May 10, 2014


By Capt. Lee Haasch 

How could anyone possibly predict when spring will arrive this year? After seeing many 60+ degree temps in March of 2012, we had a hard time reaching 60 degrees in April and May last year. Rain one day, snow the next. And the winter of 2013-14 will go down as one of the coldest in history! But, the sun does shine and the water does eventually warm up! When that happens, the lake turns over, the salmon and trout rise with the baitfish, and well….LOOK OUT! They feed! One thing is for sure, May can be fantastic fishing one year and well, a little tough going the next. In 2012, we were catching limits of king salmon from the beginning of the month on. In 2013, with virtually no spring, we targeted brown trout, usually fished in March and April, but with no spring-like weather, we fished them in snow squalls during May. One thing is for sure by June the lake has come alive after the cold winter months and the kings and steelhead will be hungry! 

Usually by this time of year, the shallow water brown trout fishing has slowed as the browns seem to slide deeper and are not as easily targeted. Sometimes early in the month the kings are just getting started but if early on, if you venture deeper in the lake, you can find temperature breaks forming on the surface. On those breaks you can find feisty steelhead actively feeding on early season hatches of bugs and small young of the year alewife that are found in schools near the surface. These silver torpedoes are cruising and darting high in the water column and they are putting the feed bag on! 

Finding these temperature breaks has gotten easier in the computer age with satellite images readily available on your desktop ready to be printed off before you head out to fish. It is even easier if you have a Lowrance HDS electronics system on board. I subscribe to SIRUS weather on my Lowrance HDS and a bonus is the ability to overlay surface temperatures on my plotter screen. With that feature I have current, real time surface temps on my screen and I can simply follow breaks or plot courses to find them. Now it’s just a matter of finding the active schools on those breaks and hang on to your rods!

Effectively presenting your baits to these feeding steelhead means getting baits out wide from the boat, to do that planer boards are a must. Pulling planer boards start with the rod and reels. My choice are the new 7’6” Ugly Stick GX2 rods by Shakespeare pared with Penn 320GT line counter reels. I spool up the Penn’s with Stren 50# Sonic Braid and 20# Berkley Fluorocarbon leaders. For the planer boards, I like Off Shore. They track nice, and I rig them without the flags and set them to trip on the hit and slide down the line and stop at the leader. In-line weights in 1, 2 or 3 ounce can be used for steelhead or not at all. 

Slide Divers are very effective steelhead rigs too. Similar rod and reel set-ups as the planer boards, but I shorten my fluorocarbon leaders to 3 to 4 feet and use a barrel swivel to join the lines. This acts as the stopper for the Slide Diver when the fish hits and the diver slides down the line. Two key things have made this a very effective set-up. First, being able to let out any length of line behind the diver helps get the baits farther from the boat and back into fish catching zones. Second, the new “Light Bite” feature on the Slide Divers instantly releases at the lightest bite from a fish. If the rod twitches – start reeling!

Bait choices are not that complicated. The two things to remember about steelhead are, they are like torpedoes, with strong thick tails and are built for speed and they are pretty much sight feeders. Keeping this in mind, you can troll faster and cover more area. To do this, spoons are the most effective bait in targeting steelhead. Because steelhead are reactionary sight feeders, matching the conditions with the spoons colors is important. On calm, clear, sunny days use silver and light colored spoons. Steelhead like oranges and reds, so silver backed spoons with orange, pink and red accents work good. On choppy, overcast or rainy days the light penetration is much less so it helps to use darker baits and more colorful baits like flamethrowers (orange and yellow) or purples, reds and blacks.


My “go to” baits for steelhead are the R & R spoons in Flamethrower, Watermelon, Albino Frog and Monkey Puke. These spoons are a lighter and run great at fast speeds and I often use an ounce or two of weight or run them behind divers. Warrior spoons on the other hand are more standard weight spoons and run well with or without weight. Hot Banana, Orange Crush and Jelly Bean are my go to Warrior spoons for steelhead. 

Once the steelhead are located, the action can be fast and furious. To stay on top of the action, mark the location of the school and make large sweeping figure eights through the area to keep scoring. The steelhead will tend to stay in the area as long as the thermocline keeps the food supply close by. 

Quite often these thermoclines happen over fairly deep water and the northern part of Lake Michigan around the Algoma area affords the opportunity to get to relatively deep water pretty close to shore which helps with gas time. So as the water starts warming up, the breezes lighten, and the sun shines on all of us fishermen – take a run to the depths and look for these very happily feeding steelhead. Once the frenzy starts, you don’t want to miss out on all the fast action!

For more information on launching or lodging information in the Algoma area go to the Algoma Chamber of Commerce website: For charter information or fishing reports visit my website at: or call 1-888-966-3474. From Capt. Lee and the crew aboard the Grand Illusion 2, good luck and good fishing! 

Capt. Lee Haasch is a charter captain out of Algoma, WI. Capt. Lee has over 40 years of great lakes angling experience and has been instructing anglers for over 28 years with education seminars and timely freelance articles in outdoor publications.