Who doesn’t love fishing steelhead?
A superior fish that is great fun to catch.
If you can get them to take your bait.
Winter steelhead fishing is one of my favorites and using something like some fresh Salmon roe, prawns or a shrimp can be deadly especially in colder water.
If you fish steelhead during the spring then salmon eggs or nightcrawlers are perfect bait.
Spending some time observing the fish before you wet a line is always the best course of action. You need to look out for what they are naturally feeding on and try and mimic that.
A lot of guys out there are big fans of lure fishing for steelhead. Yes, this can be very effective as well but nothing beats natural bait in terms of presentation and scent for attracting those bigger fish lurking in the depths of the river.
When recommending steelhead baits it would be salmon eggs – all day long, especially for winter steelhead when they are starting to spawn.
Best Steelhead Bait
Hands down my favorite bait for steelhead are eggs.
The setup I use is most of the time is to stick a couple of eggs on a hook at the tip of the line and have a bobber float above that, nothing else.
You are trying to get the eggs to drift along in the current and look as natural as possible. The bobber float is there just for bite indication and to give you enough weight to cast your line out into the swim.
Remember we talked about natural presentation earlier – well this is as close as it gets.
Find a nice steelhead run and pop some of these eggs on your line and hold on tight.
Relatively cheap this type of bait is a must for winter steelhead. You will also pick up a few trout with this bait, and before you say it – Steelhead are actually part of the Salmon family and not trout 🙂
One thing I would do though is stock up on a few different color varieties just to be on the safe side.
These pre-packed eggs are sort of preserved which toughens them up a bit – better for staying on the hook but they are also sometimes soaked in a scent which adds to their attractiveness to the predators lurking in the deep.
Targeting fish in their natural habitat with a naturally presented bait is what it’s all about and fish eggs are the best bait for steelhead – period.
Another great natural bait for steelies is nightcrawlers.
Probably the easiest to find at short notice – just dig them up.
Dig around any rivers edge or woods, you garden or under a hedgerow and you will find a plentiful supply of nightcrawlers.
Traditionally you could just thread these up along the shaft of your hook and use the barb to hold it in place. Nowadays, with barbless hooks all the rage you need to find alternatives.
A small square of rubber band pushed onto the hook after the worm will hold it in place. You can also thread the worm right up to the eye of the hook and use the tag-end of your line to hold it in place.
Fishing a nightcrawler for steelhead is best with a bobber or stick-float setup. Hook on the end of the line and a sliding float so you can change depth to match the swim. You may need to add additional weight to get the bait down to the fish but this depends on conditions.
I like to fish worms during or just after heavy rainfall when the water is dirty from overwash. This is when the worms work best because they are naturally going to get washed downstream during these conditions.
A big steelhead sitting under a bank will not be able to resist this bait if you get your presentation right.
I like to consider shrimp my secret weapon when I target steelhead, but they are not the easiest to fish if you don’t have the right gear and setup.
You also need to look at conditions – colder water is best for shrimp or prawn fishing.
Rig one of these up with a diver and you can really work a hiding hole to tease out even the shyest fish. They give off a very strong scent that brings on the fish.
If you can get these alive then you are in for a great day fishing because they are very active in the water and this will bring on the strike every time.
If you are using a diver then make sure to adjust the weight to get your bait down to the fish quickly and let it swim about in the current.
If you don’t have the full setup including boat etc then you can still use shrimp from the bank.
This bait is best fished with a long rod and pencil float on light line so you can get the bait out to the fish without heaving casting which will lead to lost bait nearly every go.
If you are going down this path then make sure to adjust your drag to allow for playing the fish on lighter tackle.
Another thing you can do is to add some sort of artificial attractant to your bait. This helps to cure the bait but it also makes it irresistible to fish. Something like this from Berkly is perfect for the job, but don’t go telling everybody about it…