Temperatures-R-Rising for Clinton River Steelhead

Yates Park near Rochester is the place to be for the annual migratory madness spring steelhead run. For years, the Clinton River has drawn dozens of local “metalheads” looking for a shot at the river’s big steelhead. As the Clinton’s water temperature starts to rise, pods of spawning steelhead begin to cruise up the river to build their redds. Fish in the 5 to 8 pound range are common, but a few bruisers even bigger will be caught.

Steelhead is a name given to large rainbow trout which live in the Great Lakes and spawn in its tributary rivers and streams. Steelhead are originally from the Pacific Coast of North America and are a very popular game fish. For this reason, they have been introduced all over the United States and many other parts of the world. They are an “anadromous” fish, meaning they migrate from salt to fresh water to spawn. Technically in the Great Lakes, it is “potamodromous,” which means migrations within fresh waters.

Steelhead were accidentally introduced to Michigan in 1876. Michigan’s Steelhead era began in 1966 when the Little Manistee weir started operation. Currently, the Little Manistee River is the sole source of eggs used to produce smolts stocked in the Clinton River. The Michigan DNR annually plants 30,000 steelhead smolts at the Dequindre Road site. Those smolts leave the Clinton and migrate to Lakes Huron and Erie to feed. After two or three years the fish reach considerable size and return to the river to spawn

Steelhead enter coastal streams when water temperatures reach about 40° F. Water reaching 42° F  triggers the main spring spawning run. Unlike salmon, steelhead continue to feed while they are in the streams. Steelhead also do not die like salmon after the spawn.

At Yates Park, you will see fishermen using fly gear, but spinning outfits are the norm and some will be using center-pin outfits. In Michigan, you’ll need an all-species license to take and possess steelhead if you are age 17 or older. See the 2011 Michigan Fishing Guide, published by the Michigan DNRE, for complete details.

If you have ever thought about what it takes to land a beautiful Michigan Steelhead, then go to Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Auburn Hills and speak to our experts in the fishing department or the White River Fly Shop. Then grab your gear and catch a fish of a lifetime!

Click here for more information on fishing in Michigan.

Wayne Snyder runs the White River Fly Shop in Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Auburn Hills, Michigan. He is also the author of “The Golden Age”, the history of fly fishing in Michigan.

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