Weekly Fishing Tip: Using Spawn to Catch Steelhead
Steelhead, a migratory strain of rainbow trout, are considered one of Michigan’s premier game fish and are exciting to catch on conventional fishing tackle. Reaching weights of 15 pounds or more, these fish ascend Great Lakes’ tributaries in the fall each year beginning in late September and continuing through December.
A popular method of fishing for steelhead involves using spawn bags for bait, as spawn (loose eggs from other fish species) is a natural food item for them. Spawn bags placed on a hook can be casted and drifted through runs and holes in rivers or below barriers or dams where migratory steelhead are congregated.
Knowing how to “read” a river is key to finding the spots where steelhead are. Anglers fishing from a boat also can anchor in the river and cast their line out behind the boat, letting the spawn bag sit in the current as steelhead move upstream.
Anglers can either tie their own spawn bags by placing loose salmon eggs into brightly colored netting material (sold in most bait stores) and cinching them closed with thread, or they can purchase spawn bags that are already tied and preserved in liquid.
For more information on steelhead in Michigan, visit their page on the Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them website.
The effects of hurricane Sandy shut fishing down around the state. Action this week was found in the rivers or smaller inland lakes. Waters around the state are turbid and murky so it will take a few days to clear up. Catch rates should resume once the waters settle. Anglers are reminded that catch rates increase during the month of November because perch, pike, whitefish, walleye, bass and steelhead go on a feeding frenzy before winter comes.
SOUTHEAST LOWER PENINSULA
Shore and boat anglers fishing the inland lakes were catching bluegill and crappie.
- Lake Erie: Strong wind and high waves have kept anglers off the lake.
- Huron River: Is producing steelhead downstream of Flat Rock towards Labo Park. Crappie were caught near the Belleville Dam.
- Detroit River: Perch are still being caught near Sugar Island. Smallmouth bass were caught in the Trenton Channel, Livingston Channel and the cross-dike near Sugar Island. Walleye were caught by those trolling crawlers and minnow type baits.
- Lake St. Clair: Those fishing inside the Metro Park reported limit catches of bluegill from Black Creek. Yellow perch were caught off the 400 Club.
- Lexington: Those casting spoons, rapalas or spawn caught the occasional brown trout, steelhead or Chinook salmon. A few perch were caught on minnows.
- Harbor Beach: When the wind and wave action permitted, walleye were caught off the north wall by those casting at night.
- Saginaw River: Had perch anglers in the lower river.
- Kawkawlin River: Had anglers fishing but no reports came in.
SOUTHWEST LOWER PENINSULA
- St. Joseph River: Has a good number of steelhead. When they can get out, boat anglers caught fish when casting small spoons or plugs. Shore anglers were drifting spawn bags. Panfish were caught near the Mottville Dam.
- Kalamazoo River: Is producing steelhead for those drifting spawn bags.
- Duck Lake: In Calhoun County was producing bluegill, bass and crappie.
- Prairie Lake: In Calhoun County was good for bass and panfish.
- Grand Haven: No anglers were out.
- Grand River at Grand Rapids: Is producing steelhead and the occasional brown trout. Fish have been caught from the mouth to the Sixth Street Dam. Try spawn, small spoons and spinners or a jig with a wax worm. A few walleye were caught.
- Grand River at Lansing: Anglers may still find a few leftover coho. A few nice pike were caught on sucker minnows. Steelhead are not here yet but a good number of fish were spotted in Prairie Creek near Ionia. A couple walleye were caught near the Moore’s Park Dam. Catfish and suckers were caught on skein near Portland and Eaton Rapids.
- Looking Glass River: Continues to produce northern pike for those using sucker minnows.
- Muskegon River: Is producing steelhead along with the occasional brown trout for those floating spawn.
- Whitehall: When conditions allow, pier anglers are targeting steelhead. They are floating spawn or casting small spoons.
NORTHEAST LOWER PENINSULA
Inland lakes are producing catches of perch and walleye.
- Cheboygan River: Still has a few Chinook salmon up at the dam. Look for the number of steelhead to increase by the weekend. Try spawn, yarn or small spinners in orange, pink or chartreuse.
- Weber Lake: In Cheboygan County is a good bet for inland trout fishing for brook trout and brown trout.
- Black Lake: Should be good for walleye as this is the time of year the fish tend to get aggressive as they prepare for winter.
- Rogers City: No anglers have been out on the lake. Brown trout are showing up in and around the marina and those fishing off the wall before the storm caught fish on a regular basis. They were casting cleos, bombers and spoons in the early morning or late evening.
- McCormick Lake: In Montmorency County is a good inland lake for trout fishing. If offers brown trout, brook trout and rainbow trout.
