Running plugs such as FlatFish and Kwikfish and back-bouncing roe is the go-to method for the fall kings on the Elk and Sixes rivers.
Aside from big runs of salmon, both rivers are known to clear up quickly and stay fishable during periods of heavy rain, when other rivers such as the Coquille, Umpqua and Chetco are blown out. The Elk also is known to produce big numbers of kings. During the peak of the run, double-digit numbers of fish are possible.
The mouth of the Elk also has an ocean bubble fishery out of Port Orford in November.
Steelhead enter the rivers from December through March. The Elk is especially popular when heavy rains have blown out other nearby rivers. The Elk and Sixes also have a reputation for producing trophy steelhead, including fish over 20 pounds. Some of the best steelhead fishing on the Elk and Sixes occurs in late February and March, when fishing is winding down on other rivers.
Andy has been fishing the Elk and Sixes for more than 20 years. He fishes from a custom 18-foot heated drift boat.