By Bojan (Bojangles) Zivkovic | 02/28/2014
Following and understanding steelhead migration patterns year-round in the Great Lakes are crucial to having productive days on the waters you fish. When float fishing with Fire Cure, BorX O Fire, or Fire Brined roe, knowing where these fish are situated in the river systems and how they feed during certain conditions throughout the year will make you a better steelhead angler. Steelhead start to show in September in our rivers here in Ontario, Canada, and they can be caught right through until June in some places. However, these fish will not be situated in the same spots throughout the year.
Water temperatures play the most important role next to water clarity when it comes to locating and catching good numbers of steelhead. In September, when the river water temperature is still fairly warm, steelhead sit and feed in faster currents, which are more oxygenated. This is my favourite time of the year to catch fresh-run steelhead because this is when they fight the hardest and put on quite a show full of aerials and screaming runs. I love breaking my arms and working fast chutes and runs until it the water gets too cold to do that. I enjoy fishing the through the winter months because there are less crowds on the water’s edge and a completely change in scenery, not to mention you have to slightly change your approach when fishing winter Steelhead. This is when slow, deep pools and tail-outs are my main focus on where I’m going to hook these fish!
Steelhead are not aggressive in the winter months for the most part, since the cold water really slows them down. They are quite lethargic and they won’t use a lot of energy in the cold water to hit your bait. These fish will stack up in the deepest/slowest parts of our tributaries at this time of the year and they can be quite simple to catch once you have found where they are all resting.
I will fish heads of pools, drifting my float into deep slow seams all the way until the pool shallows out at the tail-out. You won’t find many steelhead sitting in fast, oxygenated currents during these slow days unless there happens to be several days of fairly mild weather in the forecast. In between the slow water at the head of the pool, to the tail-out, you’ll want to slow down your presentation and work your bait within the first two feet off bottom. Steelhead will not be found suspended more than three feet off bottom in the water column for the most part throughout the winter months.
I am very picky with bait colour when it comes to fishing in cold water for wintering steelhead. My own general rule of thumb for selecting bait colour is; the dirtier the water, the brighter the colour. For the winter days, even in the clearest conditions, I have noticed that the brightest colours have worked much better over natural colours for me. I will tie most, if not all of my Fire Cured roe bags in either pink or chartreuse spawn mesh for my winter outings. Bright colours catch a steelhead’s attention and triggers them to move a little more to bite your offering, since it is one that stands out much more than a natural offering. Although I love using orange and natural coloured Fire Cure, BorX O Fire in pink is another fish-catching cure I like to sprinkle over freshly harvest roe.
Unfortunately, this winter has been a really cold one up here in Ontario, and it has locked up just about every river I like to spend my winter day’s float-fishing for steelhead on Lake Huron/Georgian Bay rivers such as the Saugeen, Sydenham, Bighead, Beaver and the Nottawasaga. I have not been much this winter since a couple mild days allowed me to in the middle of January.
West-end, north shore rivers on Lake Ontario such as; Bronte, Credit, and the Humber are all locked up! As you continue driving east of Toronto, there is no shortage of frozen creeks as well. Rivers and creeks east of Toronto in places like Ajax, Bowmanville, Newcastle, and the North Humberland County are still waiting for a good thaw. However, all this snow and ice we have up here will definitely make it a very interesting spring season ahead of us. The days are getting longer now, and I’m patiently waiting for the weather to warm up so it can thaw out my playgrounds! It’s been a long winter!