Steelheading the Valley Part 2

by Vic Carrao

Note: In the following paragraphs the word lure refers to any, bait, artificial bait or spinner, or any other product used to entice fish to bite.

While I walk the river’s edge in search of the elusive chrome bullet Hidden beneath the surface, I overhear two avid anglers whispering about the secret lure to use for winter steelhead. As I approach nearer, I managed to overhear “Orange gooey bob is Hot!” I continue walking downstream. Around the next corner I meet a fellow fanatic, “Any luck he asked?” “Not yet, how about you?” “Well, I caught one beauty on roe sacks.” “Great!” I reply and continue in search of my first fish of the day. Suddenly the calm surface flow exploded, like a land mine, “Fish On!” I yell. 10 minutes later and two runs I land a 15lb trophy steelhead. I was using a small glo bug with white yarn. A fellow steelheader happened to notice all the commotion above and began to walk towards me. After saying our hellos, we began exchanging fish stories. Well, he had caught three fish that morning, all on Peach yarn.

There are many different baits, artificial baits and spinners that will catch steelhead. For every lure sold, you will find half a dozen anglers that swear by them. Most lures that are sold as steelhead lures will catch fish, and some do well at catching anglers. There are 3 basic categories of lures that I would like to discuss, bait, artificial bait’s and attractors.

The two most widely used baits in British Columbia for catching winter steelhead are salmon roe and sand shrimp. You can purchase cured roe at most tackle stores or you can cure your own. There are many products used to prepare salmon roe for steelhead fishing, borax, pro cure, and coarse salt are the most popular. All three cures work well, and there are as many receipts for using these cures as there are lures to catch fish. Read the directions then experiment a little with curing duration and room temp to obtain a suitable bait. Some anglers tie their cured roe into small dime sized roe sacks, while others put it directly on the hook, both methods work. I prefer making the roe sacks at home the night before, so when I’m on the river, it’s quick and easy to rebait my hook.

Roe is best fished in the slower moving water, the presentation is natural when fished just off the river bottom. For example: the lower portion of the Vedder is good bait water, Lickman rd, Peach rd, Hydro bridge and the Canal. The water flow is slow to moderate, your roe bait will stay on the line longer than if you fished the faster sections. Keep in mind, the slower the waters flow the longer the fish has to check out your offering.

Sand shrimp is another great bait for catching Winter Steelhead, most angler’s will drive to the sandy beaches of White Rock or Crescent Beach to pump live Shrimp. You must now purchase a salt-water license to pump Sand-shrimp and the last time I checked there was a limit of 50per day. (check current regs for limit quotas.) You can also buy live sandshrimp at some tackle stores and many carry cured shrimp in a variety of colors. Like all Steelhead lures you’ll find someone who swears that 90% of the fish they catch is on Sand shrimp. Over the years of Steelheading I’ve noticed that sand shrimp do well and can out fish most other baits, when water temperatures begin to rise. Many avid Steelheaders believe that 50 degrees F is the point where fish become more active and will begin moving aggressively to-ward baits and lures.

Artificial Baits is an excellent alternative to roe, you can eliminate all the trouble of finding, curing, storing and using salmon eggs, not to mention the mess. It’s a proven fact that single eggs, small egg clusters and the larger gooey bobs account for as many Steelhead caught as cured salmon eggs. There are many advantages to using artificial baits, they come in endless sizes, shapes, and colors. From red to several shades of orange, pink, peach, and chartreuse, also available in fluorescent and translucent. Sizes can vary from fingernail to the size of a quarter. There is two key factors to remember when using artificial baits, fish them with the same presentation as you would roe. The artificial has no taste and the texture is harder, the fish will spit the lure quickly. So watch for the slightest movement in your float, it may be a strike. Spinners are a great alternative when you’ve just fished a run through and want to try it once again with something a little different. Another good time to try a spinner is when you’re confronted by a large crowd, or you know that the particular water to be fished has been fished heavily. There are a few rules to apply when using spinners. Water volume is what controls the speed that the blade turns. Steelhead like a slow presentation, so the quicker the water the larger the blade you should use, slow water trying going to a #3 or smaller. Like to use a spinner under my float, fishing it just off the bottom with a slight across and down presentation. You may be surprised at how Effective this method is, and it never hurts to add one more method for Those tuff days.

Artificial scents are another great tool for hooking Steelhead. They can add an ingredient that is present in roe but missing from artificial baits. I have used artificial scents for some time now and they do work, I’m not sure whether then induce more strikes or just give the angler an extra second to set the hook. Artificial scents do remove foul odors from your lures attributed to smoking, food, and human scents. On one outing, Dennis Chong & I had just arrived at the river, we proceeded to a high bank area we wanted to fish. Another angler approached, he walked above us a 100 ft or so and on his second cast, Fish on. The Steelhead that he hooked went ballistic, in doing so it spooked 3 Steelies lying in front of Dennis and me. Our eyes lit up as we look at each other, we both were thinking the same thing, who gets first cast? Being the sportsman that we are, we flipped a coin, winner gets 3 casts, I won. The water conditions were low and clear, first cast, Sand shrimp, second cast, pink glo bug with a tuff of white wool, nothing. Third cast I used the same pink glo bug but added some shrimp oil. We watched two of the three fish go for the offering and the end result was a nice 12lb wild Steelie.

Knowing the water temperature can be a helpful tool when Steelhead fishing. Like most fish, water temp plays an important roll in fish survival rates, movement, and type of water to rest in. Steelhead retain a certain amount of body fat reserves, just enough to allow nature to run its course. During extreme cold conditions, Steelhead need to preserve fat reserves in order to reach mature spawning stage. Movement will begin to slow, fish will hold longer in any given area and use as little energy as possible to achieve their goal. Some experienced Steelheader that I know believe that 50 degrees is temperature needed for fish movement to increase. You don’t need to carry a thermometer with you, just keep in mind that when we have a real cold snapfish movement and aggressiveness is reduced.

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