Thursday, March 24, 2011

Great Lakes Tributary Steelhead

 Regardless of the weather outside right now, the Great Lakes Steelhead are running up the rivers that they were stocked in, and in good numbers.  Each year the spring melt draws these otherwise open water roamers from the deep waters of the Great Lakes into the shallow waters of the many tributaries along the coasts.

Every Steelhead strain has a different time frame for their main spawning run.  I am no expert on what strain spawns when, but I do know that they begin running into the rivers in early March and can be caught in the tributaries in numbers until mid May.

Beautiful Buck Steelhead

One of the most important things to consider as an angler when targeting spring run Steelhead is flow.  When the tributaries are flowing, the fish are coming!  High water brings the fish in, but unfortunately high water in many Great Lakes tributaries means dirty water!

Water clarity is the next factor that can make or break your trip.  Knowing how a spring melt or heavy rain event will effect the clarity of the tributary you plan on fishing can help you make the decision of whether or not to leave the house in search of some spring Steelies.  Living over an hour from the nearest tributary has taught me to monitor this factor closely, to avoid long drives for nothing.

Another thing to consider when targeting spring Steelhead is bait selection.  Fresh spawn is a great choice throughout the year, but how you present it to the fish will make a big difference this spring.  Floating spawn through your favorite holes can be done several different ways, so try floats, split shots above the spawn, and also try putting floats in your spawn sacs to keep the spawn from snagging bottom.
Nice Chrome Hen Steelhead

If the water clarity is decent, spinners can be productive.  Steelhead, when active, will absolutely crush a spinner which makes for lots of fun!  When fishing spinners, be sure not to spook the fish by staying a good distance from your targeted area.  Long casts across the tributary will produce fish and not spook them.

Another method many anglers choose is fly fishing.  I am not a fly fisherman so I couldn't begin to explain what it takes to catch Steelies in the spring on flies.

Take a few of these tips and tricks with you on your next Great Lakes Tributary Steelhead Quest!

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