Fall Steelhead Fishing In Michigan: Techniques Guides Use

In this article, I have combined information, tactics, and tips provided by and used by some of the best Michigan steelhead guides to help you learn and understand fall steelhead fishing in Michigan.

Fall steelhead fishing in Michigan has three stages that correspond with water temperatures. Anglers should change tactics, baits, and locations if they want to catch more fall steelhead.

Michigan steelhead guides see how the fishing changes day to day and month to month and they will adjust as needed. Do you?

This article is part of a series that starts with Fishing For Steelhead and Michigan Steelhead Fishing.

Fall Steelhead Fishing In Michigan

Michigan offers some of the best fall steelhead fishing around the great lakes and the catch numbers can often exceed the numbers seen on famous West Coast rivers. Part of the reason is that thousands of steelhead will enter smaller sized rivers where the concentrate and are easier to catch.

Michigan also has some of the largest rivers compared to other states and provinces around the great lake. See Best Great Lakes Best Rivers.

Michigan has what is known as summer run steelhead, and a strain of steelhead known as Skamania, which enter the rivers starting around June and continues into the fall. This provides early steelhead fishing for many anglers.

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Anglers and river guides in the area look forward to fall steelhead fishing in Michigan.

Fall steelhead fishing in Michigan starts in September and peaks in November and continues to be good into the winter. River guides and anglers use productive methods like fly fishing, float fishing, and lure fishing. The most effective steelhead baits are flies, spawn sacs, worms, and jigs.

The truth is that Michigan steelhead can be caught in the rivers 12 months of the year, but the locations the fish hold and methods for catching fall steelhead fishing might differ from other times of the year.

Michigan Fall Steelhead Season

Autumn typically begins in September and this is often when anglers start to get excited about the salmon runs. Often, there is a small number of steelhead that will make their way into the rivers with the salmon.

The best Michigan fall steelhead fishing starts in late October and continues to get better through November, and lasts until December. On most rivers, good steelhead fishing actually lasts until the spring.

When the cold fall weather starts in late November and early December, anglers will still continue catching steelhead using the winter steelhead methods I discuss in my article winter steelhead fishing. With the right knowledge and as the guides will tell you, late fall and winter can also be a fantastic experience.

A steelhead avoids rapid water and can be found in slow to moderate water flows. The optimum time to go steelhead fishing is early morning and afternoon.

The Best Ways to Catch a Michigan Fall Steelhead

There are several techniques to try when it comes to fall steelhead fishing in Michigan. Although weather and water conditions must be taken into account, the strategies stated below should tilt the scales in your favor.

Float Fishing

Float fishing allows anglers to fish in a variety of depths and conditions. The float is used to hang the bait at a specific depth. And the depth may be adjusted by sliding the bead up or down the line. Float fishing for steelhead can be pretty easy if done correctly.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is popular and effective and used by a lot of steelhead and salmon river guides.

Artificial flies that imitate nymphs, baitfish, and eggs work the best. Some of the best steelhead flies to use include the worm fly, stonefly, and yarn egg fly.

Fly fishing for steelhead may be done in a variety of ways. Depending on the type of water or preference, this can range from nymphing to spey fishing to streamer fishing.

These tactics are usually excellent when it comes to fall steelhead fishing in Michigan.

Spin Fishing

Spin fishing is casting a bait into the water and recovering it using a spinning motion of the rod tip. There are several techniques to do spin fishing for steelhead.

Jig fishing for steelhead, bottom bouncing, and drift fishing are all effective options for fall steelhead fishing.

Some anglers are also starting to use the new method known as Bobber Doggin.

Rivers to Fish for a Michigan Fall Steelhead

There are several rivers to explore when you want to fish for a steelhead. Here are some of the top rivers to explore:

  1. Pere Marquette
  2. Muskegon River
  3. Manistee River
  4. Grand River
  5. Betsie River
  6. St. Joseph River
  7. Au Sauble River
  8. The Boardman River
  9. White River

Just about all the tributaries flowing into lake Michigan and Lake Huron will have some fall, winter, and spring steelhead running up them.

To avoid some of the crowds, anglers are encouraged to search out smaller lesser-known rivers where you might still catch just as many steelhead without the crowds.

Getting Ready for Fall Steelhead Fishing in Michigan

While autumn appears to be a quiet season, going fall steelhead fishing is a different story. There are a few things to consider to have a successful fishing trip.

Dress Appropriately for the Season

The trick is to dress in layers so that you can respond to changing situations throughout the day, especially late fall, which is late November and Early December and is when the river and air temps can get very cold.

First, consider a polypropylene base layer to remain warm. Then add a fleece vest or jacket if necessary. I discuss fishing steelhead in the winter, with tactics and tips for catching for steelhead as well as how to stay warmer and comfortable. See Steelhead Fishing In The Winter and learn guide tricks and what we wear at Winter Fishing: Stay Warm And Dry.

NEW Jan 2023: Winter Steelhead Fishing In Michigan.

A quality fishing vest is also a good idea because it is functional. The correct footwear is also essential when going fall steelhead fishing. Waterproof or insulated boots are great options.

Fishing Gear

How can you catch a steelhead if you don’t have any fishing equipment? Regardless of the fishing approach you prefer, it is crucial to have the necessary tools on hand. Everything from a fishing rod and reel to fishing line, hooks, and lures is included.


Steelhead fishing is a peaceful way to spend a day. With good planning, anyone should be able to make fall steelhead fishing in Michigan an unforgettable experience.

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