Steelhead rivers of Northwest Ontario

The spring spawn

The art/science of knowing “when the steelhead are running” comes down to basic nature. On one hand you have a fish’s desire to successfully reproduce – amongst most species this is a primary driving force.

On the other hand you have nature and in particularly weather.

For a steelhead spawn to be successful they need warmer waters with good water flow for oxygenation. Silty conditions can actually smother eggs. Steelhead and most river spawning fish time their spawn cycle (instinct) based on things they have an instinct on. Water flow, water clarity and water temperature – all things they can feel/observe.

So when the spring melts the ice, the lakes warm and become lighter as they lose ice cover. The fish will be drawn to river mouths during this time because they tend to lose ice cover first. The area around river mouths have an increased flow and an increased temperature (somewhat). Usually this will draw the males first. The only problem with really early spring runoff is that it silts the rivers – this likely keeps them held at the river mouths.

As the runoff continues and the water clarity increases, the water temperature reaches an acceptable level then the fish will start entering the rivers/streams/creeks. The magic temperature is different from river to river but usually when temperatures go above 5 Celsius.

And just to throw a wrench into everything  in unusual years the water flow and temperatures might not come before the fish’s instinct overcomes and they enter the rivers in less than ideal conditions.

The Fall “spawn”

Or false spawn – Rainbow trout will head into the rivers as the water cools (temp triggered). They tend to be much more highly aggressive in the fall however fall runs are allot smaller than the true spring spawn.

The Same tactics will work usually from September into November in some rivers with the added bonus of the occasional salmon in the Nipigon or Wolf Rivers.

Basic Stream/River Etiquette

Submitted by spindilla1

Respect an Angler’s Space
This is probably the most violated rule on the river. Many popular sections of a river can be very crowded during the spawning run. Crowding another angler is inconsiderate. If you approach him or her, make sure to ask before moving into the area. Give the angler enough space so the two of you can fish without interference.

Don’t Walk into a Run
Nothing aggrevates a veteran steelheader more than another angler walking into a run of fish. Most of the time it’s because the person is not familiar with the stream. Most new steelheader’s are not yet accustomed to reading water. A common rule I use is “don’t go past your knees”. Once again, watch where people are fishing. If you’re not sure, ask.

Don’t Jump into Another Person’s Spot
When an angler is fighting a fish, more than often they may have to move from their spot to land the fish. This doesn’t mean the space is available, because more than likely the person is coming back.

Don’t Play a Foul Hooked Fish
If you foul hook (accidentally snag) a steelhead, snap the line. Tackle is cheap. Most foul hooked steelhead are very difficult to control, resulting in injury or unnecessary stress to the fish. Once foul hooked, they will leap from the water and thrash about, spooking the other fish. If you repeatedly fight foul hooked fish in a crowded section, you’ll become very unpopular. Also, you will find most game wardens look at this practice unfavorably.

Tolerate Other Forms of Fishing
This is a never ending debate on the local rivers: fly fishermen Vs bait fishermen. To some anglers, fly fishing is the only way to catch steelhead, because they are a trout. I use both fly and spinning gear. One day, I may use minnows – another day I’ll drift nymphs. Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than a loudmouth elitist. There is no better or worse style of fishing for steelhead.

Respect People’s Property
This has become a major problem on Lake Erie’s tributaries. Every year more and more landowners have posted “No Trespassing” signs on their property because they’re fed up with garbage left behind and a general lack of respect. If you come upon a posted property don’t trespass. If you want to fish there, ask the landowner. If they say “no” respect their wishes. If they allow you, do something nice in return such as cleaning up garbage along the shore.

Don’t Litter
Often when I’m fishing I see garbage everywhere. First of all it’s pollutes the environment and it’s an eyesore. Some sections of streams have been closed to fishing because landowners were fed up with garbage along their property. Make it a habit to pick up discarded monofilament, cans and other trash, and dispose of them properly.

