The past few years on the John Day have seen the highest steelhead counts since 1988, and the winter season this year should be a good one. From Cottonwood Bridge to the North Fork, steelhead fishing is open year-round with a daily limit of three adipose-fin-clipped fish. There is no annual limit as long as you purchase the proper number of harvest tags. Cast Stee-Lees, back-troll Kwikfish (K10s and K12s in gold, orange or silver) and Hot Shots, bounce night crawlers and eggs or cast salmon flies in whatever colors are hot. Bank-fishing is available at Cottonwood, Clarno and upriver of Service Creek. One- to five-day float trips are the most rewarding, but be aware that this free-flowing river fluctuates with the seasons. Prime fishing through December goes up to the Clarno section of the river. After that head upriver to Kimberly. Hatchery fish in the John Day will be found primarily downstream of Cottonwood Bridge. Above the bridge, about 90 percent of the fish will be wild. Last year, however, an angler caught a 37-inch, 16-pound hatchery fish at Kimberly. Just remember: All wild fish (no fins clipped) must be released unharmed. Contact: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (503-872-5264); Pine Creek Outfitters (541-763-3662).