Steelhead fishing seasonal phases . . . .

Steelhead season, and the run of fish that make it possible, goes through a number of phases that impact your ability to find and catch steelhead.IMG 4694

You may have different terms to describe what you experience, but these are mine. Low-water kickoff, October mini-run, November stacking, early winter scatter, ice-lock pause, January thaw, spring run, and late spring drop-back.

To date, we have endured the low-water start, got excited as several October mini-runs gave us hope, enjoyed finding stacked November steelhead that staged in good holding water, and now we are transitioning to the “scattering” of fish.

In late November and facing into a water-flow of the proper temperature, steelhead are responding to their nomadic nature by heading upstream.


ElkCreekNov13I remember one conversation about stream conditions when I expressed the need for more November rain to improve the fishing.   I was told that while a string of wet days may bring in a few additional steelhead, it will surely scatter the bulk of fish staged near the lake. 

I now believe that those steelhead are constantly moving upstream until dropping water temperature stalls their advance.  Some research studies even suggest that those fish are returning to their “stocking site”. 

Whatever you think, we can agree that November fish move!

The bottom line - to be successful in late November through the days in December when the tributaries become ice locked, you must fish at locations holding steelhead.  

Final point, the most popular fishing locations are not necessarily the most productive spots in late November. Trust me, you will know when you find one and the experience will be worth the search!