Time for a new camera angle though, so stay tuned for the next videos.
A cool Fall day in Dec '16. Fishing was a bit slow for the first half of the day but was able to round it out with three steelhead each from different year classes, which was great to see and very important for the fishery!
Time for a new camera angle though, so stay tuned for the next videos.
These are the folks who contribute the most to make steelheading in Ontario as great as it is!
After a warm and very dry October, the fall started to turn around quickly with some heavy rainfalls and prolonged days of rain in early November. Steelhead were slow to arrive as temperatures were 5-10C above normal for several weeks. Niagara River has been reliable but but most rivers have just started to see their normal number of arrivals, even with three weeks of high water. Winds have been insane with 3-4 days of 40-80km/h each week. Things should normalize with November weather just arriving as I type. Looking forward seeing smaller crowds on the river as the temps drop, as there has been a lot of river traffic this fall!
Fishing has been excellent these past three weeks, and we have limited openings left. Be sure to book soon if you are hoping for a fall trip!
Some Lake Ontario steelhead are suffering a vitamin B1 deficiency making them incapable of synthesizing the sugars that are critical for giving them energy, therefore causing death.... scary!!
Jeff Wall | Nomad Adventures
This article is intended to provide basic information to anyone wishing to take advantage of the spring Great Lakes Steelhead fishery. Although we are targeting migratory rainbow trout, there are many incidental catches that fill our day with joy and help us learn tactics for catching other species we may encounter.
Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is a species of salmonid which is native to the cold water tributaries of Pacific Asia and North America. Steelhead is an anadromous(sea-run), or in this case, lake-run form of Coastal Rainbow Trout(Oncorhynchus mykiss Irideus) that have been introduced to Great Lakes tributaries. These fish spend their first 1-2 years in the tributaries, then enter the Great Lakes, to later migrate back to their natal streams when they reach spawning maturity.
Primary spawning runs occur in the Great Lakes tributaries from late March to late May depending on the winter.
Season and Habitat
Timing as they say is everything. Especially on a sunny, warm spring day where the lake hasn't been stirred up much. If the water is clear and sun is high, then I'm already off the water looking at my pictures of the day's catch. A light wind is not a bad thing either provided it is in your favour. I prefer to fish a small chop when fishing steelhead and other minnow eaters. It displaces the baitfish more and allows for a wider, deeper zone to troll through. Fishing can be equally as good in the last two hours of daylight too. Finding a lightly wind blown warm shoreline near a creek or river can give whole new perspective on Great Lakes kayak fishing if you time it right! A spot where the sun has warmed all day long with a decent outflow nearby will start to get a trickle of minnows just before dusk that can provide fast and furious action as the sun disappears.
Most of the time you are fishing less than 20' of water. Fish are shallow as 5' when the sun comes up and usually stay in less than 20' until then light starts to really penetrate then water. Try to find temperature gradients close to a mud line as they are your best indicator of where to start fishing. The transitioning water colour from brown to green is the area you want to focus on the most. This is where the bait are hanging out to avoid being in plain sight. Zig-zag trolling in and out of the mud line will surely get you bit.
This is the season where kayaks have a real advantage over motorboats because of the relatively silent trolling capability. There is no need to run inline planer boards unless you do it to clear other rods when trolling multiple. If you have a leg propelled kayak like a Hobie Mirage series then things are even that much more simplified with hands free fishing.
We primarily target spring Steelhead before they enter the tributaries to go about their reproductive business. Anytime that conditions allow and you feel you are capable of dealing with them is the right time to go. This article is not about safety so if you feel there may be a risk and are not comfortable with it, then do not go. Steelhead begin entering Great Lakes rivers in October and can still be around in early June. Spring runs are more consistent from April to mid May. Once they are safely higher up in the system, it is our practice to give them free passage. Although we are not afraid to go and pound on a fresh run of fish near the lower stretches of rivers, we prefer letting those who passed the gauntlet, to carry on and make lots of future angling opportunities. Especially on rivers that yield wild fish!
Locating and Timing
The old spawned out warrior in this picture is a catch we try to avoid but can't always when targeting migrating fish around rivers. For this reason we tend to concentrate our efforts in the lake near the river, rather than in it. He took about 5 mins to revive even in icy cold water.
A chrome bright fish in the spring does not mean it is a fresh arrival! Many steelhead finish their spawning ritual before the river season opens, and they are almost fully healed from their wounds, leaving them with their beautiful silver sheen. These kelts are the most sensitive of the lot. They are extremely hungry and feed ravenously on anything they can find. They are also very susceptible to death if hooked and and fought to exhaustion with less oxygen in the warming rivers. They cannot recover since they have no reserve body mass to fall back on. Please do not target these fish!
This spring hen was caught in Lake Huron near a major tributary. She was fully recovered from spawning and caught June 1 gorging herself on shiners when she hit a Live Target Rainbow Smelt.
Anything resembling a shiner or smelt style minnow and fished near a river outlet on the Great Lakes will get bit... by something. It will most likely be a steelhead, coho salmon, or brown trout but could be any number of other species following the bait. Move around in the lake until you mark bait or spot it.
