Steelhead Fishing Techniques

Studying up on steelhead fishing techniques is a great way to ensure you will not go home empty handed. Steelhead fish are actually rainbow trout who cruise to the sea and then come back up the rivers and creeks to spawn. Their ocean time means they taste just a little more flavorful than their freshwater counterparts. They are also a bit more rugged and arguably harder to catch. Even seasoned fishermen are always on the lookout for new techniques to hook this elusive fish and so should you.

  1. Drift fishing with bait. Of all the steelhead fishing techniques out there, drift fishing is the oldest and probably most popular. Many anglers are used to drift fishing with steelhead and are quite familiar with the nuances. Your dad probably taught the method and his dad before him. It still works well, but there are little tweaks you can add to your game to help improve your odds. For one thing, worms or salmon eggs still work but you have to remember the steelhead spent some time in the sea. Next time bring some raw shrimp to add to your arsenal of fishing techniques. It is smellier and the food of choice when the steelhead are in the sea.
  2. Fly fishing. You can't list steelhead fishing techniques without touching upon fly fishing. Fly fishing is a specialized fishing technique. A lot of anglers ignore it because you need a whole new set of gear and need to learn new ways to go about the joy of fishing, but it is worth a try. It not only expands your fishing skills, but you learn to look for steelhead in different areas you would ignore while drift fishing.
  3. Lures. Drift fishing is not just for bait. Your rig can accommodate other setups like lures. Many anglers have a few lures in their tackle and it is still one of the great steelhead fishing techniques. But you should know your lures. Steelhead will happily go after rubber worm lures and steelhead anglers know the wax worms, scented and glow ones work well. Even ice fishing jigs like the small vertical work well with steelhead drift fishing. But by far the favorite lure would be the silver spoons. Steelhead like deep wide pockets and drifting this lure past them not only catches their attention, it fires up their instinct to strike without thinking which is much better than when they nibble bait.
  4. Jigs. One of the new steelhead fishing techniques that is getting really popular is using jigs. It sounds strange to seasoned steelhead anglers who keep the jigs on hand for shad, runs but pros and amateurs alike are starting to add jigs to their tackle when they set out for steelhead. Like any other form of drift fishing, you will want to keep the jig low and work the outside of deep pockets. By far the most popular and successful color for these jigs is pink.


  • Steelhead trout have earned their name. Treat every snag like a strike and you will catch more fish.
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