BlogOctober 2016

The Best Time to Fish for Steelhead Trout

The Best Time to Fish for Steelhead Trout

By Andy Whitcomb

Oct 26, 2016

Steelhead trout can be caught any time of day but low light conditions can be the best.

The steelhead trout is genetically the same as a rainbow trout. The difference between the two is that the steelhead doesn’t just stay in creeks or rivers. On the Pacific Coast, it migrates to and from the ocean. They’ve also been stocked in the Great Lakes, and are returning to the streams right about…now!

With patience and lots of practice, Steelhead Trout can be caught any time of the day. Fly anglers believe daylight is when to fish so they can see the fish and adjust the presentation of their drift. However, low light conditions are often the best time to fish for Steelhead Trout when using spinning tackle. First light in the morning and just as the sun is setting are often touted as having the best bite.

Our steelhead trips usually start with a bit of a hike in the dark. Given that, a helpful Steelhead fishing tip is to bring a good working flashlights, not just for arriving without a broken fishing rod, but to charge the glow-in-the-dark lures we like to cast. My son and I also have lights that clip onto, or are built into, a cap to free up our hands. 

This season, for additional fishing safety we’ve added lighted slap-bracelets to our gear. Although never very far apart, my son and I attach these new soft lights in a position where we can always see each other and use the blinking setting to communicate quietly that we just hooked one, rather than digging out our phones or yelling over crashing waves and alerting other fishermen. 

In my neck of the woods, steelhead streams can get very crowded. By following these Steelhead fishing tips and being the “early bird,” you can experience the stream with less pressure. It also helps to pay attention to hunting seasons because “Opening Days” can send many would-be anglers into the woods instead. But be sure you have a current fishing license with the right stickers. 

And one more Steelhead fishing tip: to fish the Great Lakes for steelhead, there probably are additional stickers required.
Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.