Fall Steelhead Run
During fall and into early winter, cooling waters and an ever increasing urge to spawn, steelhead trout make their way up our rivers connecting to the Great Lakes to spawn. Some will winter over in the rivers, others will run up and then fall back to the big water depending on the water flow and temperature.
Where will this be happening? In rivers like the Pere Marquette, Muskegon and Manistee. are excellent bets in the Lower Peninsula. In the Upper Penninsula, it’s a good bet to try your luck on the Presque Isle, Two Hearted and Whitefish Rivers.
That bait to use is, of course, spawn!
More importantly, it is fresh spawn, and coming from the same species that you are fishing for. Most say that steelhead will eat any fish spawn, although when given a choice, steelhead trout will choose to eat their own.
For steelhead, the size of the piece of spawn does matter. It should be no bigger than your thumb nail. Smaller bags, say in the five to seven egg size range, is even better.
The most tested & best method to fish with spawn is by experimenting with different size split shots and a river float. You’ll do much better when the spawn is able to float downriver at the same speed as the current. It will take some practice, but the real trick is to have the split shot ticking along the bottom at the river’s speed, where the big females hang out. You’ll know that your depth is correct when you hit bottom and lose a hook or two every so often.
Choose an eight to ten foot rod with a spinning reel with a dependable drag, filled with about 150 yards of 10-14 pound abrasion resistant mono line. A noodle rod is used by experienced steelhead fisherman with the sensitivity in the tip section and the butt section that has some beef so a hard charging fish can be turned.
On the terminal end, attach a good quality ball bearing swivel to the main line. Use a three foot length of leader material and tie it to the other side of the swivel. Generally speaking it is a good idea to use a slightly lighter test line for this leader. In most applications an 8-pound test will work fine. In extremely clear water, where the fish are pressured, you may have to go smaller. Finally, for the hook, choose a strong egg style Nr. 6, or 8 size hook. These have a short shank and a wide gap allowing you to find flesh and power through cartilage when you strike home. Hook the spawn through the skein, allowing the spawn to wave freely and more naturally in the current.
Fish, like all muscled beings, have muscles on each side of their bodies. In order to tire a fish out quickly and land it, you’ll need to tire the whole fish. Do this by applying pressure from the right and left as well as from above. If the fish is a leaper apply downward pressure by driving your rod tip into the water. The key is a smooth change in pressure. Changing with sharp movements often causes the hook to create a round hole that could allow the hook to fall out….. There goes dinner!!
If you have a desire to match wits with big fish, on their terms, autumn is the perfect time.