Steelhead Fishing At Night: Pro Tips On Baits And Methods

Guide Graham with a nice steelhead caught while steelhead fishing at night.

Steelhead fishing at night can be an exhilarating experience for new to intermediate fishermen and I have done many guided trips where my clients have caught lots of steelhead in the dark.

With some understanding of the challenges and hazards that come with night fishing, along with the right methods, baits, and lures, and proper gear, catching steelhead after sunset is a viable option.

When steelhead fishing at night, moving slowly, being familiar with your surroundings, using larger baits that scent well is important. Using glowing lures and lures that have a good action at a slow speed, or that make a lot of noise is often best.

In this article, we’ll explore valuable tips, effective methods, and the best baits and lures to increase your chances of success when fishing for steelhead at night.

I will also cover tips and methods for catching steelhead in the river, steelhead fishing from shore and at the river mouths, and out in open water.

Why Night Fishing For Steelhead?

Steelhead often enter rivers during low light or in the dark, making night fishing a great opportunity to catch fresh run steelhead before anyone else.

Additionally, steelhead staging at river mouths tend to move in closer to shore or nose up the river to assess current and river conditions, creating an excellent opportunity for anglers to target these concentrated roaming steelheads.

Do Steelhead Bite at Night?

SBS Outdoor Action steelhead fishing at night
SBS Outdoor Action fishing steelhead at night. See them on Instagram.

Yes, steelhead do bite at night, but they can have trouble finding the bait so adjusting the size and speed of your bait and changing locations can make a significant difference. Certain baits and lures tend to work better than others during night fishing, and we’ll discuss them later in the article.

Are Steelhead More Active at Night?

Generally, steelhead are not more active at night compared to daytime, except during river fishing. Steelhead frequently move into rivers and up the river during dusk and throughout the night under the cover of darkness.

This is when steelhead are more active at night, and anglers can take advantage of these nighttime migrations by positioning themselves strategically along the river to intercept incoming steelhead.

1 Hour After Dark

Elie from SBS Outdoor Action steelhead fishing at night
Elie from SBS Outdoor Action steelhead fishing at night. Watch them night fishing for steelhead on YouTube.

After sunset, some anglers notice that steelhead may turn off for about an hour.

However, it’s more likely that steelhead will swim higher in the water column during this time. Many anglers fish deep, unaware that the steelhead often swim closer to the surface or close to shore. Using glow lures or your downriggers higher can increase success during this period.

Lure Fishing for Steelhead at Night

Lures are a great option for fishing steelhead at night, whether from shore or from a boat. Popular and effective nighttime steelhead lures include:

Best Lure Colors For Night Time Steelhead Fishing

Some colors tend to produce better results at night. Anglers often find success using colors like:

  1. Blue Chrome
  2. Chartreuse
  3. Green silver/chrome
  4. All Silver

Best Lure Sizes For Fishing Steelhead at Night

John From Get Bent with a night time steelhead
John from Get Bent Guide Service in Michigan with a night time steelhead.

I like larger lures out in the lake and at the river mouth, generally in the 4.5 to 6-inch range. In the river, 3 and 4-inch lures can work very well and tend to perform better.

Tips for Lure Fishing at Night for Steelhead

Consider these tips from the pros and experienced anglers for more effective lure fishing at night:

  1. Slow Down: Fishing slowly is crucial during the dark hours. Troll as slowly as possible or reel in lures at a slow pace when casting.
  2. Go Big: Larger lures and baits often yield better results when fishing for steelhead at night.
  3. Cover Water: Steelhead roam and move at night, so casting or trolling over larger areas can increase chances of success.
  4. Depth: Getting your lure down 10 to 17 feet of water around river mouths and from shore can lead to better results.
  5. Fish Calm Waves: Plan your night trips in the boat with waves under 2.5 feet for better casting and better trolling conditions.
  6. Glow and Non-Glow: Alternate between glow lures and non-glow lures to find what works best for the steelhead.
  7. Action: Lures with erratic action tend to attract more attention from steelhead. Vary your retrieval techniques, like ripping, twitching, and pausing crankbaits, to entice bites.

