Steelhead Fishing for Beginners: 21 Basics Every Angler (Should Know)

Steelhead Fishing basics

Steelhead fishing is a popular sport, but it’s also very confusing. There are so many steelhead fishing tips that beginners can find it challenging to know where to start.

You don’t want to spend a lot of money on equipment before you’re sure you’ll even like the sport!

This article will teach you all the essential basics about steelhead fishing, from choosing your gear, and the best bait for steelhead to reading water to catching fish.

Many people initially assume that fly fishing is the best method for catching steelhead, but it’s not.

The most effective way to catch these fish is with spinning equipment.

Spinning gear can be purchased to match the size of the river you’re fishing, so there’s no need to buy expensive gear when you’re just starting.

fishing for steelhead
fishing for steelhead

If you’re thinking about getting into steelhead fishing as a beginner, these steelhead fishing tips are what you need!

The 21 Steelhead fishing basics (You Should Know)

1. What is steelhead fishing?

The steelhead is native rainbow trout, which migrates to the ocean as juvenile fish and returns to freshwater as an adult. In Idaho, these ocean-going trout are often classified into A-run (adult) and B-run (juvenile). In addition, these fish are often re-classified as summer-run and winter-run steelhead, which can be confusing for beginners.

2. Where do steelhead fish live?

Rainbow trout and steelhead are both types of marine fish that spend part of their life in freshwater. However, they can be differentiated by where each is primarily found when not in water: Steelhead trout live exclusively or predominantly in freshwater while steelheads reside mostly or entirely near the ocean, in salt water.

3. When does steelhead fishing start?

Steelhead fishing is best during the fall and winter when steelhead enters rivers from the Snake River. Steelheads are in good numbers by late September/early October, but the best time for this sport is November to January.

The steelhead enters their spawning streams from late October to early May. Although many of the fish overwinter there, they spawn in springtime when temperatures rise. Therefore, the fall run is typically first, while the spring run follows only a month later.

4. When Can You Catch Steelhead?

Although fly anglers think fishing in the daylight is best, nighttime might be when to go for steelhead trout using spinning tackle.

Steelheads are most active during the day, but it can be more fun to fish at night if you’re new to this game. When water levels are low, fishing at night can be just as productive as fishing during daylight hours.

5. Is Steelhead hard to catch?

Steelhead is a fish that can be very difficult to catch and requires persistence. If one cannot land the steelhead after an extended period, one should try new steelhead fishing techniques or locations to find success.

Although many anglers strive to catch steelhead, the fish are not aggressive, and they can be pretty tough to land. However, once you’re able to catch a steelhead, it’s gratifying and can provide many fun memories.

6. Best time of year for steelhead fishing

The best time for steelhead fishing is in late September/early October. Steelheads enter the mouth of Salmon River at fishable numbers, and this is when they are most likely to be caught by anglers. The peak of the steelhead season is mid-December, and this is when it’s the most fun to catch more steelheads.

7. Where do you fish for steelhead trout?

Big, deep pools are not always the best place to catch them. Generally, steelhead prefers areas with good water flow and depth, but they also seek out deeper waters when resting or moving upstream.

Furthermore, large rivers have many different habitats that can present an opportunity for catching fish, so anglers need to be diverse in their approach and location choices and adaptive over time depending on conditions such as weather patterns, etc.

8. How to go steelhead fishing?

How to fish for steelhead? The best way to go steelhead fishing is by plane, as it’s the fastest and most convenient method of transportation. Furthermore, anglers need not be concerned about catching a rental car because there is readily available transportation inside the fishing area. Renting a boat can also be very useful, especially if anglers want to cover as much water as possible.

9. What’s the best way to fish for steelhead?

Bobber/jig fishing is a technique used to catch steelhead that starts by casting brightly colored jigs upriver and allowing them to drift through an area holding fish. Steelheads usually hang out close to the bottom in current but are attracted by colors and will move right, left, or up a little bit for food.

The angler retrieves the jig in tiny, frequent twitches until it’s nearly on the bottom again. A little more time at the bottom with a longer pause is often beneficial, but try retrieving faster if fish are not caught.

10. What gear do you need for steelhead fishing? (Steelhead fishing tackle)

The best gear for steelhead is a net, fingerless gloves, a reel with a sound drag system, an effective rod that you are comfortable using, and a heavy rain jacket and boots.

You can trust our expertise because we live and breathe this stuff every day on the river. We know how important it is to find quality equipment that will last season after season so you can focus on catching more fish instead of worrying about broken gear.