Last spring we had the pleasure of guiding Sportsman360 TV host Owen Nolan and his guest co-host former NHLer Chris Simon for steelhead in Southern Ontario. It was the worst weather we had ever fished in let alone guide anyone! Things turned out very good, and the show will be airing for the first time tomorrow, and running all week long.
Sportsman360TV: Ontario Steelhead -
WildTV(Ch 393) Tues 7:30pm, Thurs 4:30pm, Fri 3:30pm
World Fishing Network(Ch 426) Tues 10pm, Wed 1pm, Sat 1pm
Will post the video in its entirety when it is released.
Have a look if you get either of those channels. Here is the trailer
Hope you enjoy!
Lake Huron Spring Chinook Salmon
Jeff Wall | Nomad Adventures
The groundhog said six more weeks of winter from Feb 2.... he was wrong! It has been a lot of years, close to 20 since I was able to put some decent time in on the spring Great Lakes fishery. April is normally our second busiest month for river guiding, but the winter that wouldn't go away gave us some time for personal fishing.
Canadian kayak fishing guide Jeff Wall showcases his spring catch. Over 40 fish caught in six outings last spring. All were salmon or trout except one giant out of season walleye.
Steelhead, Coho Salmon, Brown Trout, Chinook Salmon, Atlantic Salmon, Walleye, Lake Trout were all caught and released over six separate days of fishing.
Long lining shallow crankbaits on light lines pretty much sums up the spring kayak fishing in Ontario for the Great Lakes region. We employed a variety of minnow baits, smaller spoons, and kwikfish style lures. Slow trolling with abrupt direction changes were the ticket in the open water trolling but crashing two lures thru the baitfish schools got us several doubles. I don't have to tell you how exciting that is in a kayak!
Please always consider best practices when heading out on the Great Lakes, especially when it is still winter. Better yet, hire a guide!
Be sure to look up Nomad Adventures for your next spring kayak fishing trip.
Hope you enjoy!
Giant Lake Ontario Walleye
Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon
by Bruce Ranta April 25th, 2004
Migratory rainbow trout, called steelhead, are highly prized trophies. They’re beautiful fish, leaping titans when hooked and a culinary delight on the plate. For many anglers, steelhead are the ultimate challenge.
Although they’re the same species, steelhead of the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean are different from rainbow trout in smaller inland lakes.
The term steelhead describes a rainbow trout that was born in a stream, migrated to the sea, and returned to the stream as an adult to spawn. Such fish are said to be anadromous. Given that the Great Lakes are every bit seas, albeit freshwater ones, a steelhead in Ontario refers specifically to the anadromous rainbow trout found in these lakes and their tributaries. Elsewhere, they’re merely rainbow trout. Or are they?
In 1989, rainbow and cutthroat trout were moved by taxonomists from the genus Salmo, which includes Atlantic salmon and brown trout, to the genus Oncorhynchus, which includes pink, sockeye, chum, Chinook, and coho salmon. Technically, the rainbow trout (oncorhynchus mykiss) isn’t a trout at all, but a salmon. It’s also the same species as the East Asian trout.
While long a fixture of Ontario’s fishery, rainbows are non-native to the province. They were once found only on the West Coast of North America, but humans have widely transplanted this magnificent fish. Today, one of the most important transplanted, self-sustaining populations of steelhead in the world is in the Great Lakes.
The first transplants to the Great Lakes watershed began in the U.S. in 1874, but the first introductions of steelhead to the lakes proper took place when the Aux Sables River was stocked in 1876. On the Ontario side, the first fish were brought in privately sometime in the 1890s to a headwater pond on the Nottawasaga River. The first known recovery of a steelhead in Ontario was a 4-pounder taken near Duck Island, near Manitoulin Island, in 1904.
With an introduction in 1878 in the State of New York, the Lake Ontario watershed was the second Great Lake to receive rainbows. By 1920, they were well established in a number of rivers on the U.S. side. The first seeding on the Ontario side took place in 1922 into a pond in Riverside Park, Toronto.
The Lake Erie-St. Clair watershed was first stocked in 1882, but no fish were recorded in Ontario waters until 1920. The first Ontario stocking was in 1936 in Norfolk County creeks.
Lake Superior was the last of the Great Lakes to receive rainbows, and this time the introduction was initiated by Ontario. Fish were stocked near Sault Ste. Marie in 1883, followed shortly by American releases, also in the eastern basin. By the turn of the century, large numbers of rainbows up to 8 pounds were being taken by commercial netters targeting lake trout.
Not surprisingly, Great Lakes rainbows are not a pure strain. They originate from a long history of stocking both wild and domestic strains on both sides of the border. It’s even possible there was some early hybridization with cutthroat trout, a species known to interbreed with rainbows in the wild. Cutthroats were planted in a number of New York and Michigan tributaries in the late 1800s.
Compared with resident stream rainbows, steelhead of the open lakes are brighter and usually silvery. The clearer the water, the brighter the fish. Some lake fish look almost nickel-plated. Once they return to natal streams, they begin to darken and display a bright red band along the body.
The steelhead doesn’t live to a ripe old age, especially when compared with long-lived Methuselahs like lake trout. Few steelhead live to see their ninth birthday, and generally life expectancy is only 6 to 7 years.
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