Float Fishing for BC Winter-Run Steelhead

Float Fishing for BC Winter-Run Steelhead

Well, it is the time of year where Winter-Run Steelhead have entered many of British Columbia’s Coastal streams and are eagerly awaiting your offering. You just have to get out there and start casting!

As we have said previously in some Steelhead-related articles, our best terminology for this fishery is that Steelhead fishing is a game of inches. There are so many factors that come into play when you spend a day on the water.

As we work through this article, we will pick apart what you need to do in order to become an overall better Steelhead angler. 

Effort, motivation, focus, confidence, and timing, these five words describe what it takes in order to be a successful Steelhead fisherman any time of the year, especially early season.

Remember them, and apply them. It will make a world of difference in your success. In the Winter Steelhead fishery, 10% of the fishermen catch 90% of the fish.

Depending on your preferred system, or whichever system you are fishing on a given day can affect what you choose to fish and how you fish a certain piece of water. We will use the Vedder/Chilliwack River for example.

By late February, the river not only holds a good amount of fish, but also has seen a great deal of fishing pressure. With this comes fish that could have possibly been in the river for a fairly long time and already been caught.

At the same time, new arrivals of fish will happen right through until the middle of May.

As the season progresses, and this goes for many systems with similar run timings, these Steelhead can waiver back to their “Trout Like” habits. You will often hear other anglers say that some fish can become “trouty.”

What we mean by this is Steelhead can become quite picky and selective as to what they want to bite, and at times will bite extremely lightly if at all… Bites can be so light and subtle that an angler will have no chance of hooking the fish, or will not get a second chance.

That being said, not every fish will be like this. The only way to find out is to keep working water and just keep casting!

When covering a section or length of river this time of year, there is still no shortage of areas one should cast as Steelhead in general can be found in almost any water type on any given day.

There are of course spots that Steelhead will lay in more often than others, but at the same time there is no rhyme or reason as to where they are moving or sitting. When working through a section of water, you will want to focus on slower walking pace water, but do not stray away from faster troughs or shallow pocket water.

If you can, cover it all. A critical method to covering water effectively is to start at the top of your selected stretch of water, casting tight to shore and working your way further out, while working your way downstream at the same time. Couple casts, and take a few steps.

If you have a feeling you have not covered the water well enough, think there may be a fish, or have missed a fish, you can repeat the process again.

In a lot of cases if you think you have missed a fish, exercise more casts into the same area. If you have not gotten another bite, try switching up to a different presentation.

More often than not, this will draw a strike from the fish you have missed. Steelhead can be very aggressive, but during the later months it may take a few extra casts to entice them.

When targeting Steelhead this time of the year, and in a system such as the Vedder, the same rules do apply to early season; do not worry as much about what you have on your hook, but more so the water you are covering.

All of your standard presentations that produced fish early in the season will produce fish later in the season, but some may need a bit of tweaking or added delight (ie. piece of bait).

Most early season fish will bite on the first drift through the spot, and if you miss them, chances are they will bite again and you will get a hookup. Later in the season this still happens often, but the theory is not always proved as the fish can be a lot pickier or have already played the game.

Depending on water conditions (height and clarity), we would suggest a brighter presentation of a medium to large size, and in lower and clear conditions it can be a good idea to go smaller on your presentation.

Lastly, our KEY piece of advice in order to be successful in this fishery is to fish the CORRECT depth. Time and time again we see anglers fishing way too deep for the water they are covering. Always remember you do not need to be dredging the bottom to catch steelhead.

More often than not, steelhead will lay right on the bottom, but will rise for your presentation. A correct depth is to be just off of the bottom. This will give you the best approach to the fish, without dragging your line and gear across its head.

You will also be way less prone to snagging bottom reducing amount of gear lost and increasing chances of catching a fish. 

What to Use

Plastic/Artificial Steelhead Baits

Natural Steelhead Baits

  • Roe
  • Roe Bags
  • Deli Shrimp
  • Prawns (Raw or Cooked)
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Dew Worms

Got more questions about winter steelhead fishing? Contact us by email, by phone at 604-931-5044 or stop by the shop at #110 1140 Austin Avenue in Coquitlam BC.

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Looking for some other local fisheries? Check out our Winter Cutthroat Fishing blog post.


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