Questioning Anglers that Keep or Release Fish
There is nothing wrong with keeping a fish. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with releasing your catch. If you see an angler release a nice size fish, it is considered rude to say “Aren’t you going to keep that?” or “You should keep that one!”.

Give Others Space When Fighting A Fish
Give other anglers enough room to land their catch. If it’s necessary, take your line out of the water to give them some space. This may happen when you’re fishing down river and another angler has to move down river to land a fish.

Walk Quietly Around Others
Be courteous to those already on the streams. Walk behind other anglers and out of the water if possible. If you must stay in the water, walk with minimum surface disturbance.

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Basic River Stream/River Etiquette

Submitted by spindilla1

Respect an Angler’s Space
This is probably the most violated rule on the river. Many popular sections of a river can be very crowded during the spawning run. Crowding another angler is inconsiderate. If you approach him or her, make sure to ask before moving into the area. Give the angler enough space so the two of you can fish without interference.

Don’t Walk into a Run
Nothing aggrevates a veteran steelheader more than another angler walking into a run of fish. Most of the time it’s because the person is not familiar with the stream. Most new steelheader’s are not yet accustomed to reading water. A common rule I use is “don’t go past your knees”. Once again, watch where people are fishing. If you’re not sure, ask.

Don’t Jump into Another Person’s Spot
When an angler is fighting a fish, more than often they may have to move from their spot to land the fish. This doesn’t mean the space is available, because more than likely the person is coming back.

Don’t Play a Foul Hooked Fish
If you foul hook (accidentally snag) a steelhead, snap the line. Tackle is cheap. Most foul hooked steelhead are very difficult to control, resulting in injury or unnecessary stress to the fish. Once foul hooked, they will leap from the water and thrash about, spooking the other fish. If you repeatedly fight foul hooked fish in a crowded section, you’ll become very unpopular. Also, you will find most game wardens look at this practice unfavorably.

Tolerate Other Forms of Fishing
This is a never ending debate on the local rivers: fly fishermen Vs bait fishermen. To some anglers, fly fishing is the only way to catch steelhead, because they are a trout. I use both fly and spinning gear. One day, I may use minnows – another day I’ll drift nymphs. Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than a loudmouth elitist. There is no better or worse style of fishing for steelhead.

Respect People’s Property
This has become a major problem on Lake Erie’s tributaries. Every year more and more landowners have posted “No Trespassing” signs on their property because they’re fed up with garbage left behind and a general lack of respect. If you come upon a posted property don’t trespass. If you want to fish there, ask the landowner. If they say “no” respect their wishes. If they allow you, do something nice in return such as cleaning up garbage along the shore.

Don’t Litter
Often when I’m fishing I see garbage everywhere. First of all it’s pollutes the environment and it’s an eyesore. Some sections of streams have been closed to fishing because landowners were fed up with garbage along their property. Make it a habit to pick up discarded monofilament, cans and other trash, and dispose of them properly.

Questioning Anglers that Keep or Release Fish
There is nothing wrong with keeping a fish. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with releasing your catch. If you see an angler release a nice size fish, it is considered rude to say “Aren’t you going to keep that?” or “You should keep that one!”.

Give Others Space When Fighting A Fish
Give other anglers enough room to land their catch. If it’s necessary, take your line out of the water to give them some space. This may happen when you’re fishing down river and another angler has to move down river to land a fish.

Walk Quietly Around Others
Be courteous to those already on the streams. Walk behind other anglers and out of the water if possible. If you must stay in the water, walk with minimum surface disturbance.

Salmon/steelhead

Hey guys,

Was just talking to a buddy and we were trying to figure this out, maybe some of you have an answer. Why is it that salmon/steelhead are so much bigger in lake ontario or huron as appose to superior? On superior a 20lb salmon is pretty rare, where as lake ontario 20lbs is fairly common. Even a 20lb steelhead is not uncommon on lake ontario/huron. Anyone have an answer?

Read more here: Recent Posts

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