those that have experienced winter Steelheading, it
is perhaps the most rewarding time of the year. When
a large buck steelhead in the 18lb. range hammers your
pink egg fly in the gut of a deep run during a January
or February afternoon, the exhilaration and satisfaction
is immeasurable - also you usually have the river to
yourself along with the Bald Eagles that tower amongst
the snow capped pines.
April and May see the mother lode of the spring run.
Steelhead become very finicky and take small nymphs
in a traditional nymphing method. At the end of May
and early June, steelhead can be caught on the dry fly
during the massive Gray Drake and Isonychia mayfly hatches.
the Muskegon River is progressively becoming more like
a spring creek, our
steelhead are adjusting to the gin clear waters and
feeding on caddis and midge larvae, blue winged olive
nymphs and scuds - picture fourteen pound silver steelhead
eating size 16 caddis!
addition to Great Lakes nymphing, strike indicator fishing
and streamer stripping, we have come to embrace modern
Spey rod tactics such as Skagit, Scandinavian, traditional
and switch rod methods. Watching a steelhead slam a
swinging fly is a thrill of a lifetime!
Why do Steelhead key in on Winter
Lakes Steelhead are perhaps the most opportunistic member
of the salmonid family. While chinook and coho salmon
require large schools of baitfish like smelt and alewives
to support their numbers, steelhead take a substantial
amount of their forage from insect sources, supplementing
with baitfish, crayfish, gobies, and whatever else strikes
their fancy. This fact leads some experts to believe
that steelhead "residentize" back to their
stream-trout roots when they spend any length of time
in a river environment. When January and February roll
around, the winter stonefly hatches begin in the cold
river environments in Michigan. The steelhead holding
in river pools, waiting for spawning time to begin,
may revert to feeding behavior that worked well during
the early stages of life. When you're winter flyfishing
and you notice tiny black specks on the snow around
you, study them closely. You'll find that these are
adult stoneflies, possibly ringing the dinner bell for
whatever lurks in the depths of that hole in front of
you. Fish accordingly, as your luck may have just turned.
There are a variety of nymph flies that imitate the
Most of these patterns are simple, from a hare's ear
nymph or pheasant-tail nymph colored dark brown or black
with marker, to more involved patterns such as the Egg
Sucking Stone, Viagra caddis, Mojo Dark Knight,
Rubber Legged Stone, etc. Remember that these flies
should be dead-drifted the same way you'd fish glo-bugs
or egg flies, under an indicator or bottom-bounced through
holes that look promising. No vigorous stripping is
needed with these - keep in mind that while the weather
is warmer than usual, the water is a few degrees above
freezing. Deep and slow wins the race here - make sure
that your flies drift along current breaks and bubble-lines,
to ensure that any fish present has time to take a shot
at them. Strike back when the strike comes, snub that
fish before it can get loose, and then enjoy the music
of your reel underscoring the winter sunlight dancing
on rippled waters...
Steelhead have a definite soft spot for Stone flies.
In rivers where the flies are present, such as the Muskegon
River or Pere Marquette, Stone flies can be as important
as egg flies are during the peak of the spawning season,
and at times more effective. In rivers that do not have
a large population of stone flies, or any at all, steelhead
will still respond to flies that imitate Stone flies.
There are several reasons for why Stoneflies are so
effective on steelhead. The first reason is that there
is approximately 500 species in North America, and in
the East there are 9 families and 50 genera. What all
this means is that, in the Salmon River there is several
varieties of Stoneflies. During the past few years,
the Salmon River has received improved summer water
flows. And as a result, the Stonefly populations have
expanded along with other aquatic insects.
are primarily associated with clean, cool-to-cold
running waters, although a number of species are adapted
to large, oligotrophic boreal and alpine lakes. Species
of Plecoptera are often associated with clean water
qualities, and their presence or unnatural absence
is often a key component of water quality indices.
Nymphs tend to have specific water termperature, substrate
and food types, and stream size requirements, reflected
in their distribution along the source of river longitudinal
continuum. There are also distinct microdistributions
for size classes within individual species. Although
distributed world-wide, Plecoptera are associated
with cooler water temperatures and, consequently,
distribution tends to be amphipolar. Currently, there
are 59 species of Plecoptera reliably recorded from
Muskegon River Conditions & Fishing Information
the past few days, Steelhead fishing in Michigan on
the lower Muskegon River has been excellent. Fall
Steelhead ascend the Muskegon in search of Chinook
salmon roe. Salmon eggs are a prized food source of
Michigan Fall Steelhead. November and December offer
great center-pin float fishing opportunities. Fly
Fisherman from Chicago also enjoy great fishing opportunities
close to home.
Float fishing on the lower Muskegon River near Bridgeton
and Maple Island has been very productive producing
over a fish per hour. Spawn and fly fishing have both
been working well in slower, deeper holes. Winter
locations have now become important and are both holding
Trout and Steelhead.
the past five days, Steelhead fishing has been exceptionally
good! There have been good numbers of bright silver
adult Steelhead in the 8 to 10lb class with several
being taken each day in the the light teen range.
These good numbers of Fall Steelhead should equate
to an excellent January - February fishery. If you
ever wanted to give Fly Fishing for Winter Steelhead
a try, now is that time!! We have dates available
for both float fishing and fly fishing for Winter
Steelhead on the Muskegon River!
Nate, Tim, and Brent are also excellent Steelhead
guides. We have many other dates available for Winter
Steelhead fishing the Muskegon River! March offers
the best in Spring Steelhead.
River Fall & Winter Steelhead - The Muskegon River
receives one of the largest Fall and Winter Steelhead
populations of wild Steelhead in the Great Lakes Region.
Trophy wild Steelhead are available in good numbers
during November, December, January, February, March,
and April. Spring Steelhead are available in April,
May & June.
are located about 3.5 hours from Chicago, Ill. Chicago
Fly Fishing anglers enjoy great Steelhead fishing
success within a short drive. Both Guided day trips
and packages are available to anglers seeking a quality
Fly Fishing experience!
accommodations are available both on the water, and
in neighboring areas, offering many options for places
to stay while enjoying the area and great fishing
on the Muskegon River.
Fishing floats and spawn has been our primary method.
Fly Fishing has also been effective on fresh chrome
fish. With the slowly falling water temperatures Steelhead
have focused on moving to their traditional winter
lies, slow, deep runs have been the key. Longer Fluorocarbon
leaders have also been a must due to the ultra clear
If December is going to be anything like this past
November, I'm very excited because we've put more
Steelhead in the net in November this year than the
past couple of years combined! It's 100% better than
last year for sure!
for very good numbers of Steelies during the month
of December! If you have ever wanted to give Fall
/ Winter Steelhead a try or hone your float fishing
skills, Now is the time to go! We have open dates
available during December. We will hook you up!