As winter drags on you may be tempted to leave the couch and try winter steelhead fishing. Do it.
When air temperatures remain below freezing day and night for a long stretch of winter days, the stage has been set.
Prior to “ice-lock” conditions, most tributaries will have flowing water in which you can float a jig, egg sac or whatever is your preferred bait.
The exact water conditions you will face include edge ice and surface slush, and air temperatures will require gloves and plenty of clothing layers.
The best fishing occurs mid-morning to late afternoon when you have cloud cover and water temperature increases slightly.
The “bite” will seldom be the solid hits you experienced during warmer fishing in the fall or spring. A slight twitch of the float, a float pause during the drift, or a steady decent of the float will be your signal to set the hook. The last one seems like you have snagged the bottom, but when you raise the road, you feel the steelhead slogging along the bottom.
Winter fishing challenges you will face include the icy hands and wind-burned face. Physical torture aside, your equipment will be tested as well. Line, float and bait repeatedly dunked in water and tossed through the subfreezing air will become ice coated. The line gets a special candle-like appearance that you need to see to appreciate. Don’t forget the landing net. When dry, the net lands fish one. After that, the net becomes a frozen, flat, chunk of ice. Finally, your reel can grind to a halt if you do the old “dunk-a-roo”.
That is enough about the downside of winter steelhead fishing.
On the positive side three points, you will find that fishing pressure is light to moderate when temp are low and snow depth is high. Steelhead are hungry in winter too. And the last and best part of winter steelhead fishing is that the jig bite is terrific.