Bait Fishing for Steelhead at Night

Bait fishing at night can be a successful approach near shore, river mouths, and especially up in the river. Use these tips to catch more steelhead when bait fishing at night:

  1. Focus on Migration Routes: Night is when steelhead will move from pool to pool. Position your bait in areas where steelhead will move through or slow down, such as the head of pools, deep pools, and corner pools.
  2. Go Bigger: Using larger bait at night is easier for steelhead to detect and can yield better results. Roe bags, skein chunks the size of golf balls, large minnows, shiners, or herring between 4 and 6 inches are all excellent options.
  3. Use Scent: Fresh roe or skein that milk scent well tends to work best. Fishing with shrimp or prawns can also be effective.
  4. Go Brighter: Brightly colored baits like chartreuse or bright attractor beads can enhance bait visibility.

Methods for Fishing Steelhead at Night

To increase your chances of success, use the following methods when fishing for steelhead at night:

  1. Float Fishing for Steelhead at Night: Use a good river-style float with glow-in-the-dark options to drift your bait slowly down the river. This method is effective for both shore and boat fishing.
  2. Plunking or Still Fishing: Focus on areas where steelhead slow down or move through. Larger baits like roe sacs or skein chunks can be effective for this method.
  3. Drift Fishing and Bottom Bouncing: Effective for drifting baits without a float. While it can be challenging to detect bites in the dark, this method can yield positive results.
  4. Fly Fishing: Fly fishing for steelhead is best in shallower rivers at night. Use large egg patterns, streamers, and nymphs for best results.

Best Time to Fish for Steelhead at Night

The best times to fish for steelhead at night are the hour before sunset and the hour after sunset. Another window of opportunity is the hours before sunrise and the two hours after sunrise. Steelhead may sporadically move into rivers all night long if conditions are favorable.

The Downside to Night Fishing for Steelhead

Night fishing for steelhead poses some challenges and risks that anglers should consider:

  1. Limited Vision: Fishing in the dark can lead to injuries and accidents. Be cautious of falling or getting lost in remote areas. Using a bright headlamp and fishing with a buddy can help mitigate these risks.
  2. Casting and Targeting: It’s harder to cover water properly and detect strikes in the dark.
  3. Tangles: Tangles are more prevalent at night and can be challenging to fix in the dark.

Tips for Night Fishing for Steelhead

To make night fishing safer and more enjoyable, consider these tips:

  1. Fish Familiar Waters: Stick to areas you already know during the day, as navigating new waters at night can be dangerous.
  2. Headlamps and Batteries: Invest in a bright headlamp and carry extra batteries for safety and visibility.
  3. Move Slower: Slow down both on the trail and in the river to prevent accidents and increase fishing success.
  4. Buddy System or Tell a Friend: If possible, fish with a buddy. If fishing alone, inform someone of your plans and expected return time for safety.


Night fishing for steelhead offers an exhilarating experience for new to intermediate anglers. Steelhead often enter rivers during low light or in the dark, making night fishing an excellent opportunity to catch fresh run steelhead before others.

Understanding the right methods, such as float fishing, plunking, drift fishing, and fly fishing, as well as using the best baits and lures, can increase success.

However, night fishing poses challenges, including limited visibility, casting difficulties, and potential tangles.

By following safety tips and fishing with caution, anglers can enjoy a rewarding night fishing experience.

Remember, the best times to fish for steelhead at night are the hour before and after sunset, or before and after sunrise.

Steelhead Fishing At Night Q&A

In conclusion, night fishing for steelhead can be an exciting adventure but with your questions, tips, and advice we can make it even better. Leave your questions and advice below.

Tight Lines


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