North Shore Lake Superior Steelhead Showing

Winter has finally loosened its grip on Northwestern Ontario and almost immediately our steelhead streams opened up bringing fresh steelhead in and marking the beginning of our spring steelhead season on Lake Superior’s north shore.

The last few weeks have brought positive signs to several urban streams within Thunder Bay city limits. This area is often the first to see bursts of steelhead. Thunder Bay is situated on the north shore of Lake Superior where we’re fortunate to have several steelhead hosting tributaries. The Neebing River is usually the first to see steelhead. I fished it few times early on and despite high and dirty water, I managed to catch steelhead.


Superior’s north shore has a later run than most places in North America. When the run is tapering off in other parts of the province and beyond, action is starting in Northwest Ontario. A reflection of long, cold winters, our run takes place significantly later than other areas. Depending on the year it can start as soon as early April. Meanwhile, most years it’s not until late April or early May that we start to see steelhead. Some years it’s even later.


During spring when the water is high and dirty I like to use oversized roe bags cured in bright colours. For these conditions I’ve tied a pile of sacs using purple scarf and eggs cured in Orange BorX O Fire. This adds great visibility to my bait in the stained water and also gives it scent. Another reason why I cure these eggs is because they last longer, and remain fresh while keeping their natural properties.


To learn how to cure these eggs, check out my egg curing video:

Or for a step by step in photos here’s a link to what my buddy Josh Choronzey does:

Up until recently we’ve been ice fishing. It’s been great to be able to make a few casts into our urban rivers where I’ve been catching small males between 19-24 inches. Keep in mind, our steelhead don’t often reach the sizes they do in other Great Lakes. These sizes may seem small for some areas, but it’s normal here.


Our urban Thunder Bay area fisheries are heading into prime season. The first few days anglers managed to catch up to a dozen fish in a morning. Keep in mind several of our urban streams have a no harvest under 27 inch rule, which has created a impressive fishery and opportunities for all anglers in the heart of the city.  (A lot of the fishing I do in these rivers is solo. I also sample the fish for a cooperative angler study, which leaves limited photo opportunities, hence some simple shots of a fish in a net.)


We have several another urban streams flowing through town, with some nice places to fish. Some run through college and university campuses, urban centres and golf courses. Some sections are very technical and others are simple to fish, but most of them are easily accessible, simple to fish waters you can target with minimal gear and even without waders. This city brings great steelhead fishing close to home in the spring and it’s about to get real good.


I’m set to return home this week from a 2,500 km road trip for a turkey hunt. It’s going to be perfect timing, because steelhead season is happening on Superior’s north shore and while a few of the local urban streams may be slowing down, the rest of our tributaries are just heating up.

Editor’s Note: Tom Armstrong is a outdoor writer based in Northwest Ontario. For more info on his work please visit