April 12, 2007 at 7:56 a.m.
Once the air temperatures begin to moderate next week and rivers flow more freely, the time should be just about right to chase steelhead along our North Shore rivers. Mid to late April, according to the weather forecasts and fish reports, will be prime time for the southern shoreline, from the Lester River to the Baptism River. There are fresh fish present in some of the rivers right now, but tricky "shelf ice" and loose ice floes is making foot travel and wading tough for anglers. If you've never done battle with a steelhead fresh from the lake, you're missing out on quite an experience
In my opinion, fly anglers hold a distinct advantage over spinning anglers in that they're able to present fish with far more varied offerings. Typical steelhead patterns presented with a fly rod include leeches, round egg patterns in every size and color imaginable, nymphs and yarn flies.
However, spin fishermen take a lot of fish as well. The most effective and time-tested spinning technique that is often used is known regionally as the "chuck 'n duck." This method allows the spin fisher to bottom-bounce spawn bags on egg hooks by way of split-shot placed 18 or so inches up the running line, or secured on the tag end of a 3-way dropper line. This technique's name is derived from the fact that once you swing the rig behind you and chuck the heavy split-shot and spawn overhead, you're oftentimes forced to duck your head as the lead whistles dangerously close to your upper body and head.
I recall a day on the Lester River a few years ago when I spotted a good-sized steelie holding tight to the bottom in a tail-out of a deep run. In haste, I swung my lead laden spawn rig behind me and chucked, but like a dummy forgot about the all-important duck factor. Needless to say, I paid dearly for that isolated mental lapse. The just reward for my inattentiveness was a couple of large and heavy split-shot ricocheting off the back of my head.
So, keep an eye on the weather during the next few weeks and visit some fishing sites on the Internet. I like to look at the DNR's North Shore Fishing Report (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/areas/fisheries/lakesuperior/report.html) and the Steelhead Site (http://steelheadsite.com). Both of these often-updated sites will provide you with valuable and current reports regarding runs, presence of fish, water flow data (CFS), effective patterns and techniques.
Steelhead fishing is an exciting sport and well worth the relatively short drive to our beautiful North Shore.
Dan Brown's weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie's Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.