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August 22 • 12:49 PM
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There's no 'Crystal Ball' to show exactly when a major run will occur


Hot steelhead action...



HotSteelheadAction
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Splendid steelie action often occurs following a March thaw when water levels fall or stabilize after runoff. Kenny Darwin photo
April 01, 2011
No matter where you fish, the Pere Marquette, Betsie, Grand, Kalamazoo, AuSable, all tributaries of the Great Lakes have predictable patterns regarding the migrations of spring fish. Sure, each tributary is somewhat different but as a whole "right now" is when spring run off and the increased water flow draws steelies by the thousands and the fishing action is out of this world. It can be fishin' fun at its best, downright catchin'madness and few fish fight more than a fresh-run chrome steelie. So, don't miss the hot action this spring!

No steelheader has a crystal ball to show exactly when a major run will occur, most use trial and error outings to determine exactly when the run peaks. In years past March and April were the hottest months when chrome steelies invade tributaries. Come April the massive schools of fresh-run chromers we all seek are dispersed throughout stream systems and many fish are busy spawning.

There are a number of variables that go into the equation of predicting peak steelie runs. First, Michigan Rivers are frozen, low and clear at press time. Ice keeps water temperatures far below preferred ranges that Great Lakes rainbows like. So, some fish will trickle into area streams throughout the winter. Oh sure, if we get a massive February thaw and rivers hit flood stage you can rest assured that steelies will make their move. But generally speaking, warm fronts follow winter weather, which causes rivers to stabilize, slow their flow and water temperatures to increase. This means that steelies will rush upstream with the warming trend and hold in deep holes as the water levels return to normal. On the other hand, if we have a normal winter warming trend highlighted by longer days and cool nights, the major push of steelies will arrive with the first belch of spring water; which is almost always in March. Either way, now is the time to get after steelies. A quick call to area fly shops, bait and tackle stores or to guide services will verify this prediction. This was the case when I got a call from a fishing pal near White Lake.

I packed my custom rods, vest, insulated waders and made an early morning trek to the mighty Muskegon. We motored upstream to a deep, slow moving hole highlighted by a deep undercut bank. It was breaking daylight as we dropped anchor, positioning the boat broadside to the huge hole and readied lines with jigs and waxworms or spawn bags. The water was low enough that we could wade the shallows bordering the long run. I poured my last cup of hot coffee and sipped the steaming brew as I glanced across the stream in time to catch a large fish breaking the calm surface. "There are piles of mint silver steelies in this area!" exclaimed our guide. By the time I got into casting position several green/silver trout had surfaced.

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