Steelhead ice fishing

From the darkened tent, I gazed into the crystal-clear underwater world. The underside was sandy, with a couple of wisps of weeds and occasional rock. My silver-and-green jigging spoon danced enticingly 15 toes beneath. But, it had been a quiet morning, with solely a some herring seen and one whitefish landed.

Some members of the family and I had been on the ice early concentrating on steelhead, however they had been proving scarce. Then, unexpectedly, a silver rocket roared in and took a swipe at my flashing chunk of steel. I didn’t really feel a strike however for the reason that fish was seen, I instinctively set. That pulled the lure away and the steelhead was gone simply as quick because it appeared.

“Noooo,” I groaned, jigging much more intensely. Had I blown my solely alternative?

Simply as I used to be about to surrender hope, the trout got here again, and this time it engulfed the spoon, gills flaring. The hook discovered flesh and my jigging rod bent in the direction of the opening as line peeled off.

“Steelhead on,” I yelled, so my fellow anglers within the two different ice tents may hear me. Quickly, Gord Senior was peeking into the door of the tent. “What’s occurring in right here, son?” he stated with a smile.

The trout was placing up fairly a battle, however its silver sides had been now flashing just below the opening. When the top was in, I lifted the rod sideways and the 22-inch chrome trout swam up and slid out. The hen steelhead lay nonetheless and glistened on the ground of the tent. It had nearly not one of the pink/pink blush it could sport in the course of the spawning run, which was lower than a month away.

“What a stupendous creature,” Senior stated with admiration. After a fast pic, the hook was twisted free, and the steelhead swam off strongly.

“See you in a few weeks,” I stated.

Steelhead are one of many extra prized — and difficult — fish to catch via the ice. They’re nomadic and have a tendency to remain increased within the water column than most different trout. My steelhead fishing has been achieved on Lake Superior, but the methods and methods outlined right here might help any angler wrangle steelhead (and inland rainbow trout) via the ice.

Let’s have a look at the places, methods and terminal gear that may make it easier to ice some metal.

The place to fish


On ice within the Nice Lakes, areas inside putting distance of a spawning river or two are by no means a nasty selection. That doesn’t imply, they’ll all the time be holding on the mouth of the river. Steelhead are a cruising fish and use breaks within the shoreline as looking areas. Factors, piers, breakwalls, rock piles, and even sandbars will probably be potential steelhead magnets.

River flats

There are additionally occasions that steelhead roam enormous flats, in search of suckers, smelt, sculpin, and no matter else they’ll get down the hatch. These areas don’t look too spectacular on a map however are price a strive. Some massive, shallow estuaries of main rivers fill this invoice. The chew is random, however steelhead are apex predators and have few worries about predators. Cruising structureless areas permits them to eat no matter preyfish or bugs are round. Not many minnows can outrun a steelhead. Pockets of weeds on these flats will maintain extra bugs and baitfish, so additionally they probably entice extra steelhead.

Greatest for late season

In direction of the tip of winter, because the spawning run approaches, steelhead will develop into extra considerable nearer to the spawning streams. That is additionally when chances are you’ll discover a couple of fish swimming collectively. Staging steelhead will typically be present in water 10 toes or much less then. This creates the proper state of affairs for sight fishing (see beneath).



Spoons are the only presentation and work amazingly properly in several eventualities. The heavier jigging spoons, such because the 1⁄2 ounce Swedish Pimple, Northland Buckshot, Crippled Herring, and Hopkins Smoothie are higher in deeper water from 15 to 25 toes or so. They get down quick and have thump. In shallower water, lighter spoons together with the 1⁄4 ounce Williams jigging spoon, EGB, Little Cleo, Northland Macho Minnow, Mooselook, and Al’s Goldfish Ice Jigs are killers. Lighter spoons fall extra slowly and account for lots of fish.

Gliding jigs

The Jigging Rapalas and Northland Airplane Jigs have actions that may elicit strikes when spoons can’t. The airplane jig falls slowly and covers extra space whereas doing so. I exploit it with a full minnow and stinger. The Jigging Rapala advantages from the addition of a minnow head on the centre treble. An airplane jig can be fished in tandem with a tube.

Tubes (for finesse or follow-ups)

Tubes work very properly on steelhead and are a way more delicate presentation. A tube’s octopus-like legs and softness will be nice when steelhead are pressured or the chew is off. I typically add a stinger to the principle hook to get short-striking fish. 4-inch tubes which might be white, pearl, pink/white or smoke all have confirmed themselves. A tube can be follow-up lure if a steelhead has are available in for a spoon and rejected it. Tubes shine in water of 10 toes or much less.

Swimbaits and hair jigs

Plastic swimbaits of 4 or 5 inches on a quarter-ounce head are very efficient. Bucktail and marabou jigs are one other good in shallow water, and are a well-liked selection when steelhead are beginning to stage. Different good selections are hair or marabou jigs with pink, orange or chartreuse colors.

Stay baits

The place guidelines permit an angler to fish two strains, I like to recommend setting a second line with bait. Many select to make use of roe luggage and that works, however I’ve had fairly a little bit of success hanging massive minnows or suckers. It may additionally account for the biggest fish.

Final winter, my father connected a sucker on a jig and hung it off a set line. The set line was merely an ice jigging rod that sits on a stability. When the fish hits, the rod tilts down. Senior’s minnow was making that rod tip bounce lots, as a consequence of its measurement and liveliness. At one level, the minnow went bonkers after which utterly stopped. We seemed on the rod and it was slowly tilting down. Fish!

Gord senior slipped over, tightened up the drag and set the hook. The rod shortly revealed that this was a giant fish. Nevertheless, the battle was surprisingly quick. That steelhead had hit in shallow water and my father had it out of gap earlier than it knew what occurred. It was a giant, hook-jawed male, and was sporting the pink slash that offers rainbow trout their identify. It had crushed a five-inch sucker minnow prefer it was a Tic Tac.

Initially revealed within the Jan.-Feb. 2023 concern of Ontario OUT of DOORS

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