Steelhead Fishing on the Muskegon River

By: Brent Vanderstelt

Anglers love nothing better than to fight a winter steelhead on Michigan's Muskegon River in Newaygo. These powerful fish are known as hot chrome torpedoes and can weigh as much as 20 pounds. Just having one on your line is the thrill of a lifetime and most of Michigan's steelheads are wild steels.

The steelhead migration season begins at the end of October, after the Chinook are finished spawning. Peak months for fishing steelhead are November and December when the fish being their spawning migration. These beauties end the migration near the end of February and into early March.

The best place to fish for chrome torpedoes, the Muskegon River in Newaygo is perfect for fly fishing in early spring and late fall.

Floats and Spawns

If you're looking for a fast-paced steelhead fishing technique, try fishing floats and spawns. This allows for many hook-ups and a large number of the steelheads will be landed. It's best to use a longer rod because it gives you a stronger hook-set and a longer drift. Your reel should be a center pin reel that's been wound with 10 pound test hi-vis line. This will allow for longer casts and smooth drag for your fight with a large steelhead.

When using floats for steelhead in the Muskegon River, they will vary greatly because of water conditions and water levels. The best floats to use for Muskegon River steelheads are Thill orange and black steelhead floats.

Winter Steelhead Fishing

For steelhead fishing in the Muskegon River during November and December, use either a 10' 8wt fly rod or a 9'6" 8wt fly rod. This allows you to recognize a steelhead pick-up because of the longer drift. Also beneficial is the fact that these longer rods allow for a better presentation, a better mending and they tend to keep your line off of the water's surface.

Steelhead Flies

The best steelhead flies for use in the Muskegon River is a wide variety of small egg flies. Always use natural colors such as cream, Oregon cheese, steelhead orange and golden.

Steelhead feed in the Muskegon River in fall and are extremely aggressive. They eat almost anything that passes near to them at this time of year. Wooly buggers and egg patterns work best in fall and early winter, as well as wet flies and spey.

If you're fishing on the Muskegon River in late winter and early spring, use small nymphs and egg patterns with a light leader. This is the time when steelheads are less aggressive. They don't chase flies like they do in the fall.

In late spring, steelheads become more aggressive, but are particular about what they hit. This is the time to use light leaders and small nymphs. Steelheads enter the Muskegon River for the coming spawn on the gravel runs.

The best way to fish for steelhead on the Muskegon River is by boat. This allows you to reach runs and pools that can't be accessed by wading, though steelhead can be caught by this method. A good place to wade for steelhead is at the Thornapple Avenue launch in Newaygo, which is not far below the Croton dam.

The mighty Muskegon River provides a great opportunity for steelhead anglers because of the large runs of steelhead found there. If you're looking for a unique steelhead fishing experience, head for the beautiful Muskegon River in Newaygo. You won't be sorry.

For lodging in Newaygo, Checkout Hess Lake Rentals (www.hesslakerentals.com) they offer year round waterfront vacation rentals on Hess Lake and the Muskegon River at hotel rates. Other Newaygo accommodations, flights and car rentals can be found at NewaygoHotels.com (www.newaygohotels.com)

If you are not familiar with the Muskegon River, consider a river guide. We recommend Riverside Outfitters LLC (www.riversideoutfittersllc.com) or Betts Guide Service (www.bettsguideservice.com ) or Feenstra Guide Service (www.feenstraguideservice.com )

By Brent Vanderstelt
Hess Lake Rentals

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