Ask Zimo: Bounce bait on the bottom for steelhead in the winter

January 16, 2014 

Q: I am going steelhead fishing for the first time in February.

I will be in Riggins and fishing from the shore.

Can you help me with what type of line (pound test) and what kind of lures and bait I should use?

STEVE WISEMAN, via email

A: My favorite way to fish from the bank is with spoons or spinners, but it might not be the best method during winter.

Veteran steelhead anglers prefer using drifters and bait and bouncing the rig on the bottom.

In winter, when the water’s cold, fish are hunkered down and deep.

Take a drift bobber, such as a Lil’ Corkie, and tie it and the hook on an 18-inch or longer leader. Attach the leader to one end of the top of a “T” style swivel.

At the bottom of the “T” swivel, tie about 6 inches of line with a pencil sinker with a snubber or surgical tubing.

If you snag up, the pencil sinker will pull out and you won’t lose your whole rig. You’ll find pencil sinkers and snubbers at fishing shops. There are other styles of weights besides pencil sinkers, such as buckshot sinkers.

Tie the main line from your fishing rod to the other end of the top of the “T” swivel opposite the one going to the Corkie.

You asked about pound test and I usually use 10- to 12-pound-test line on my medium-heavy spinning rod and reel.

Bobbers and jigs also are popular for bank anglers in winter, and I think they’re a lot of fun to fish.

Ask for help with this rig at the fishing shop. You can get steelhead-style bobbers where you can adjust the depth of your line, so you can drift the jig near the bottom and have the bobber on the surface so you can detect a strike. Some anglers tip their jigs with shrimp.

OK, back to spoons and spinners, which may be a long shot.

You might look at Blue Fox spinners, Blue Fox Pixie Spoons, Little Cleos, Krocodiles, Dardevles or generic wobbler spoons. Fluorescent colors, such as orange, pink and chartreuse in combination with brass or silver, are popular.

Spoon anglers have to pick out fish-holding water just like plug and fly anglers.

On a typical steelhead river you’ve got rapids and a pool with a bunch of rolling water. Then it mellows out with a nice stretch of slower water 4 to 8 feet deep above the tailout. The water just off the bottom in that flat section is the strike zone.

The tailout is the calm-water area at the horizon line just before another set of rapids or riffle.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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