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All Steelheading is Wonderful. But Michigan is Better than Ohio.

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November 21, 2011

All Steelheading is Wonderful. But Michigan is Better than Ohio.

By Kirk Deeter

Everyone has a "home river" where they started fly fishing. And everyone has a "dream river" they yearn to experience. The more I travel, fish and write, the more I realize that my home river and my dream river are one and the same--the Pere Marquette system in western Michigan.

I just spent a few days fishing the P.M. with guide Jeff Hubbard, owner of Outfitters North, who is hands-down one of the most dialed fly guides I have ever fished with. He showed me new wrinkles and twists for water I've been fishing for 25 years.

We were joined by Robby King of LDR Media, with whom I traveled to Alaska last year for "The Kodiak Project." Even in contrast to the Amazing steelhead on the Karluk, Robby and I found the P.M. steelhead experience, while admittedly a bit chilly, to be a red-hot thrill.

One of the misnomers of Michigan steelhead fishing is that it's all about "chuck and duck" nymphing, running egg flies, and so forth. We spent the whole time casting Skagit heads and swinging Jeff's home-spun leech flies in a classic style. We used 11-foot 9-inch, 8-weight switch rods (Michigan Rivers are ideal for the switch rod).

Okay, so you Pacific northwest anglers can criticize Michigan fish as being "not real steelhead" because they aren't anadromous, meaning they don't run to and from saltwater. That's true. But I'll say this: All the Pere Marquette fish have an adipose fin, meaning they are wild and not stocked. There's also something to be said for catching a few (to several) steelhead a day, which is normal for Michigan.

In other words, the "my steelhead are better than your steelhead" stuff is a bunch of hooey. It's all good. It's just particularly good in Michigan. Apparently, the steelheading can even be good in Ohio, according to Joe Cermele. And that's about the nicest thing a Michigan man will say about Ohio this week.

Comments (25)

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from BaboosicBomb wrote 2 years 21 weeks ago

I thought steelhead didn't have the red stripe?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 21 weeks ago

Having fished both Ohio and Michigan for steel I will have to agree that Michigan has the nod for a better fishery. Lots of public access and fish with very little crowds.

The fish in the photo is likely a Little Manistee strain of steelhead. Ohio trades Michigan catfish for steelhead and stocks the same fish in the Erie tribs but Michigan offers bonus salmon and browns for your time on the water.

When the fish are in the tribs both states offer great steelhead fishing. However, in late November the rivers in Michigan become flooded with the tears of Wolverines making the rivers runs high, muddy and unfishable. It is phenomenon called the Buckeye Effect. Michigan should be avoided during this time.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 21 weeks ago

I'm not going to criticize the steelhead for not being anadromous. A lake is as good as the ocean to migrate from for a steelhead to move out of to spawn, but it takes a lot of nerve to compare a Michigan river to a Western River that flows into the salt like so many of my WA rivers that I guided on, or BC rivers. Structure, and flow is much more conducive to an enjoyable float trip on the water than the Pierre Marquette! A blind man could detect the vast difference! I think you are bringing along way to much Yukon Jack on your float trips.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from robbyking wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Awesome flooding comment buckhunter. Made me laugh quite a bit

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckeye wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Buckhunter, great flooding line.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Ask Nebraska about the water forecast in Michigan next week... I think we can all expect low and clear.

Maybe you Buckeyes can check out a river when you come up and play in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. Ohio vs. Ohio?
Then again, you'll probably "self-impose" a bowl sanction...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Hail to the Victors!!! It is guaranteeeeeed! More Buckeyes get tatooood!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rob wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

To try and compare a wild, ocean run steelhead, to a lake run steelie, even if the lake run is wild, is to defame the ocean run stocks. Lakers just don't face the same challenges, no dams, no seals, no nets, no trawlers, no sea lice.........there just aren't the challenges there. And that, to me anyway, is what makes a coastal fish so much cooler. I'd be happy to fish for either, but given my druthers, I'll take a coastal fish any day.
Fish are fish, and all fishing is fun, but in the argument of coastal vs. lake run, it's more of a purity issue, regardless if the lakers are wild. They are merely a rainbow that ran into a lake and put on some pounds, maybe dodging the occasional Coors Light empty.
A coastal fish, either native or stocker, has a story to tell, and that to me is the difference.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Late November is a joyous and gleeful time to be a Buckeye. For those wearing the scarlet and grey the beer is on the house and even ugly guys take home the pretty girls. Visitors often ask if this is Heaven. We just reply, "No. It's Ohio".

