As coho salmon season winds down, steelhead begin to show up in most of the Lower Mainland rivers. To catch a steelhead in December is typically an infrequent occurrence. However, this year has provided the best early season steelheading that I have encountered. Lots of people have been taking their time off work or school through the holidays to go in search of early season chrome, and many are being rewarded with fish. One only needs to look to the Fishing Reports section or the FISH PORN threads to see the success being had.
On top of being a good early season, there also seems to be a decent number of hatchery fish being caught. I have found that most early season pushes of fish tend to be wild; that has not been the case this year. Many fishermen are retaining their hatchery fish and heading home early.
The earliest I had caught a winter run steelhead until this year was January 3rd in 2008. Already, I have been blessed with 3 fish to hand. Each of those fish has come in very different situations. The first fish was landed soon after first light on my first cast. The 9lb wild doe had not seen any offerings before mine.
My second fish came in the middle of the day in a run that likely hadn’t been fished. The water was gin clear and low, but that didn’t stop him from hammering my bait in only a few feet of water. It was a small hatchery buck that was retained. While gutting the fish I noticed its stomach was loaded with salmon eggs that had drifted down river.
My third fish came from a popular run that had been pounded all day. I arrived shortly after Noon and was last in line as me and three friends fished through the run. I decided to fish in tight to shore in the shallow water as I had noticed my friends had been fishing further out. I was rewarded with a clean 6lb wild doe.
The key to early season steelheading is to cover water. However with many or few fish there are in the river, you will always increase your odds by covering water. Steelhead are aggressive fish, so if they are there they will typically bite on the first few casts you put in front of them. Secondly, don’t be afraid to fish shallow and close to shore, especially if the water has colour to it.
Normally I tell people not to burn themselves out early season by trying for the odd steelhead that is in the river, but this year is an exception. Get out there while the fishin’ is hot!