- Heart Lake: In Otsego County is a good lake for inland trout fishing.
- Long Lake: Should be good for walleye.
- Hubbard Lake: Should also be good for walleye. Try the south end of the lake when trolling or drifting.
- Thunder Bay River: Has salmon and steelhead being caught near the 9th Street Dam. Try floating spawn or casting rapalas and small spoons.
- Harrisville: Salmon are still in the harbor, but they are few and far between. Walleye are just outside the harbor wall. Early morning and late evening were the best time to fish with body baits and crawler harnesses.
- Au Sable River: Salmon are slowing down but a fair to good number of steelhead are in the river and on the beds. Fish can be found from the mouth all the way up to the dam. Most are using spawn of small spoons. A few walleye are making their way into the river. The fish caught appear to be bigger than those caught in the spring and summer. Anglers are floating crawlers under a slip bobber or casting body baits.
- Tawas River: A few salmon were caught by those drifting spawn. Look for more steelhead to move up in the next week.
- Au Gres River: Had reports of anglers catching Atlantic salmon, brown trout, steelhead and the occasional dark king salmon. Anglers are surfcasting near the Singing Bridge or fishing in the lower end of Whitney Drain. Some nice Atlantic salmon have been caught on assorted spoons or plugs. The fish were aggressive.
NORTHWEST LOWER PENINSULA
- Petoskey: When the weather allows, those surfcasting have caught coho, pink salmon and the occasional Chinook. Most were using spawn or small spoons.
- Bear River: Coho and pink salmon were caught on spawn, skein or yarn. More steelhead were moving up into the river.
- Elk River: Is producing coho and steelhead. Try floating spawn and skein or casting small spoons and spinners.
- Bear Lake: In Kalkaska County produces brown trout and rainbow trout. Try fly fishing in the southeast corner or along the west shore.
- Starvation Lake: Located in northern Kalkaska County is another good spot for inland trout fishing. The lake is up to 47 feet deep and sustains a population of brown trout and rainbow trout. The lake offers year-round fishing with a minimum size limit of 8 inches for rainbow and brown trout.
- Boardman River: Is producing coho and steelhead. Fresh steelhead should be moving up into the river as they search for salmon eggs. Anglers will want to use skein, spawn bags or a single egg on a hook.
- Betsie River: Is producing steelhead.
- Manistee: Pier and surf anglers are catching steelhead when the winds allow. They are using spawn or casting orange spoons. Anglers are reminded that the piers can be very dangerous this time of year.
- Manistee River: The steelhead action is underway. Water levels were low and clear so rain should help push more fish up into the river. Some are fly fishing with eggs while others may try casting small spoons or spinners. Good colors to try would be orange, pink, chartreuse, blue and silver along with orange and silver.
- Ludington: Is producing steelhead for shore and pier anglers. Most were caught on spawn however a few were also taken on orange spoons.
- Pere Marquette River: Water levels were low and clear. The remaining salmon are dark. Fresh steelhead continue to enter the river. Some nice steelhead and brown trout have been caught.
- Pentwater: Pier anglers were floating spawn but no steelhead were caught. Those surfcasting had better luck with spawn or small orange spoons.
- Lake Gogebic: Was producing some limit catches of walleye.
- Keweenaw Bay: When they can get out, boat anglers managed to catch a couple lake trout, Chinook and coho.
- Fall’s River: Is producing coho and steelhead for those casting spoons and spinners or drifting crawlers and spawn bags. Try orange, pink or chartreuse.
- Huron River: In Baraga County is producing coho.
- Menominee River: The few out fishing were targeting trout and salmon near the Hattie Street Dam. They are drifting yarn and spawn or casting small spoons, spinners or twister tails.
- Little Bay De Noc: Walleye anglers did well all night long when trolling stick baits in eight to 20 feet of water off the reefs. Fair catches were reported off the lighthouse in Escanaba in 25 to 35 feet and off the north end of Butler Island when still-fishing crawlers or minnows in 10 to 20 feet. Day anglers caught fish near the Second and Third Reefs as well as the Black Bottom.
- Escanaba River: A few salmon were seen but none were caught.
- Big Bay De Noc: A few walleye were caught on crawler harnesses in 20 to 30 feet of water near Ansell’s Point. Perch anglers in Garden Bay reported good catches of small fish over by the “Fish House”, out to the middle of the bay and over to Ansell’s Point. Try eight to 12 feet of water with crawlers. Good smallmouth action between Garden Bluff and Snail Shell Harbor for those drifting crawlers or minnows 35 to 50 feet down in the deeper water.
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