10 Top Great Lakes Steelhead Runs

10 Top Great Lakes Steelhead Runs

More than 50,000 steelhead, most ranging from 8 to 12 pounds, ram up the St. Joseph River every year. Since most rivers don't have weirs where every fish can be counted, it's unknown how many steelhead return to most streams. Safe to say, however, that it probably isn't 50,000. The St. Joe is, in a word, awesome. For sheer numbers, it could well be the finest steelhead river on earth.

"Oh yeah?" challenges John Hojanacki, inveterate Michigan steelheader. "I love the Joe, but if it gets a run of 50,000, I'll bet the Grand River (Michigan) gets 75,000. Has to. Look how many tribs that river has that couldn't hold another steelhead in spring if you tried to wedge it in with a crowbar."

And the Grand, you'll note, didn't even make our list. Too close to the Joe. Actually, the rivers mentioned here represent a sampling of the best rivers from each state, to even things out through the region. That doesn't mean these rivers don't belong on somebody's list of the best steelhead streams in the Midwest. And choosing an actual "Top 10" is virtually impossible in a year when steelhead are returning in record numbers all over the region. Suffice it to say our Top 10 isn't offered in any particular order of preference or pick.

"This is already the best year ever on the Salmon River," says Rob Sherwood of Triple S Sporting Supplies in New York. "It's the best year ever on all the Lake Ontario tribs."


"We're having the best run of steelhead I've ever seen this early in the year," echoed guide Mark Chmura back in September. "Manistee River steelhead are running 10 to 16 pounds. Finding one less than 8 pounds is harder than finding a 20-pounder."


Don waders in the dusk before dawn. March through the misty forested stillness to a quiet run of ink-black water kneading beneath outstretched ferns in a dim light. Giant silver torpedoes lie hidden in the flow. Your own fish, on your own terms. Could be the best year ever for this rewarding and altogether unique angling experience.


1. St. Joseph River, Michigan-Indiana: BJs Sports, 616/429-8271.

2. Niagara River, Ontario-New York: Guide John Oravec, 800/443-2510; Information: Downriver Bait & Tackle, 716/754-4272.

3. Root River, Wisconsin: Information: Dave Sura, 262/635-5220.


4. Big Manistee River, Michigan: Guide Mark Chmura, 231/864-3747, Guide John Kestner, 231/745-3972.

5. Salmon River, New York: All ­Seasons Sports, 315/298-6433.

6. Grand River, Ohio: Grand River Tackle, 440/354-8473; Guide Mark DeCarlo, 742/349-8742.


7. AuSable River, Michigan: Guide Keith Poland, 419/878-3873.

8. Trail Creek, Indiana: Guide Jay W. Anglin, 219/326-9531.

9. Elk Creek, Pennsylvania: John Nagy's Steelhead Guide Service, 412/531-5819.

10. Cataraugus Creek, New York: Information: Gary Sprague, 716/532-2585.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Catfish is meaty, juicy and holds up well in this soul-satisfying fried fish recipe with homemade chips and tartar sauce. Fish Recipes

Catfish Dinner with Homemade Chips and Tartar Sauce Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Catfish is meaty, juicy and holds up well in this soul-satisfying fried fish recipe with...

Catch those weary crappie with this technique! Panfish

Dock Shooting Crappies

Matt Straw - July 03, 2018

Catch those weary crappie with this technique!

This recipe for Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad is heart healthy, paleo- and gluten-free diet friendly. Fish Recipes

Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad Recipe

This recipe for Steelhead Trout Niçoise Salad is heart healthy, paleo- and gluten-free...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

Giant Walleyes According To Calendar Periods

Giant Walleyes According To Calendar Periods

The search for big walleyes begins with an understanding of their nature, keying on prime locations during specific times of the year.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Pole lines illustrate the paradox of catfishing. At a time when excellent rods, reels, and other Catfish

Catfish Pole Rigs

Richard Peterson with In-Fisherman - April 28, 2016

Pole lines illustrate the paradox of catfishing. At a time when excellent rods, reels, and...

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural baits and commercial options. Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

See More Stories

More Trout & Salmon

Lefty Kreh passed away March 14th, 2018.

In the world of fly-fishing, Lefty Kreh stands out as the Trout & Salmon

Lefty Kreh: The Man Behind The Legend

King Montgomery - May 05, 2015

Lefty Kreh passed away March 14th, 2018. In the world of fly-fishing, Lefty Kreh stands out...

The In-Fisherman staff takes you on a mission for monsters, as they cast for shallow late-season Trout & Salmon

Hawg Nation Lake Trout

Jeff Simpson - August 09, 2016

The In-Fisherman staff takes you on a mission for monsters, as they cast for shallow...

For steelhead, texture and the passage of light through an egg is important. Trout & Salmon

Soft Beads for Steelhead

Matt Straw - October 30, 2017

For steelhead, texture and the passage of light through an egg is important.

See More Trout & Salmon

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.