Summer Steelhead Fishing Michigan

Summer Steelhead Fishing Michigan can be a thrilling recreational activity, with most of the steelhead weighing 5 to 15 pounds. A summer run strain of steelhead known as Skamania will enter rivers starting in June.

This unique strain was introduced to many rivers of the great lakes to create a summer steelhead fishery in the rivers. Only some rivers get good summer steelhead and will have good fishing in the hotter summer months.

The cool water temps of the rivers allows the steelhead to be active and constantly feeding and chasing down lures and baits.

The Best Time to Fish

On cooler spring years, some Skamania start entering Michigan rivers as early as May and with peak numbers from June to September. Late spring and summer rains increase river flows, which presents an excellent opportunity to fish for summer steelhead fishing in Michigan.

However, this summer strain is not mature enough for spawning yet when they enter which makes them unique from the winter run steelhad. Not all summer run steelhead are Skamania.

Skamania and other summer run steelhead undergo a staging period in the rivers before finally spawning in the early springtime. The long staging period allows anglers an ample opportunity to enjoy the run and it allows the steelhead to travel long distances and to get very far up the rivers.

Summer steelhead runs are highly dependent on river flow and water temperature.

Generally, the best time for fishing would be June and July, as the run peaks with many summer steelheads heading into the Michigan rivers. August is hotter and dryer, so the runs sometimes slow down until cooler nights and rains trigger more to run.

The Best Rivers to Fish

The Great Lakes are one of the most popular fishing spots for winter-run steelhead, but only a few rivers will have Skamania steelhead. These are some options to search for summer run steelhead.

Pere Marquette River

Listed as a National Scenic Waterway, the Pere Marquette River holds the best scenic view, has summer run steelhead, good numbers of salmon, as well as resident brown trout and lake-run migratory brown trout.

It is a blue-ribbon fishery, visited by many anglers as it offers excellent steelhead runs.

Big Manistee River

The Big Manistee River has many recreational activities, and fishing for steelhead and salmon are the most popular.

It is considered one of the best trout and steelhead fisheries east of the Rocky Mountains. The Tippy Dam along the Manistee River is one of Michigan’s most accessible spots for summer steelhead fishing.

Good salmon and great lakes brown trout fishing is found throughout the river.

Grand River

The Grand River is Michigan’s longest river and one of the most significant tributaries of Lake Michigan. Fishing spots along the Grand River allow anglers to fish with views of the buildings and city life.

The grand river gest runs of steelhead and salmon.

Muskegon River

The Muskegon River is home to an abundant number of wildlife, including the summer steelhead runs.

Being the second-longest river in Michigan, it has become a popular fishing spot for many anglers in search of summer steelhead, winter steelhead, and salmon.

St. Joseph River

The St. Joseph River is home to an abundant number of Skamania steelhead dueto large and current stocking, and anglers will start experiencing summer steelhead fishing starting in June.

The Best Methods

In Michigan, summer steelhead are often active, feeding, and can be caught using multiple methods.

Float Fishing

The float fishing method involves a long 10 to 14 foor fishing rod, bait, and float. The float, also known as a bobber, allow the angler to keep the bait suspended at varying depths. Float fishing is a popular technique for beginning anglers that want to fish drives for steelhead, trout, and salmon.

The best spot for float fishing for Michigan summer steelhead would be the more significant, deeper pools with average depths of 3 to 15 feet.

For float fishing, the best practice would be to place your bait in the correct strike zone, which is often near the bottom of the river and you do this by adjusting the leader below your float.

Anglers that know how to float fish well, and have the proper leader setup will catch ten times more steelhead.

For more on float fishing check out: Float Fishing For Steelhead: Guide Methods.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing, in general, makes use of artificial flies, which usually include nymphs, egg flies, and streamers. Summer steelhead are know to even take dry flies.

Fly fishing is a popular method used by many anglers in Michigan. There are three common methods of fly fishing for steelhead that will work, they include Nymphing, Streamer fishing, and Spey fishing.

The right fly, leader setup, and the right size tippet, combined with the right fishing spot are essential factors for a successful fly-fishing experience. I discuss all of this in my article Fly Fishing For Steelhead.

Spin Fishing

Spin fishing uses a spinning lure to attract the attention of the summer steelheads. Summer steelhead is known for its long runs, so an adequate spin fishing gear should have a line that is solid and long enough to hold a steelhead.

Other Methods For Summer Steelhead Fishing in Michigan

Anglers fishing the rivers will also use still fishing and drift fishing methods and will change based on the area and type of river.

As an example, larger rivers that are fairly deep are often fished using the Drift Fishing Method.

Pocket water, shallower and smaller spots fish best using the Bottom Bouncing Method.

Even Bobber Doggin is starting to show up on some of the Michigan rivers. If you have not heard of this yet, check out Bobber Doggin For Steelhead, and Salmon.

The Best Baits, Flies, and Lures

An active summer steelhead will feed on almost anything and is quickly attracted to the right baits that could represent their natural food.


For steelhead fishing, the most popular baits are roe and fish eggs. In addition, steelheads are known to hunt for eggs from other fish, and you will often find them behind big salmon in September, October, and November.

Other popular baits include small crayfish, worms, leeches, and minnows. See 11 Best Baits For Steelhead.


Artificial flies have been a popular tool for attracting steelhead. Currently, there are many types available on the market, varying in pattern, size, and material.

For steelhead fishing, popular flies used are nymphs, wet flies, and egg patterns.

Flies with flash and movement can also be used to stimulate the steelhead’s curiosity. Check out Best Flies For Steelhead.


The most effective lures for Michigan steelhead fishing are crankbaits, spoons, spinners, and plugs. Many different colors and sizes will work when summer steelhead fishing in Michigan.

Check out Lure Fishing For Steelhead, which discusses the best lures, the best gear for fishing lures, and how to fish them properly.

The Best Fishing Opportunities

The riverbanks are not the only best spots for summer steelhead fishing. Summer also kicks off an exciting pier fishing experience.

Lower River and Pier Fishing Opportunities

Piers are a familiar fishing spot for people who enjoy casting lure or a relaxing fishing experience plunking a bait out in the lake.

Many summer steelhead will congregate around river mouths and shoreline close to the river waiting for the rivers to be suitable for them to start migrating up.

Michigan’s lower rivers and piers are excellent fishing spots while the fish are staging or moving into the rivers. Low light hours in the morning and evening are the best times to fish in these areas.

Angler fishing bait out in the lake or river mouth will use the Plunking Method.

Piers at St. Joseph, Lake Michigan, St. Mary, and St. Clair rivers are good spots for a good haul of steelhead.

Other common pier fishing spots in Michigan are Detroit, Grand Haven, Ludington, Escanaba, Holland, and St. Ignace. These piers offer good relaxation during the summer, providing extended strolling areas and a good view of the waters.

Michigan is a large state rich with aquatic resources, making many fishing opportunities accessible to experienced anglers and beginners. And Michigan summer steelhead fishing is undoubtedly a remarkable experience that has kept many anglers on the hook.

Summer Steelhead Fishing Michigan Q&A

That concludes this article on Summer Steelhead Fishing Michigan but if you have any questions or some advice you would like to share, let us know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,

Graham and The Guide Team

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