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Written by TV Ontario   
Friday, 09 June 1995
Article Index
Fish-On! - 2 - Rainbow Trout
The Fish - Size and Shape
The Fish - Markings
The Fish -Requirements
Habitat - Distribution
Habitat - Management
Seasonal Changes
Seasonal - Spawning
Seasonal - Fry to Smolt
Seasonal - Maturation
Equipment - Baits
Equipment - Spawn
Equipment - Tackle
Equipment - Rods and Reels
Equipment - Bobbers
Equipment - Lures
Equipment - Other Gear
Technique - Reading Water
Technique - Bait Fishing
Technique - Lure Fishing
Technique - Fly Fishing
Ethics and The Future


Steelhead lures can be divided roughly into three categories: spoons, plugs, and spinners. However, some of the winged drifters, such as the Spin-n-glo, could also be considered.

Casting spoons are heavier bodied than some of the flutter-type trolling spoons, Little Cleos, Sugar Spoons, Alligators, and Krocs are popular in the Great Lakes because they resemble the silvery smelt and alewives that steelhead feed on. Silver and chrome spoons are, therefore, the most widely used, with red, blue, green, or orange prism-tape stripes on them. They're favorites of shore anglers because you can cast them a long distance. Downrigger fishermen often prefer the flutter spoons because they have more action on their own. Williams, Northport Nailers, Flutterchucks, Miller spoons, and Pine Valley are among those used for both steelhead and salmon.

Steelhead spinners are favorites of river steelheaders, accounting for nearly as many fish as spawn. They often take the largest steelhead. Spinners come in weighted (sizes two to four) or unweighted bodies. Each is fished differently. The weighted bodied spinners are generally used for upstream and across casting, while unweighted spinners are used for downstream fishing.

Some of the favorite weighted variety are the Mepps Aglia, Blue Fox Vibrax, and Olympique. On bright days in clear water, silver or black are good spinner choices. Gold or copper are good in cloudy water. Black works well on cloudy days, too. The Colorado spinner is the favorite unweighted model with steelheaders. The almost-round blade revolves with very little pressure and the light weight of the spinner means it can be fished in shallow water and even by fly fishermen. Although using the spinner to fish to visible spawners is frowned upon on the West Coast, it's a perfectly legitimate method where stocking upholds the fishery or where there is an excess of spawners.

Wobbling plugs cover a wide range of banana-shaped steelhead lures. Some of the most popular are Flatfish, Kwikfish, Hotshots, Hot'N Tots, Fireplugs, Tadpollies, and Benos. They have the advantage of being able to work in a current on a slow retrieve or even stationary when fished downstream. Then the current still will give the plug an enticing, wobbling, chattering action.

Exactly which wobbling plug to use for different fishing techniques will depend on the speed of the current and the water depth. In general, Flatfish and Kwikfish work best in slower currents. They tend to flip over if run too fast. The big-billed plugs such as the Hotshot dig deeper and can be worked faster, making them ideal for the angler who prefers hot-shotting as a technique. Colors for these plugs depend on conditions. In off-color rivers, try the fluorescent reds, greens, yellows, and clown finish. In clear water, try black, chrome, frog-finish, strawberry, and pearl.

A variety of minnow-imitating plugs also catch steelhead in the offshore waters of the Great Lakes. Some of the favorites are the Rapalas, A.C. Shiner, and Rebel, resembling smelt and alewife. Fishing techniques with plugs are the same as those of salmon, so you can refer to that unit.

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