Steelhead are a favorite fish for many anglers because of their challenging acrobatic fights. They are known to make large leaps from the water when being reeled in, which makes for an exciting catch. Steelhead are found in rivers, streams and some large lakes such as Lake Michigan and Superior. The most popular time to catch them is when they make summer and winter spawning runs, as there can be hundreds occupying one area.
Drifting for steelhead is a more advanced technique that requires a sensitive rod to feel when the bait is moving along the bottom or when you’re getting bites. Anglers will often use a 10- or 12-foot rod that has a very sensitive tip that lets them feel the bait moving in the water. Spawn is the recommended bait to use when drift fishing and can either be artificial or natural if available. The spawn is placed in a fine mesh fabric and tied to make a little ball and then placed on an in-line spinner or treble hook. Anglers usually remove the spawn from the females they catch to use to catch more steelhead. Check with local baits shops as they will usually carry either fresh or frozen fish spawn sacks.
Casting from the shore of a river or stream is a popular technique for catching steelhead. Common lures for casting are spoons, plugs, crankbaits and spinners.
Lures are cast horizontally or diagonally upstream and retrieved at a medium to fast pace. Many anglers will remove the front hooks from plugs and crankbaits so they don’t snag anything when dragged across the bottom. This can be a successful technique depending on the conditions, and it takes relatively little skill to learn. Downstream from dams are a good location to cast as the water is often deeper and the steelhead are often found concentrated there.
Fly-fishing for steelhead is an exciting and demanding technique. Steelhead are strong and acrobatic swimmers, which makes it a real challenge to land a large steelhead on a fly rod. Large flies such as streamers are cast upstream usually over gravel stretches and left to drift downstream. Anglers will usually wade into the river or stream and walk upstream casting into these gravel pockets being careful not to spook the fish. Fly-fishing is a much more demanding technique because you need clearance to cast the fly, so it usually requires that you be in the river or on a boat.