By Josh Choronzey | 03/25/2014
Artic Vortex is a term Ontario steelheaders will be happy to forget now that winter is slowly loosening its grip on the Province. Late March has arrived and with it, the spring steelhead season is starting to kick in. In terms of a harsh and late winter, Ontario has taken a beating. Snow pack is still deep along the shores of Lake Huron, and the Great Lake with accompanying Georgian Bay is still locked under huge amounts of ice. Yet spring is slowly peeking its beautiful head around the corner and a few warm and wet days of the past week have opened up sections of some Huron steelhead tributaries. Adding the fuel to the fire is our forecast, suggesting warm days and rain ahead. Ahhhhh yes, the spring madness begins.
Comparing our current weather in Huron steelhead country to seasons past is similar to apples and oranges. In 2014 we are roughly a month behind normal schedule. By the start of April, Huron and most Great Lakes steelhead for that matter have already migrated up river and finished their spring spawning. This season, steelhead will be fresh and available well into late April and early May for our region. The major push of spring chrome will undoubtedly be heavy, as very few fish have trickled into the river systems over the winter due to the severe cold and ice.
With a slight warm spell and mild rain last week, I had the opportunity to fish some open water on a couple Huron tribs. One was the Saugeen known for its large return of hatchery-raised steelhead. The majority of fish hooked by my party and other anglers on the bank were holdovers from the early winter. A small number of fresh and bright hatchery fish were mixed in to highlight the push that is about come. I harvested a fine silver fish carrying a fin clip, which contributed to my collection of BorXO Fire that will see heavy use in the days to come.
Anglers looking to cash in on Huron’s steelhead fishery need only wait another week or so before large pushes of spring fish begin to enter the majority of rivers. Tribs such as the Maitland, Saugeen, and Nottawasaga in the southern portion of the lake will be the first large tribs to get fishy. Anglers to the north will be waiting a while longer I should caution. The St. Mary’s rapids in Sault Ste. Marie will likely take weeks before numbers of fresh steelhead enter what is essentially the icy outflow of Lake Superior. Anglers should concentrate their efforts on the larger southern flows first. Plenty of ice cover exists on the big lake and the snowpack on shore is deep. These factors will keep water temperatures low in the lake and river while the melt and run off begin, producing a drawn out run until the warming trend really gets going. If heavy rains hit the forecast in next week or so, migration will pick up fast.
Early spring steelhead on Huron rivers are suckers for fresh eggs. The mainstay in this neck of the woods is scraped eggs that are fished in small bags either fresh or cured. Curing steelhead eggs from local hatchery fish is my go-to bait this time of the year. Many local fisheries depend on natural reproduction to provide a healthy steelhead run, but some systems see good numbers of hatchery stocking and provide the opportunity for greater harvest. Early spring chromers are suckers for BorXo cured steelhead eggs in Natural, Pink and Orange. I tie mine up in Redwing Tackle’s scarf and mesh, mixing colors of eggs and material to create unique shades which produce locally. The curing process, which I utilize, can be found in last spring’s rundown Fire Blog that I wrote. It is simple and deadly effective on Great Lakes steelhead.
Looking to beach a few Huron spring steelhead in over the next couple months? Here is a simple gear list that will help get you on the right track….
-Huron tributaries are known as a floatfisherman’s paradise. Pack centerpin gear and long rods with floats ranging from 6 to 13 grams
-Mainlines of 8 and 10lb test
-High quality fluorocarbon leader material such as Maxima or Phantom (Great Lakes brand) in 4 to 8lb test
-Good waders and a wading-staff as spring torrents from large snow pack will cause dangerous wading conditions on flows such as the Saugeen or St. Mary’s.
-A good road map (or phone app) and a copy of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources 2014 Fishing Regulations Summary
-Salmon or steelhead eggs, cured in Pautzke BorXo Fire or Fire Cure. Hot colours for Huron chrome include: Natural, Orange and Pink eggs tied in small bags. Redwing Tackle’s scarf material and mesh comes in a plethora of colours to specifically create unique bags when tied with dyed roe. Tie big bags for dirty water and nickel sized morsels for water on the clear.
-Finally, don’t forget Advail and Tiger Balm muscle rub…..hot Huron steelhead fresh from the lake on our big rivers causes sore arms!
Josh Choronzey is an outdoor writer and Pautzke prostaffer from Ontario, Canada. You can find more on Facebook @ Josh Choronzey Outdoor Media.