Fishing for those winter steelhead

By Ed Gilbert • Last Updated 10:09 am on Monday, December 05, 2011

From all indications we’re about to have one of those unpredictable winters, where ice fishing on the lakes will be a little iffy. At least in central and southern Michigan.

We’ll likely have a freeze, a meltdown, and even some rain mixed in with snow, making us cautious about safety on the ice.

However, I have a suggestion for those who’d like some excellent fishing without venturing on frozen water. Try for some winter steelhead in one of our fine rivers. Try the Grand, St. Joe, Rogue, or even the Pere Marquette River, for example. Anglers are having some success in those, so I hear.

I often fish one of those four waterways, and sometimes with success. Fact is, I recently smoked up a fine steelhead. Great table fare!

You know, for many years I only flipped flies when steelhead fishing. But recently I’ve sometimes switched to spawn or other bait, because it’s a real downer to keep flipping flies and ruining my elbow and shoulder when the guy across the river from me is hauling them in on either waxworms, wigglers or spawn bags.

There, I said it, and I wasn’t going to give away any of my favorite steelhead baits when I began this column. OK, too late. And besides, avid steelhead fishers have used a variety of those baits over many years, so I’m not giving any real secrets away.

As a fishing example, a friend of mine, Chuck, and I were over in the Grand after steelhead. He’d brought along some waxworms, but we both started out with streamers.

After several hours of whipping the waters to a froth and no success, Chuck said to the devil with it and got out his waxworms, a hook, a couple of sinkers, and a bobber.

A bobber? Well, after giving him a sort of disgusting glance I mellowed a bit, realizing that this method of fishing steelies and other fish has been around over many years. Even though, when someone mentions the use of a bobber I still think of an old woman sitting in a boat with a 10-foot cane pole as she hauls in one bluegill after another.

Well, Chuck soon found success. Upon his second cast he had a jumping, rolling steelhead on line. I netted his fish for him, then looked up and asked sheepishly, “OK Chuckie, you got any more of them there waxworms?”

So I rigged my line and fumbled around with freezing fingers as I made a few casts. Then bam! I had a fish on, and following a rather lengthily fight Chuck netted it.

By golly, to make a long story a tad longer, we waded along that same bend of the river and netted two more steelhead, and even a dandy brown trout. It was a great day of fishing, and later on we smoked up one of those fish.

It was enough for both our families, and absolutely delicious. Of course, the secret is to catch the fish first!

Give it a try. Ice fishing, when there is ice, isn’t the only way to catch fish now, or even in the dead of winter.

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