Summer Steelhead and Coho

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On our Lake Superior charter fishing trips this summer, we’ve seen a few more steelhead (and coho salmon) caught than other summers and I’m sure it was because of the abundance of bait fish in our area. From early July to mid August, when it was calm in the Keweenaw, we’d see small minnows on the surface being chased by coho and steelhead. Often, we could see the minnows scooting away in front of our side planer boards, even jumping out of the water as they felt threatened by the board “chasing them.”

Looking around the boat as we trolled, we could see the larger fish’s dorsal fin breaking the surface as they chased down the minnows. At times, in order to find the prized salmon, we’d look for this activity with binoculars, then troll through the area to hook into the big ones. Many times, when we cleaned the fish and checked the stomachs, they were chucked full of the small minnows.

I’m not sure why we have so many minnows, but you can bet it’s a good thing and we are hoping next summer will be the same or better.

We caught steelhead and coho on 6 inch dodgers with small flies, spin-n-glows (see this post for set-up) and squids about 18 inches behind (sometimes shorter, 12 inch leads) and many more on pink or green spoons trolled in the 2.5 to 3 mph range. Some fishermen like to troll faster, perhaps up to 3-3/4 mph, but the best speed depends a lot on what you are using. In other words, you wouldn’t want to go that fast with dodgers, but would with smaller, flatter spoons.


Dodger and spin-n-glow set up. A pink dodger with a pink fly worked good too.


One new spoon that I found very effective is the Honeybee, which is not available in any stores here yet, but perhaps will be by next summer. It’s a very light (aluminum) spoon of very good quality, with welded rings on both ends. It has a good, attractive action, and by choosing the right size (and making some adjustments) can be trolled fast or slow – from 1.8 up to 3 mph. Like most other lures, they are available in a multitude of colors, but unlike others, they are all painted with, or coated with, ultraviolet (UV) paints. Here is a picture of a nice steel head that was caught with lead-core line behind an in-line planer board on a pink Honeybee.


Steely with the pink Honeybee spoon that he was caught on, at almost 3 mph.

See: I’ll be reporting more on this lure as I get to use it more.

I’m looking forward to catching even more next summer already, even though I am not done with this season yet.

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About Brian Helminen

Brian is the owner and Captain of Sand Point Charters, LLC. He also owns and operates Designotype Printers, Inc. with his wife, Margaret. They have a cottage on Lac La Belle that can be rented by the week in the summertime.

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