Targeting Fall Steelhead  

What kills a werewolf? A silver bullet.

By: Tamara Spence

PC: Arthur Jeco Reinoso

PC: Arthur Jeco Reinoso

Steelhead (Rainbow trout, Bows, Silver bullets, Oncorhynchus mykiss) traditionally spawn after the first ice out, when the temperature reaches between 6 and 7 Celsius. During this period, our rivers and tributaries become exposed and they can freely travel, making their way to a potentially promising spawning ground and hope for the best for their future offspring. Additionally, a false spawning period takes place in the fall between October and November (more often than not shortly after salmon and right around when brook trout spawn)

Considerably like the spring run, this beautiful species that is a part of the salmon family can equally be battled in the identical fashion through both runs and with a pint-sized bit of patience. There are three approaches that have been observed over time to be tremendously effective – contingent on location and, of course, circumstances such as water clarity and temperature.

The first method would be using roe sacks, either float fishing (a suspended presentation) or bottom bouncing with split shots. For those who are not familiar with the terminology, roe sacks are eggs (salmon or trout) that are cured using borax and or other “top secret ingredients” which then are bundled with mesh netting. This is a popular method during spawning periods because they will often ignore all other baits. The Argus had the pleasure of speaking with Arthur Jeco Reinoso (@Angling_art on Instagram) to discuss steelhead fishing and his views on methods of presentation. Upon inquiry to Reinoso’s opinions on fishing the fall run with roe sacks, he expressed, “Being a diehard steelheader, fishing primarily the great lakes region. Roe is a staple bait in every steelheader’s arsenal. No matter what time of the season, you are targeting them. Whether it be fall, winter or spring roe, if presented the right way can be the ticket on having a successful day on the water. There are many pros and cons to using roe as bait. Some great and some not so great.”

Ethics plays a major role of harvesting and collection – that goes without saying. Specific regulations apply in certain zones, and the topic doesn’t fall short of complications in addition to community issues. Reinoso also expression his concerns for his areas by stating, “The number one issue with roe and the reason some rivers have banned the use of it is the fact of harvesting a fish and the actions that follow it. Every fisherman with a valid fishing license is entitled to a limit of fish in the designated zone. But like in life, you have those who play by the rules and those who ruin it for the rest of us. Fishermen who kill fish just for roe and waste the meat or those who harvest over there limit are just many of the causes of why using roe is banned in some places.”

If patience is not your strong suit and the idea of harvesting a female trout or salmon for her eggs induces discomfort, you still have options available to you if you want to practice this form of targeting rainbow trout. Reinoso states, “Roe can legally be bought online from authorized fishing websites and are harvested from fish farms, which skips the mess of having to process the eggs and cure them. Less time prepping and more time fishing. But with all that said, if I had to choose the best bait for targeting steelhead, it would have to be roe.”

Luckily, here in Ontario we have a handful of providers for this market and style of fishing. One that is recommended is Fishheads Canada, located in Whitby – ran by anglers for anglers. There you will find an assortment of eggs ranging from rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout and salmon, either with natural presentation or tastefully modified in color (seasonal selections). If you are unsure of how to proceed, be sure to take a quick moment to watch a video online on how to bundle your spawn sacks. You may find that taking the time to master your presentation can be therapeutic but also rewarding while on the rivers or streams. Reinoso also left a final thought: “From clear water to dirty water, roe can fish in all conditions. You just have to present it the right way. If it fish can’t see it, they will be able to smell it. From brown trout roe to salmon roe to trout roe, all are effective and hundreds of cures and presentations can be applied to them. Roe is very versatile and that is precisely why it should be in every steelheader’s arsenal.”

An additional method that works well is a presentation that is comparable to spawn sacks – an egg appearance (Glo bugs) or imitation flies. Yarn flies are a craft of their own and a practice that is recommended by any fly fishing angler. Not only is it a traditional approach, but equally it’s a simplistic, tastefully acquired skillset that improves with time. Conveniently, we have Dan’s Custom Flies here in Thunder Bay. Dan’s Custom Flies produces some top notch Glo bugs with limitless options and room for tweaking for your preference and flavor of the day.  Additionally, DCF also promotes fly tying and provides many DIY videos online for the ambitious anglers.

If these approaches are not your style of fishing then the standard hard tackle options are more suitable for you. It’s recommended that you toss out a couple of the tried and true lures that have been around for generations. One you should always give a shot is a Mepps Aglia. Unlike other lures, this spinner is not meant to imitate anything and is simply productive because of the sound it produces underwater – receiving strikes out of basic instinct. For imitation purposes a crank or jerk bait can be used such as a Rapala or live bait target; remember to stick to the basics with this such as a husky jerk or Shadow/Xrap in minnow,smelt, and perch patterns.

These applications may seem odd or even far-fetched to the beginner angler, but with some practice and personal preference added to the mix – targeting these seven-finned beauties are always worth the time and effort. Chances are much like anything in life, the reward in the end often overshadows the learning curves and bumps along the way.

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