Springtime Steelhead Fishing

In the not so distant future fishermen across the Great Lakes will begin to prepare for the spring run of steelhead that will occur in a large majority of the tributaries of the Great Lakes. Often the steelhead that run in the spring are larger and more mature than the steelhead that run in the fall in the tributaries. Fishing for steelhead in the spring will begin as soon as the ice clears from the streams and often will steelhead will continue to run until May.

The biggest runs of steelhead in the spring especially in the Lake Erie streams will be in early March and will stop the first half of April. However in the larger streams such as the Cattaraugus in New York steelhead will run into the end of May. Often in the Catt the steelhead that are running in May are not spawning, but rather they are feeding on Lake Erie shiners that run upstream in May. Here are some areas of a stream or river that will hold steelhead and produce in the spring.

Spring Steelhead Holds and Lies

  • Tailouts- The tailout of a hole is probably the best place to find steelhead in the spring, however often they will be spooked out of the shallow water by fishermen and move to the deeper water. A good way to target a tailout is to swing wooly buggers and other streamers in the tailout holds. Tailouts with wood or other structure will be the most productive. Target tailouts early in the morning and when fishing pressure isn't as great.

  • The Gut - The gut of the hole which is the deepest part of the hole will be productive during the day when fishing pressure and the sun push fish to the cover of deeper water. Fish the gut with egg patterns and slow rolling streamers bouncing along the bottom.

  • The Head - The head of a whole is generally the fastest water at the top end of a hole. Steelhead will hold in these areas only temporally, but these fish are generally fresh silver steelhead that are moving upstream to feed or spawn. Steelhead will hold in the current breaks around the shoreline and around rocks. Don't rush to the bank but rather stand back and cast to the shoreline areas due to this is generally where steelhead will hold.

In conclusion, this is the time to start preparing for your steelhead trip by tying flies, preparing your gear, and planning your spring steelhead trips. Remember the water is often very cold in the early months of spring so stay warm and be safe