Looking for steelhead? Southeast Michigan is the place!

Posted on October 20th, 2016

Many people agree that steelhead are one of the country’s top sport fish. The bulk of anglers take advantage of their spring spawning runs in March, April and May, but some rivers also have a fall run of steelhead when fish come into the rivers well before their normal spawning period and then hang out all winter. This means the next fishing opportunity is just around the corner.


Most parts of the state offer great waters to target steelhead on – and southeast Michigan is no different! Primarily you’ll find fall steelhead runs in the Huron and Clinton rivers, which both have lots of public access points along the stream.

“Huron River’s fall steelhead run can be comparable to many of the rivers up north and it’s excellent – probably because it’s not as well known,” said Jeff Braunscheidel, a fisheries biologist based in Waterford. “The timing of the fall run is usually late – typically starting around early to mid-November.”

There is also a good spring spawning run in March and April.

Once the run begins on the Huron there’s no shortage of access points – including a small boat launch in Flatrock (also a destination on the department’s Trout Trails application) and a boat launch at Riverfront Park on Jefferson Avenue at the mouth of the river.

Braunscheidel explains that by using a small boat, anglers can fish the deep holes located on the bends of the river – it’s not ideal for wading.

For those without a boat, shore fishing can be accomplished at Huroc Park in Flatrock (just below the Flatrock Dam) and at Labo Park (just downstream of I-75, off South Huron River Drive).

“The fish are hungry so they are actively feeding,” he said. “Good baits in the fall are spawn or lures – such as spinners or crankbaits.”

The Huron River is a Type 4 stream which means it has a 10-inch minimum size limit and a five fish daily possession limit (but no more than three fish can be 15-inches or greater).

“Additionally we stock on average 60,000 fish there every spring,” said Braunscheidel. “It’s the heaviest stocked tributary in southeast Michigan.”

On top of steelhead, many other species can be targeted on the Huron River throughout the year. They include northern pike, largemouth bass and walleye.

As mentioned previously, not too far away, the Clinton River provides additional options for targeting steelhead in southeast Michigan during the autumn months. According to Cleyo Harris – another fisheries biologist based out of Waterford – this river gets a lot of fishing pressure but with plenty of good reason.

“The river is very wade-able and in some spots – like at Yates Park – it gets shoulder-to-shoulder,” he explained. “But there are a lot of trails along the river so that affords anglers the opportunity to spread out.”

Also a Type 4 stream, the Clinton River is popular with fly anglers and is stocked with about 27,000 steelhead each year. While many people fish immediately below Yates Dam, River Bend Park is located just a short distance downstream and is a great spot (and also featured on the Trout Trails application).

Northern pike, bass, suckers and walleye (in the spring) can also be found here and the fall run steelhead tend to arrive a little earlier than they do in the Huron River – even as soon as early October.

Two other rivers to turn people on to for steelhead in southeastern Michigan are Mill Creek and the Belle River, both located in St. Clair County. These streams see a decent spring steelhead return and are not as crowded with anglers. They receive 7,500-10,000 steelhead during stocking each spring.

Don’t miss your chance to experience Michigan’s wonderful fall fishing – for more information about opportunities in the southeast corner of the state, visit Michigan.gov/fishing or call the Waterford Fisheries Office.

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