Nebraska is coached by a Buckeye...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tony Berg wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

The fishing may be OK in that state up north, if your lucky enough to make it to your fishing spot with out getting ran off the road by the worst drivers on the planet.
GO BUCKS!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from baconboy206 wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

having caught lake run "steelhead" and wild steelhead in the pacific northwest, i can tell you that those lake runners dont hold a candle to real steelhead, half the fight, smaller fish, scenery that is downright pathetic when compared to the old growth forests and snow capped peaks of oregon washington bc and alaska, its not even close.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

There are obviously positives to both. I highly doubt KD is reeeaaallly saying lake-run steelies are the same as coastal steelies. Pretty sure he is just pointing out Mich has wild fish and they are just as fun to catch. But, I might be giving you too much credit KD....

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

badsmerf..Why not say they are the same? Went to big water to grow big, and back to the river to spawn. I'd bet any of you a lot of money that after landing one, you could not tell where it came from?..nothin more than a guess. Almost seems kooky to think the salt returner is a better fish.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Woodstock wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

So Deeter, will you share with us some of those wrinkles and twists the guide showed you?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

I guess you could call them the same. I guess I would just consider them different since one goes to salt water.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hoski wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Yep, this just confirms it, the best part of Michigan is under water. :)

All the jabs concerning one strain of fish being purer than another is silly, maybe we should bring back the debate about longbows, compounds, and crossbows too.
Happy Thanksgiving.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

GUYS! Here is the difference in my opinion of course, and I guided for steelhead. It's the character of the river that is the big difference! Take for instance my area outside of Seattle where I guided from. We had the Samammish SLEW. And it was a slew..no character, just a big water ditch. Lots of steelhead came up it, and lots were caught. But someone wanting a great day, and experience,.. I could take them on an 8 mile float of the Skykomish River coming right out of the Cascade Mts. just north of Seattle. Right after launch on the mt. pass, there was a long stretch of rapids I had to negotiate that ended in a classic steelhead pool with a well defined tailout that flowed into another set of rapids. Clients were in steelhead heaven right off the getgo! Turn your back in the boat, and there were snow capped mts. directly behind you. Cameras went off all day long! And that is the big difference in fishing for steelhead, not the big water where they came from, although there is a big appreciation for the trials and tribulations that steelhead endure going to salt. And there are lots of rivers like that on the WestCoast.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ruckweiler wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Man, is this going to start the Michigan and Ohio tongues a-wagging now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hoski wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Always wondered how to prepare adipose fin.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

What's all this got to do with the Wolverines beating Ohio St. today?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from robbyking wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

One more positive thing you can say about Ohio State is that they do a great job of practicing catch and release - they're always giving back anything they win at least.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Had to be frustrating if you were a Buckeye fan. The OSU receiver, Posey, is an exceptional receiver. He left Wolverine defenders in their tracks, embarrassingly so all game long, and Miller couldn't get him the ball. NO SEC team played in the Big House Sat. that is for sure, but it was an exciting game. Also seemed pretty dumb to have your starting lb get a dislocated elbow in practice? Practice?...Are we talking Practice?! How could that have happened? No contact necessary at this point in the season, or need to have contact to get them motivated to play Sat. He could have been the stopper that prevented those long runs from Robinson up the middle all game long.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Congratulations to the U of M. It was a great game.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

It was a great game, and OSU played like warriors. Michigan really, really, really needed that one. I think the rivalry as a whole did. Looks like there's going to be plenty of fire in this one going forward.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

No fire going forward IF URBAN can still recruit in Florida. How'd Michigan like to see 4 receivers split out as fast, and as good as Posey was, and a QB that could get them the ball? NC.... and that means no contest unless Michigan way, way ups their recruiting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckhunter wrote 2 years 21 weeks ago

Having fished both Ohio and Michigan for steel I will have to agree that Michigan has the nod for a better fishery. Lots of public access and fish with very little crowds.

The fish in the photo is likely a Little Manistee strain of steelhead. Ohio trades Michigan catfish for steelhead and stocks the same fish in the Erie tribs but Michigan offers bonus salmon and browns for your time on the water.

When the fish are in the tribs both states offer great steelhead fishing. However, in late November the rivers in Michigan become flooded with the tears of Wolverines making the rivers runs high, muddy and unfishable. It is phenomenon called the Buckeye Effect. Michigan should be avoided during this time.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Ask Nebraska about the water forecast in Michigan next week... I think we can all expect low and clear.

Maybe you Buckeyes can check out a river when you come up and play in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. Ohio vs. Ohio?
Then again, you'll probably "self-impose" a bowl sanction...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Hail to the Victors!!! It is guaranteeeeeed! More Buckeyes get tatooood!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

badsmerf..Why not say they are the same? Went to big water to grow big, and back to the river to spawn. I'd bet any of you a lot of money that after landing one, you could not tell where it came from?..nothin more than a guess. Almost seems kooky to think the salt returner is a better fish.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Woodstock wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

So Deeter, will you share with us some of those wrinkles and twists the guide showed you?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hoski wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Yep, this just confirms it, the best part of Michigan is under water. :)

All the jabs concerning one strain of fish being purer than another is silly, maybe we should bring back the debate about longbows, compounds, and crossbows too.
Happy Thanksgiving.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from BaboosicBomb wrote 2 years 21 weeks ago

I thought steelhead didn't have the red stripe?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from robbyking wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Awesome flooding comment buckhunter. Made me laugh quite a bit

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckeye wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Buckhunter, great flooding line.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Late November is a joyous and gleeful time to be a Buckeye. For those wearing the scarlet and grey the beer is on the house and even ugly guys take home the pretty girls. Visitors often ask if this is Heaven. We just reply, "No. It's Ohio".