11. What is the best bait for steelhead?

What do steelhead eat? The following vital factor To hook a steelhead is your bait. Some effective baits include minnows, single eggs, egg sacks with wax worms, or skeins of maggots. It’s situational which one you use, but at times certain ones are better than others so that eliminates having to go through all possibilities in case they’re not working out for you. A particular moment.

12. What weight line should you use for steelhead fishing?

It is essential to use a solid mainline when fishing for steelhead. Steelhead fishers typically use 6-8 lb leader lines, so your mainline should be more potent than this to avoid breaking the fish off on a snag or hooking the fish incorrectly.

Backing for your reel is not necessary while steelhead, but if you are using a trolling reel, it’s recommended to have a quick-release spool so it can be removed in case you hook up with a fish.

13. What kind of hook do you use for steelhead?

When fishing for steelhead, you’ll want to use a 2-hook best suited for most steelhead fishing techniques and baits. Depending on the size and buoyancy of your best steelhead bait, you may prefer larger or smaller hooks: 1/0 (larger), 4 – 8 (smaller), 2 – 4 (medium), or 1/0 and 5/0 (smaller).

14. How big a hook do you need for steelhead?

What size hook for steelhead? Steelhead loves to eat salmon and trout, so size 2 is a tremendous all-around hook for catching these fish. However, if you’re using larger steelhead bait like lures or whole herring, try out hooks 1/0 or even more prominent with steelhead.

However, if your baits are smaller such as eggs, use 4-8 instead of the usual 2-4. Some other baits that work even better are single eggs, egg sacks with wax worms, or skeins of maggots. On average, a hook size 8 should be fine unless using huge baits.

15. What kind of rod do you use for steelhead?

A 7-weight switch rod will be strong enough to make long casts with heavy lines and flies but not too much for average-sized steelhead. You should use an 11-footer so you don’t break much fish off, matching it perfectly to the strength of your prey.

A switch rod will give you access to any lure or bait you use, plus it is easily converted into a spinning rod if you come across some weedier areas. There are even switch rods with a reel for a spinning reel attached, which you can find online today.

16. What lures do you use for steelhead?

What lures are best for steelhead? Erie steelhead fish nothing but micro jigs. Depending on the conditions, they use different colors, sizes (1/80 ounce to 1/32 ounces), and materials (bucktail or marabou).

The most popular tip for these jigs is a single maggot since it tastes good in freshwater regardless of season changes.

You may also want to use a glow jig. It’s got attractive colors and effective motion in water which seals the deal for any steelhead.

17. What size lures are for steelhead?

Best spinners for steelhead: Spinners with sizes 9 – 18 are recommended as a starting point. It would help if you had smaller sizes in the clearest water conditions and larger ones during murkier situations. Use the guidelines for both salmon and steelhead trout.

As per experts on Steelhead, people often recommend starting with a giant spinner first and then a smaller one later on.

However, it is up to the angler’s preference to use a smaller or a larger one.

18. What type of artificial lure for steelhead?

Many types of steelhead fishing lures, but they’re primarily looking for some baitfish. Good choices are any spinner like Mepps, Panther Martins, or Blue Fox minnows.

If you are using the right equipment, live bait is also an option that can be more productive than lures in general.

19. Can steelhead be caught at night?

While Steelhead is most active at night, fishing during the day is still possible. One thing to keep in mind while angling for them during this period is that you need a shorter leader than usual, and your distance from your float needs to be only 2-4 ft away instead of 6+ feet.

Night fishing is the best time for catching steelhead, especially since they are more active then. The usual lures for steelhead that work during the day can be used at night like spinners and flies.

20. Does Steelhead bite in the rain?

Best weather for steelhead fishing: Steelheads aren’t the only ones who enjoy fishing in the rain. The same is true for salmon and trout, though they’re less likely to bite during a downpour than when it’s clear out.

If you’re in the mood to go fishing in damp weather, use a shorter leader and keep your line tight since it’s harder for fish to see it in the rain.

You may also want to try weedless lures for steelhead which will give you a good shot at catching your prey despite the heavy surface activity.

21. What colors does Steelhead see?

In bright water and a light-colored environment, black or purple will cast a more robust silhouette in the water. However, in low-light conditions such as winter steelhead fishing, dark colors are more visible to fish lurking beneath you for dinner.

However, brightly colored fluorescent objects can be helpful to attract unsuspecting prey into your trap because of their visibility from far away distances.


steelhead fishing techniques used in the Great Lakes and surrounding rivers for Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, and steelhead trout. It’s different from regular trout fishing due to its appeal for fast-action casting, among other things.

For more details on this technique, see the page dedicated entirely to steelhead fishing. We hope you found this article helpful and insightful.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our team members for a consultation. We’re always happy to help! Thank you for keep reading, and we look forward to hearing from you soon!

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