The Great Lakes region is an enormous region with diverse run timings and populations. The purpose of this guidance is to provide a high-level overview of applications for bead fishing specific to Salmon and Steelhead.
Steelhead move out of the lake into the tributaries in two phases. In the fall when the water temperature drops to safe levels and the flows are adequate for migrations fish move out of the lakes into the streams. In the spring following the melting of the tributary’s steelhead will migrate out of the lakes into the main tributaries.
The Chinook salmon run is more condensed in timing of the fall with beads being effective for targeting the freshest fish as they move out of the lake. Beads can be effectively fished in the same location types of holes where one would also fish skein or spawn sacks. The beads can be a great change up for fish that have already seen a number of cured baits. Top colors for these applications include Lucky, Joker, Hot Snot, Mean Green, and Mottled Cerise in the 14, 16 and 20mm sizes. The beads are most effective fished under a float in a suspended system with a shot system of single weight with 12 to 15lb leader and a #1/0 to #2/0 hook. The fish that have most recently moved into the river system will be the most active biters.
The steelhead runs in the Great Lakes are enormous with a significant number of options and regions. Steelhead that enter the tributaries in the fall are typically following spawning salmon. These steelhead can gain valuable calories by consuming the loose eggs that these salmon drop. Steelhead that migrate into the river during the winter months and into the spring are focused more on preparing to spawn in the later spring months. Traditional bead fishing in the great lakes involves small 6 to 8mm beads, small hooks, and light leader. While these tactics are effective for high pressure and lower water conditions the growth of larger beads deployed in higher water and lower visibility conditions is gaining a following. The most common beads are 8 to 10mm with 12 to 14mm becoming more popular. Top producing colors include Hot Snot, Lucky, Peach Gobbler, Roe Light and Techno. For the smaller beads, hook sizes #6 and #4 are recommended with 6 to 10 lb. leader.
For targeting chinook and salmon float fishing is the preferred technique, either center pin or with a standard spinning rod presentation. Fixed floats are standard is depths under 4 to 6 feet with in-line weights or shot to suspend the bead at fish-eye level during the presentation. Leader size should be sufficient to steer the fish out of woody debris and other underwater obstacles.