Nebraska is coached by a Buckeye...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tony Berg wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

The fishing may be OK in that state up north, if your lucky enough to make it to your fishing spot with out getting ran off the road by the worst drivers on the planet.
GO BUCKS!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

There are obviously positives to both. I highly doubt KD is reeeaaallly saying lake-run steelies are the same as coastal steelies. Pretty sure he is just pointing out Mich has wild fish and they are just as fun to catch. But, I might be giving you too much credit KD....

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from badsmerf wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

I guess you could call them the same. I guess I would just consider them different since one goes to salt water.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

GUYS! Here is the difference in my opinion of course, and I guided for steelhead. It's the character of the river that is the big difference! Take for instance my area outside of Seattle where I guided from. We had the Samammish SLEW. And it was a slew..no character, just a big water ditch. Lots of steelhead came up it, and lots were caught. But someone wanting a great day, and experience,.. I could take them on an 8 mile float of the Skykomish River coming right out of the Cascade Mts. just north of Seattle. Right after launch on the mt. pass, there was a long stretch of rapids I had to negotiate that ended in a classic steelhead pool with a well defined tailout that flowed into another set of rapids. Clients were in steelhead heaven right off the getgo! Turn your back in the boat, and there were snow capped mts. directly behind you. Cameras went off all day long! And that is the big difference in fishing for steelhead, not the big water where they came from, although there is a big appreciation for the trials and tribulations that steelhead endure going to salt. And there are lots of rivers like that on the WestCoast.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ruckweiler wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Man, is this going to start the Michigan and Ohio tongues a-wagging now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hoski wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Always wondered how to prepare adipose fin.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

What's all this got to do with the Wolverines beating Ohio St. today?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from robbyking wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

One more positive thing you can say about Ohio State is that they do a great job of practicing catch and release - they're always giving back anything they win at least.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Had to be frustrating if you were a Buckeye fan. The OSU receiver, Posey, is an exceptional receiver. He left Wolverine defenders in their tracks, embarrassingly so all game long, and Miller couldn't get him the ball. NO SEC team played in the Big House Sat. that is for sure, but it was an exciting game. Also seemed pretty dumb to have your starting lb get a dislocated elbow in practice? Practice?...Are we talking Practice?! How could that have happened? No contact necessary at this point in the season, or need to have contact to get them motivated to play Sat. He could have been the stopper that prevented those long runs from Robinson up the middle all game long.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

Congratulations to the U of M. It was a great game.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

It was a great game, and OSU played like warriors. Michigan really, really, really needed that one. I think the rivalry as a whole did. Looks like there's going to be plenty of fire in this one going forward.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

No fire going forward IF URBAN can still recruit in Florida. How'd Michigan like to see 4 receivers split out as fast, and as good as Posey was, and a QB that could get them the ball? NC.... and that means no contest unless Michigan way, way ups their recruiting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from baconboy206 wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

having caught lake run "steelhead" and wild steelhead in the pacific northwest, i can tell you that those lake runners dont hold a candle to real steelhead, half the fight, smaller fish, scenery that is downright pathetic when compared to the old growth forests and snow capped peaks of oregon washington bc and alaska, its not even close.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 21 weeks ago

I'm not going to criticize the steelhead for not being anadromous. A lake is as good as the ocean to migrate from for a steelhead to move out of to spawn, but it takes a lot of nerve to compare a Michigan river to a Western River that flows into the salt like so many of my WA rivers that I guided on, or BC rivers. Structure, and flow is much more conducive to an enjoyable float trip on the water than the Pierre Marquette! A blind man could detect the vast difference! I think you are bringing along way to much Yukon Jack on your float trips.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rob wrote 2 years 20 weeks ago

To try and compare a wild, ocean run steelhead, to a lake run steelie, even if the lake run is wild, is to defame the ocean run stocks. Lakers just don't face the same challenges, no dams, no seals, no nets, no trawlers, no sea lice.........there just aren't the challenges there. And that, to me anyway, is what makes a coastal fish so much cooler. I'd be happy to fish for either, but given my druthers, I'll take a coastal fish any day.
Fish are fish, and all fishing is fun, but in the argument of coastal vs. lake run, it's more of a purity issue, regardless if the lakers are wild. They are merely a rainbow that ran into a lake and put on some pounds, maybe dodging the occasional Coors Light empty.
A coastal fish, either native or stocker, has a story to tell, and that to me is the difference.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

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