Steelhead Fishing – Algoma, Wisconsin

steelhead.jpgSteelhead Fishing – Algoma, Wisconsin

If you are looking for one of the most exciting types of fishing available for you it may well be steelhead fishing in the Lake Michigan tributary streams.  Here you will find the steelheads (rainbow trout) that have come in from the open waters of the lake to the tributaries to spawn.  While they are there, for the short period of time they are there, they are in range of the fly or spinning rod.

Wisconsin stocks three different strains of rainbow trout and each run at different times of the year.  Two of the strains are the Ganaraska and the Chambers Creek River.  These two have later winter/early spring runs that typically occur between late February and Mid-April.  Occasionally the runs are later depending on how soon it begins to warm up.  At the first warming the fish will show up.

Fishing for these fish is a real challenge.  It is similar to hunting and fishing at the same time.  The fish are very wary so it takes real patience and talent to get them to take the bait.  You really have to stalk them very carefully.  They are uncomfortable in the small tributaries so they get easily spooked.

Reeling the fish in is also a challenge.  Since they are often between 10 and 18 pounds they certainly can take a line and snap it if you don’t play them correctly.  You had better be ready to run with them, its part of the hunt.

Wisconsin has many Lake Michigan tributary streams that support fine steelhead runs. The most popular streams for steelhead fishing along Lake Michigan include the Kewaunee, Root, Oconto, Manitowoc, Menominee, Milwaukee, East Twin, Peshtigo, Ahnapee, and West Twin rivers. Smaller steelhead streams include the Pigeon, Little, Pike, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic rivers; Stony, Oak, Heins, Sauk, Whitefish Bay, Fischer, Silver, and Reibolts creeks.

The DNA gives the following assistance to those wanting to try for steelheads.

"When to go: Although spring rains bring steelhead into our streams, they are hard to catch until water levels recede and clarity increases to the point where you can see the fish, they can see your bait, and they have enough water depth to feel comfortable in a “small” tributary stream. When water levels are “just right,” make sure you’re out fishing. Start early, best fishing is at just daybreak.

What to bring: You’re going to need waders and a landing net of at least two feet in diameter. A fishing vest with lots of pockets is great to have. Use a magnet-style, landing net holder that keeps your net on your back and out of the way while you’re fishing but within easy reach when you need it.

What to use when you can’t see the fish: A long spinning rod spooled with at least a 10-pound test is best for fishing runs and pools where the fish congregate. Try drifting a spawn-sac or small tube jig suspended by a bobber so that your bait floats just off the stream bottom. Add sinkers sufficient to get your bait just rolling along the stream bottom. Your goal should be to drift your bait right into the face of that unseen steelhead lying along the bottom. Set the hook at the slightest unusual movement of your bobber. Many anglers tip their jig with a wax worm or two.

What to use when you can see the fish: A long and stiff fly rod with at least a 2X (10-pound) leader works best. Watch for fish in early mornings and evenings as they build their “redds” or gravel spawning nests at the head of riffles. Keep your profile low, use polarizing sunglasses and wear dark clothes. Steelhead can see color and are easily spooked. Quietly and slowly get into position below and off to the side of the fish you see. Tease the fish with a fly or spawn sac by repeatedly tossing your fly upstream and letting the fly drift as close to the fish as possible. Commonly-used flies are the egg-sucking leach as well as any brightly-colored spawn sac imitation. Use sinkers on your leader if necessary to get the fly at the exact level occupied by the trout. Local bait shops will easily help you select the “hot” flies to use. Be courteous and don’t intrude into another angler’s territory or spook any fish he or she may hunting.

Keep your expectations realistic. Like all fish, sometimes steelhead bite and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes their strike is quite reserved; other times they literally jerk the rod out of your hand. Don’t get discouraged. Even the best steelhead anglers are constantly trying new methods to meet the conditions they face. Watch successful anglers and imitate their methods. Should you finally hook one, be prepared for a downstream run across an uneven and rocky stream bottom.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Randy Schumacher – 414-263-8672"

Come to Wisconsin and take the challenge, you will be glad you did.



  1. We just took two guys out to catch some steelhead in the ahnapee river last weekend. Got three for one and four for the other guy, and missed a couple as well. This type of fish is very dependent on weather conditions and can be hit or miss but lots of fun when its good we enjoy showing people what a great fishery it can be