Great Lakes steelhead tips with Fishbrain

Catching your first steelhead is a major milestone in any anglers career. Here we look into some of the gear and tips that will help anyone land their first steelhead, or improve their days casting for them.

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Great Lakes steelhead tips with Fishbrain

Snow continues piling up in most of the U.S. and for anglers in the Great Lakes regions, there are two options to scratch your fishing itch. You’re either ice fishing, or if you’re tired of sitting in the shack, you’re steelheading. 

Steelhead are magical fish that make an angler forget how cold winter can get in Ohio, Michigan and other Great Lake states. Unlike ice fishing, there is no shack to protect you from the elements. Numb fingers and chapped lips are badges of honor, showing you survived another February day in chase of one the most stunning fish to ever swim into the Great Lakes. 

We at Fishbrain love everything about steelhead and while there are differences between the Great Lakes variety of the fish and those caught in the Pacific Northwest, catching a Great Lakes steelhead should be on any angler’s bucket list. 

Regardless of where you fish for them, steelhead are notoriously picky and legendarily powerful. When you combine those factors with the poor weather conditions you have to endure, you need the right gear for a successful day.

Read on to learn about some of the best steelhead gear available on the Fishbrian Shop and how it will help you land your first steel beauty.

Diawa Fuego

Steelhead are fantastic at making long, powerful runs and using strong currents to do so. Your reel needs to stand up to these runs. The Fuego is built to handle the toughest conditions and that includes the freezing temps, snow and strong runs associated with steelhead. 

Steelhead are often known as the fish of 1,000 casts and that is where the Fuego’s unique size comes in handy. Daiwa is constantly making adjustments to their reel weights by upgrading components. YOu can cast the Fuego all day long now without it wearing on your hands and wrist. Plus the 22 pound drag should be more than enough to wrestle in the fish of a lifetime. 

PowerPro Super Slick V2 Braided Line

Braided lines are much stronger than most monofilament lines. The added strength of braided line will give you enough power to fight a steelhead confidently when it gets into the current, or if you have to fight it away from any hazards like brush and snags. 

Steelhead fishing is often best in slightly colored water, so you won’t worry about line shy fish in ultra clear water.

The one caveat to using braided for winter steelhead, however, is when temperatures plummet far below zero. Braided line provides more surface area for ice to accumulate on, making casting extremely difficult. 

In these cases you want to switch to a 15 pound floating monofilament. While the mono won’t provide the durability of the braided, the lack of ice on your line will improve its durability and improve your cast. The 15 pound test will be enough to reel in a fish. 

Addicted Winter Chrome Kit

If it’s your first time chasing steel, getting the gear just right can seem like a major barrier, as it does when changing to any major species. This kit is a great asset for first time steelheaders as it provides you with line jigs, jig heads and different types of worms all to get you started.

The assortment of jigs and worms give you plenty of options when the fish seem to be particularly picky and the two types of line discussed in the above tip. 

Even if you are a well experienced steelheader who has put in plenty of time in the frozen trenches, you will still find useful gear within this all encompassing box.


1x 40lb x125 ADX Enforcer HI VIS Orange Braid 

1x 15lb x 25yd TuFline Fluorocarbon 

12x 1/8oz Worm Jigs (Black, Pearl White, Hot Pink) 

5x 1/4oz Worm Jigs (FIRE RED) 

5x Red Fever Worms (Red Haze Body, White Tail) 

5x Sloppy Smith Worms (Nail Polish Pink Body, Blue Tail) 

1x 1/4oz Sinkit Series Jig (Orange Head, Orange Body) 

3x 1/8oz Sinkit Series Jig (Black/Red, Red/White, & Orange/Orange) 

2x 1/16oz Sinkit Series Jig (Hot Pink/Pink & Red/White) 

3x Steelhead Floats (Hot Pink, Chartreuse, & Orange) 

1x ADX Limited Edition Decal (Steelhead Metallic) 

Simms G3 Guide River Camo Waders 

Waders are a must in the winter if you are going to make the most of your time and fully explore the rivers you’re fishing. Like a lot of gear, if you neglect this important aspect you are going to pay for it. 

These waders are built with three layer GORE‐TEX Pro Shell in the chest, four layer GORE‐TEX Pro Shell in seat & legs, which gives these waders the durability needed to withstand the below freezing temperatures associated with the Great Lakes.

As an added bonus, these waders feature a unique camo pattern for sneaking around on days when the water is crystal clear. When river levels drop the water inevitably becomes crystal clear, making you very conspicuous to weary fish. When this happens, fish will abandon shallower waters, instead piling into deep clear waters. If you know this, you will have to tread very carefully when creeping onto these holes. 

The Simms G3 waders camo pattern will help break up your pattern when moving into position for a cast. Later in the season, most fish will recognize the silhouette of an angler and this pattern may be your key to getting the drop on these weary fish.

There’s still plenty of time to hit the rivers and experience the wonder and excitement that is winter steelhead fishing. If this is your first year chasing steel, or have been thinking about taking your first wade into a chilled river, we hope this list leads you to your first bent rod, your first screaming reel and the inescapable smile that comes with putting your frozen hands on your first steelhead. 

Now Let’s go fishing.

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