Late Fall is Prime Time for Steelhead Fishing


While spring runs of steelhead get a lot of the glory, there is a strong run of fish in the fall after the salmon spawn. These fish set up for their own spawning season and gorge themselves on salmon eggs and fry all winter long, November can be a weird month for Michigan anglers, but a great time for steelhead fishing. It can be plenty cold, and in some cases cold enough to freeze over the inland lakes. But that early ice won’t be anywhere close enough to walk on. The salmon runs are over, and the weather can be downright horrible, making it dangerous to go out on the bigger lakes. Then there is deer season. Some anglers put their rods away come November, but that’s a huge mistake. Hurry up and fill that tag so you can get to the river and enjoy some of the best steelhead fishing you’ll find anywhere.

November has amazing steelhead fishing, as the first strong runs of winter fish come into the river to fatten up on salmon eggs. There are also stupendous opportunities to catch absolute monster brown trout too, mostly for the same reason. Rivers and open waters that are safe to fish also hold some hungry walleyes. It’s not uncommon to run into some great perch fishing, too. The month known for deer hunting, Thanksgiving dinner, and combat shopping is also a great time to fish. It can be hard to make the time, but the steelhead fishing makes it worthwhile.

Why do Some People Seem Addicted to Steelhead?

As a kid in high school, I had it pretty good when it came to fishing. I lived in Manistee County and was within walking distance of Tippy Dam. I spent so many days down along the river banks chasing everything from walleyes and panfish to steelhead and salmon. During November, I would occasionally skip school to chase steelies during the couple of weeks leading up to deer season. It grew to be kind of an addiction.

A few years later when I was in college in Michigan’s glorious Upper Peninsula, I lived right on the St. Mary’s River. Those fall runs of fish kept my attention often and skipping classes to feed my fishing problem wasn’t exactly uncommon. Can you really call it a problem? My advisor used that term when he asked why I had missed so many of his classes. Hey, it’s not my fault that even the chance of having a steelhead or walleye on the end of my line was way more exciting than sitting through yet another lecture. I learned quickly in college to schedule my classes around hunting and fishing season. By my senior year, I only had to skip a math class, and why not bail on math? It was a statistics class and the odds of me coming to class directly hinged on whether there were fish running.

Jump ahead to my post-graduation, professional life. Steelhead fishing is a passion of mine, and now that I’ve got friends who fish the Manistee River from a heated boat during the fall months, it’s hard to always work as scheduled when an offer to go arises.

Where are the Best Places to Go Steelhead Fishing?

Well go fishing, of course! Late November and December are great months to catch steelhead on the Manistee, Muskegon, and Pere Marquette rivers. We do a lot of plug-style fishing using Fenwick Steelhead Casting rods. If you’re steelhead fishing from shore or in waders, and this time of year, I’d suggest tough wader, like Lacrosse Footwear waterfowl ones with brush protection, you can use spawn or flies. I see a lot of guys bottom bouncing  little black insect imitators that do well.

Fish the Pere Marquette at night for huge brown trout. Head to the urban river systems for some spectacular walleye and perch fishing this time of year, too. Besides being great fishing, if you go during deer season, there is bound to be less traffic from other anglers. It can also be a great escape for those who tag out on a Michigan deer on opening weekend.

Of course, there are other places to go for late-fall steelhead fishing besides Michigan. Anywhere along the great lakes where you have a healthy river, should hold a winter steelhead run. I know Wisconsin anglers enjoy it, as do those fanatical folks in New York. And of course, our Canadian friends to the north have their own fun with the chrome fish. Check your local areas and tackle shops for information. I can write about my experiences on my favorite spots, but local anglers and tackle shops are the best way to get the right intel. Steelhead fishing is fun and a great way to relax and enjoy the splendid late-fall weather. You’ll find that you will become addicted to steelhead fishing, but that’s ok. You have lots of company.

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