Spring Steelhead Fishing Michigan

Spring steelhead fishing Michigan can be fantastic with lots of good opportunities on just about all the rivers.

During fall, winter, and early spring, a large number of steelhead migrate from Lake Michigan and up to different tributaries to spawn, allowing anglers to experience a beautiful steelhead fishing experience.

Spring steelhead fishing in Michigan usually starts in late February when the steelhead migrates from the cold waters of March and April, which is their spawning season, until early May, when they have dropped back into the lakes.

Water temperature best determines where to kick off the spring fishing in Michigan as it affects the migration of the steelhead. Smaller rivers like the Pere Marquette River in Baldwin, the Rogue River in Rockford, and the White River in Hesperia tend to warm faster.

Bigger rivers, like the Big Manistee River, and the Muskegon River in Newaygo, will warm up a bit later compared to the smaller ones. The warmth of the smaller rivers makes them good fishing grounds from February to March, while the bigger river can still be good in April and May.

Spring Steelhead Fishing Michigan: Stages of Steelhead Runs

Spring houses three-run stages for steelheads. Every angler must know these stages as they crucially affect the overall experience of the fishing activity. Getting good timing in the run guarantees an excellent spring fishing experience.

Stage 1: The Fresh Run

The fresh run is the beginning of the steelhead migration. During this time, steelheads rapidly run upstream as the ice and snow melt, raising the water levels. This stage is an excellent time to catch steelheads as they come at high flow rates and even pool in shallow waters while the females seek out the gravel in preparation for spawning.

Stage 2: The Spawning

There’s only one reason why steelhead would go upstream: to spawn. Steelheads seen in shallow waters are usually getting ready to spawn. Unfortunately, spawning steelhead is generally inactive, rarely eats, and does not fight well. Therefore, an enjoyable fishing experience with them cannot happen.

Experts would know that steelheads are untouchable when they are spawning. Why? It’s because no one would want to disrupt the steelhead’s reproduction process. This practice ensures that anglers will still be able to have a good steelhead run next season.

Stage 3: The Drop Down

Dropdown refers to the steelhead run after spawning. During this time, steelheads are trying to recover, regain their strength, and are often hungry. As a result, they are usually found in the deeper waters around the spawning beds.

Dropdown steelheads are aggressive and will tend to eat any bait. Many anglers particularly anticipate this run because it creates an opportunity for abundant Michigan spring steelhead fishing.

Spring Fishing in Michigan: The Steelhead Fishing Methods

Anglers have used many fishing methods for steelhead fishing over the years. However, fishing methods vary in their styles and appropriateness in different fishing situations. The following are the most effective fishing methods for steelhead.

Fly Fishing Method

The fly-fishing method involves the use of artificial flies as bait. This method is popular for fishing steelhead in shallow and smaller sections of the river. Under the fly-fishing category, the different methods vary in fly lines and artificial flies used. Examples are as follows:

  • Spey casting: This method uses heavy sink tips, bigger flies, and a double-handed fly rod, also known as the Spey rod. This fly fishing method is popular for catching spring Steelheads as it allows you to cast flies even over long distances. 
  • Streamer fishing uses a submerged fly, also known as a streamer: Steelheads are likely to feed on small fish that streamers imitate.  This method, however, is not yet popular, but it allows anglers to have more fun.
  • Nymph Fishing: This method uses artificial flies that mimic aquatic insects like larvae, worms, and crustaceans. This fly-fishing method is very effective on steelheads as these fishes find crustaceans irresistible.

Euro Nymphing: This method uses a sighter instead of a bobber with heavier flies and lighter tippets. Sighters are multicolored monofilaments born from competitive fly-fishing tournaments. Euro Nymphing is another well-known and effective steelhead fly fishing technique.

Float Fishing Method

Float fishing is one of the most popular Michigan spring steelhead fishing techniques. It requires a fishing float, a bobber, and a fishing line. Floats come in different sizes and can be suspended at various lengths depending on the fishing.

However, float fishing is not suitable for all parts of the river. This method is most effective only in bigger and deeper pools and less effective in shallow water under 3 feet deep or in pocket water.

On the other hand, the correct float setup can allow an angler to fish for steelhead in shallow waters. Clear small floats are best in shallow water. See Best Floats For Float Fishing.

Lure Fishing Method

Lure fishing is prevalent and can accommodate fishing in all river sizes. This fishing method uses artificial bait, also known as a lure, which imitates a prey’s appearance, movement, and flashy colors. Examples of commonly used lures for steelhead fishing are:

  • Jigs: are suitable for deep-water fishing as they use weighted hooks,
  • Crankbaits: Minnow-type crankbaits like rapalas are good options for steehead.
  • Spinners: uses a flashy spinner blade at the top with a hook at the bottom.
  • Spoons: are shaped like a concave spearhead, allowing them wobble and to reflect light when moving and attract steelhead.
  • Plugs: Plugs or wobblers like the Kwikfish or Flatfish are good option for steelhead fishing.

Spring Fishing in Michigan: The Conclusion

With its long freshwater coastline, hundreds of steelhead rivers, Michigan is home to a spectacular fishing experience.

Spring fishing in Michigan has been a tradition for many years and has had several anglers served by its diverse aquatic ecosystem.

Fishing Licences

When exploring spring fishing in Michigan, one significant thing to remember is the Michigan fishing license.

All anglers 17-year-old and above are required to carry this license. They are easily accessed and processed online. Several options are available depending on the duration of the fishing activity.

Spring Fishing Charters

Indeed, spring fishing in Michigan is an exciting activity regardless of your expertise. Currently, there are many charters and guides available for booking, allowing people to have the best fishing experience in Michigan’s most famous rivers and lakes.

Spring Steelhead Fishing Michigan Q&A

If you have a question or some advice on spring fishing Michigan, let us know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,

Graham and The Guide Team

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *