Fall steelhead and the big bonus

Wisonsin Steelhead Fishing

Joel, Rachael and myself were out for the day on track for some fall steelhead fishing in Northern Wisconsin. Our first spots proved fishless so we decided to try a different river for a while where there were reports of some coho being caught. It was a good move because Joel ended up landing 2 for the cooler.

We later went back to our original destination and fished a different stretch of river as the sun began to set. It didn’t take long for Joel to land a nice buck steelhead, and then Rachael soon landed an even larger hen minutes later. I was too busy most of the day swinging flies and putzing around with my line tangled in tree branches.

But, as I came around the backside of an island to join back up with Joel and his wife, I spotted two large fish that had just moved up into some shallow riffle water as dark started closing in. They were obviously too large to be cohos, so I was guessing they must have been kings. I took all of the weight off my line except for 1 small bb shot and began making a few drifts with my #10 hook near the fish. I could not see where my drift was at but knew it had to close. It didn’t take long and my next drift went taught, I slowly lifted my rod and sure enough the fish started head shaking so now I knew I was in fact in the fish and not a rock. I had hooked the larger of the two and within a few seconds his violent head shakes snapped my line. I was frustrated but pretty excited at the same time. I had never caught a king salmon before and I had just hooked into my first one. Even if it was just for a few seconds. I was rigged up for steelhead using 6# test fluorocarbon leader but I did not want to waste any time digging for different line.

I retied my line and waited for the fish to regroup. A few more drifts and the smaller of the two took. As I lifted my rod tip and saw the fish shake, I pulled back a little harder to make sure the hook was set, only this time I was trying to really focus on being careful to not let the line snap. She came up and started thrashing on the surface right away and only then did I realize how large these fish really were. Joel and Rachael were standing there watching the whole thing. She started making her way down river using the current to her advantage. She made several hard runs ripping out line fast. I was nervous sick to my stomach the whole time imagining myself losing this fish too. She made a couple of hard peels towards a big log jam. The river was working against me and the fish would just pull off to the opposite bank where I could not move it. All I could do was apply constant pressure and try to slowly maneuver toward the shallow sand bar where Joel could get his hands on it. I don’t know how long I fought it for, but it seemed like forever. I hooked her when it was still light out, but by the time Joel was gripping fin, the sun had set and it was dark.

As soon as Joel lifted her out of the water I was ecstatic and giddy like a little kid on Christmas. We put a tape on her and measured over 33″. We were all excited for this fish. Now all that I can think of is when I will get an opportunity like this again. For now, sleepless nights lying awake and a little drink to celebrate and calm the nerves.

King Salmon

3 comments on “Fall steelhead and the big bonus

  1. David on

    Wow – what a monster!! The head is shaped like a rainbow/steelhead but it looks so green. It must be the lighting. It’s nice to know fish this size are in and around Lake Superior. Congrats to you on this trophy!!

  2. Leifjohn on

    Thanks David! I enhanced the vibrancy of the colors in the photo which may have brought out the greener color – that and it was taken when when it was getting pretty dark out with a flash. So the lighting may be a factor too. These fish definitely have some green hue to them though. I believe they start to darken in color upon entering the rivers. Out in the lake they should be pretty chrome. Wisconsin still has a decent chinook fishery so there are always some kings to be found along the South Shore. The North Shore in Minnesota, on the other hand, has very few and far between.

    • David on

      Thanks for your reply. I just started fly fishing last summer and am very intrigued with Lake Superior steelhead. You have inspired me to get up to N. Wisconsin to check it out.


Leave a Reply