Spring Steelhead Fishing

Steelhead basics

During early spring around late May and into April steelhead trout start to make their migration into the rivers to start there spawn.  Many southern Wisconsin rivers including Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha tributaries bring a large return of steelhead that makes there way back into the rivers. Steelhead trout can be one of the most rewarding fish to catch out of the trout species. These fish once hooked are extremely acrobatic and fast swimmers. it’s important to know how to fight these fish once hooked. Steelhead will offer a series of jumps, line screams, and heart attacks once hooked. Lake Michigan steelhead is generally a stocked species of fish managed by the Wisconsin DNR programs. Steelhead generally grows between 20-40” depending on the location you are fishing.


These fish can be caught with a variety of lures. Steelhead trout are aggressive and willing to chase down most baits put in front of them including crankbaits. When targeting spring steelhead I like to keep my rig simple and effective. My general rig consists of 14LB nanofil braided line connected to a 2-way swivel leading to about two feet of 6LB fluorocarbon leader. when it comes to fluorocarbon I prefer to use Seaguar or Top Knot fishing line. these line brands are strong, clear and durable. When it comes to the fishing rod and reel I like to use a long nine-foot rod generally fiberglass with a soft tip to absorb the trout’s massive runs they take once hooked. I like to use a St. Croix avid trout rod for best results on the river. When it comes to the reel, I prefer to use a size 3000 reel to hold enough line to manage the heavy trout runs in strong currents. I like to use a P-fluger president reel or Shimano brand, both have been proven reliable reels for me over the years.


When fishing river steelhead there are many obstacles to overcome once a fish is hooked. Steelhead are a smart species typically running directly upstream once hooked. These fish will look for anything they can to wrap up around once hooked. I have lost countless fish due to getting wrapped up around snags such as large rocks and trees. This is why having the right equipment is key to success. Last but not least, it’s always important to remember fish safety when handling a steelhead. Trout can be a fragile fish and deserve to be handled with some care once caught. Most of all, learn something and have fun on the water!

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