Northern Indiana Steelhead Swimming into Spring Stride

By: Todd Hatfield

We’ve had unstable weather in Northern Indiana for the past month. We’ve had record highs, extreme runoff and then dipped back below freezing. What this has done is confused the steelhead. They started spawning a few weeks ago, then stopped and now they are starting again.

What this means is that there’s fresh fish and drop backs in the system now. The last few weeks of February it was 70 degrees here and the fish went in spawn mode. We were already catching drop backs. Then it got cold again. And, it stopped the spawners. Now it’s getting warm again and many of the fish are trying to spawn. This is telling me that we have pre-spawn, spawning and drop backs in Trail Creek and the others nearby.


The next few weeks should be consistent for steelhead as long as we don’t get a lot rain. Fortunately, I don’t see significant rain in the forecast, definitely nothing like we saw the first weekend in March when the river last blew out. Flows should be stable for the remainder of the week. Our normal flow on Trail Creek is 65 to 75 cfs. It’s running in the 90s now, which is fine. As long as it doesn’t go higher than 110 cfs fishing should be productive.


There’s steelhead throughout the entire system right now. More than a dozen miles of fishable water is holding steelhead. So far, the run has been slightly below average. However, the cold weather we recently got has prolonged the season. I’m expecting the run to now last at least through March. The average fish is running eight to nine pounds, but we’ve caught them up to 18 pounds this year. We’ve seen quiet a few 15 pounders this season, too.


More interesting is what the steelhead are biting right now. Usually this time of year shrimp doesn’t produce as well as during the winter. However, this week most of our bites have on BorX O Fire cured shrimp and shrimp soaked in Liquid Krill. I’m using pieces the size of quarter or nickel. When fishing shrimp I’ll pierce them on size eight Raven hook.


When heading to the creek I always bring shrimp and cured egg sacks. This time of year I’m using Natural Borx O Fire cured steelhead eggs in chartreuse and pink netting. Peach is going to start working well once the temperatures warm up. I use 12-pound Raven as a mainline with an eight-pound Drennan leader. You can get away with lighter line, but I prefer to use heavier line due to all the timber in our system.


Editor’s Note: Todd Hatfield opersates Trail Creek Guide Service. For more information on his guide walk-in trips please visit