Racine Steelhead Expected to Make Big Push

We’ve needed rain bad to revive our steelhead run here in Southeast Wisconsin and after late last week I think we got more than we needed, which means we should have a lot of fresh fishing coming in this week. Once our systems clear from the mud steelhead fishing will be good throughout April. The entire Racine area (where I fish) has been muddy and unfishable for a few days. It will clear by midweek.


While we did catch plenty of fish, March was fairly slow. Only a few steelhead came up because there was no water. The water had been crystal clear throughout the month and dropped several feet, which isn’t normal for us. Keep in mind our upper river in Racine is about three or four feet deep, so when it drops it becomes extremely clear and the fish get spooked. Anytime this happens they retreat to the lower river to wait for rain (which is much deeper than our upper river). Where we’re normally fishing for steelhead is waist deep. However, I was able to walk across and not get my knees wet.


Obviously, that’s changed. I think we had six inches of rain in one day last week when the big storms moved through. Because of this, I’ll start fishing the upper river since it clears up faster. When focusing on steelhead I’m looking for deeper holes. Our steelhead always stacks up in those deeper holes because we don’t have many of them.


The higher water brings in lots of fresh fish out of Lake Michigan and Racine Harbor. On the other hand, sometimes these fish are only in the river for a week. Fortunately, we’ll see groups of steelhead come in to spawn and then head back to the lake. As long as the water has a foot of visibility and is moving we can fish all day and catch fish. You have to move around a bit and work the holes but the steelhead will bite all day.


In the spring our fish are keying in on eggs. I’m curing my eggs in Natural BorX O Fire and drifting them in spawn sacks tied in Atlas pink and chartreuse netting. I’m using 10-pound fluorocarbon Bloodrun line for a leader and 10-pound Power Pro for my main line.


If I don’t get them on the spawn sacks I’ll drift shrimp, which is getting more popular on our rivers. I’ll either drift cooked shrimp naturally or brine shrimp. When the water is cloudy I’ll brine them in Orange and Pink BorX O Fire to give them a little color. The BorX O Fire adds color and toughens them up because when our water is cloudy they can smell the shrimp, but not see it. That color makes it stand out.

April is an exciting month for us. Because of low water we really haven’t had a big spring steelhead run, but that’s likely to change in a few days. Keep in mind, usually our big steelhead come in last. I’m expecting to see some nice fish the next few weeks. On thing to remember is if the river isn’t fishing well, I’ll drop down into Racine Harbor and the Racine Lakefront and fish a slip bobber with spawn or cast crankbaits and spoons towards Coho and browns. The Berkley Flicker Shad, Brad’s Thinfin and KO Wobblers in green and blue are my go-to baits.


Editor’s Note: Kyle Deavers operates Big Boy Fishing in Racine, Wisconsin. To learn more about him please visit him on Facebook at Big Boy Fishing.