Skamania Steelhead Trout,
Their overwhelming size and unmatched fighting power draw Great Lakes Fisherman from near and far to sample the incredible action!
What’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Is it a “SUPER FISH”? No, it’s a Skamania Steelhead Trout, at least if you believe the press it has gotten over the years. Much of what has been published about this “Super Fish”, has been penned by writers who pulled into town, fished a day or two, and pronounced themselves experts…..In no way do I consider myself an expert either, but over the years I’ve learned a few lessons, a few tricks, and have come to some conclusions of what makes these fish tick and what it takes to put them in the boat.
For those of you that don’t know, a skamania steelhead is actually a strain of Rainbow Trout, also known as steelhead Trout. THEY ARE NOT A HYBIRD!
The Great Lakes has two strains of Steelhead – the Michigan winter one’s and the skamania.
Skamania are native to the skamania River in Washington State.
The skamania run the rivers in July, August and September. They stay in the rivers until spawning takes place in February. The Michigan winter strain runs the rivers during the winter months and spawn in March or April.
During normal years, skamania will show up at Michigan City and Portage in early July and stage in front of the creek mouths for a couple of weeks before heading upstream. If the rains wait until the beginning of August, the trolling action will remain hot. If the rains come too early, the skamania may shoot up the stream and the boat trollers (and pier fishermen) may not even see a fish!
Call a local bait shop in Michigan City for reports to find out if they are running, or get out there and give it a shot!
I can tell you this! I don’t know of any freshwater fish that fights harder! They make incredible jumps, take more runs and indeed often fight so hard that by netting time they have exhausted themselves!
I’ve used spoons, trolling flies and just about every type lure available on the market today. Most of the Skamania I have caught were taken on a floating J-9 Rapala in the color shown below.
The largest skamania i’ve caught to date is a 23 pound, 39 inch beast back in July of 2007. I nailed it on a j-9 Gold Fl. Red Floating Rapala …..Just recently on June 27th of 2012, I brought home a 38″ incher that weighed just over twenty pounds. Again, caught on the same type lure pictured. The colors and lively action of the Jointed Rapala is more than a serious skamania can resist….. June and July are the top months to long line for this super Fish! Here is what I recommend:
Never use a leader of any kind. All trout are leader, snap and swivel shy(a small split ring is ok)A Rapala knot is recommended (pictured above)
Fast zig-zag trolling is best (always experiment w/speed)check lures along side of boat to make sure they are running straight.
Use no more than 10 lb low stretch mono line
Use 10-12 ft. light or ultra light rods
Use a gold fl. red floating J-9 Rapala shown above for best results…..A gold fl. red J-11 is also good (see Picture above)
Flat Longlining (when traffic allows) is usually best
Planer boards (when traffic allows)with less line out, also works well
When traffic allows, run out about 150- 200 yards of line…..Use level wind trolling reels loaded with at least four-hundred yards of 6-8 lb low stretch mono line…..Big skamania can take out hundreds of line on connection in a heartbeat. The long ultra lite rods are necessary to absorb the shock of a jumping skamania. When you hook up with one, you better be prepared for fast-paced action. They have a way of making a cool-headed fisherman act like a kid in a candy store! Here is a word to the wise: Never set the hook or try to horse in a good sized skamania, as they tend to barely hook themselves…..try not to let slack in the line, and lower your rod when they leap out of the water!
Certainly, you might even catch a big skamania with a broom stick with guides, loaded with fifty pound black braided line! I’m only saying what I know works! Anyway, what do you have to lose, besides a 30 lb skamania?
WASHINGTON PARK MARINA LAKE FRONT FACILITIES/BOAT LAUNCH & BEACH
Washington Park is located on the Northern end of Michigan City, directly on the shore of Lake Michigan. The public boat launch is located at the north side of the marina, close to the beach. Proximity allows fast access to Lake Michigan waters. The ramp here can hold 3 vehicles, and boats are allowed up to 38′ in length. A parking fee, and a launch fee apply, usually from early Spring thru late Fall. Season passes are available. Please park in designated areas for vehicles with trailers. Restroom facilities.
PARK HOURS: 6am to 10pm.
MC Port Authority: 219-872-1712
Make sure your vessel is properly registered and in compliance with Lake Michigan boating regulations.
This is my favorite place to fish for Skamania Trout on Lake Michigan….
At Michigan City, Trail Creek empties into Lake Michigan right at Washington Park. When the skamania first begin appearing at the end of June or early July, trollers often fish for them right in front of the pier head at the mouth of the creek. If the fishing action is slow there, they spread out along the beach to the east and west and pick up cruising skamania in the shallows.
The best trolling action can take place a little farther offshore of the pier head. Boaters working off the mouth can expect good action, right near the surface . Experimentation goes a long way when it comes to finding actively feeding Skamanians…..Most of my fish have been caught in about forty feet of water just in front of the beach. Wind direction is all important here, with most of my luck coming when there are light North or Northeast winds.
Pier-fishing at Washington Park for shoreline fisherman is always popular. Trail Creek flows past the pier on the west side, and many fishermen fish right there in the muddy current. Bobbers of all sizes are used to suspend the baits and keep them in the strike zone.
Although many pier-anglers cast the “old reliable” fluorescent orange spinners and spoons, live-bait fishing is also quite productive. Spawn sacs, night crawlers and small minnows also catch good numbers of skamania each summer season.