October 5, 2022

Trolling for Spring Steelhead

Trolling for spring steelhead on Presque Isle Bay can be extraordinarily challenging, but can also be extremely rewarding. Steelhead are unpredictable in open water and can leave you scratching your head. By utilizing specialized techniques, anglers can enjoy the challenge of targeting steelhead on Presque Isle Bay.

What is the best advice I can give to any angler trolling for spring steelhead? Be patient – master this trait. No matter what type of fishing you enjoy, it boils down to how mentally tough you are. There will be times when you’re trolling and you feel defeated. Stay patient, stay alert and don’t give up!

Trolling in the bay starts when the ice melts and the water temperatures hit the 40 degree mark. Steelhead will be found all around the Bay, making long trolls very productive. However, early in the morning you’ll typically see birds feeding on small baitfish (mainly emerald shiners) and where there’s bait, there’s fish. Don’t hesitate to troll towards those feeding birds!

The most productive tactics when trolling for spring steelhead include fishing with planer boards, downriggers and slide divers. Planer boards are typically the most productive and allow your lines to be spread out away from the boat. Downriggers and slide divers are applications that will draw fish in and are typically closer presentations in relation to the boat. Downriggers and slide divers typically work better when the water has some color. Planer boards are always productive, but will really shine when the water is on the clear side.

There are two types of lures that work best for spring steelhead, stickbaits and spoons. Stickbaits like the Storm Jr. Thunderstick and Bomber Long A in the 14A model will do the trick, especially in Firetiger and Chrome/Black Back/Orange Belly. Spoons like Dreamweaver Super Slims and Dreamweaver WD’s in natural looking colors are also great to use. Throwing a little scent like Pautzke Liquid Krill can help give you an upper hand as well.

Speed is critical when trolling for steelhead. Trolling slowly in early Spring can be imperative because of the cold water temperatures. Fishing at a trolling speed of 2.0mph – 2.5mph is usually best. That being said, don’t be afraid to change your speed if things aren’t working!

Once the water hits the 50 degree mark in late April, steelhead usually head out of the Bay and into the main lake. Once steelhead hit the open lake, they become even more difficult to catch during this time of year, With patience, proper gear and utilization of the proper tactics, you can enjoy what steelhead fishing on Presque Isle Bay has to offer.

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John Scherrer

Erie, PA John is a freelance writer and a life-long Erie resident who has fished across North America. Fly fishing, light spinning tackle, and ice fishing are his preferred methods to fish his home waters of Lake Erie.

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