N ovember is my favorite month to be fishing for steelhead on the lower Pere Marquette. The leaves are down; the salmon are gone and have left thousands of eggs that are not covered with gravel to create a conveyor belt of food down the river. I consider steelhead to be the best fish Michigan has to offer in the fall. They are aggressively feeding and willing to take nearly any type of presentation if you get it in front of them, especially during the first half of the month when the water temperatures are in the mid-40s or even 50s. During this warmer water period of November, you are sure to know when you have hooked into one of the prize chrome bullets when it jumps out of the water like a lightning bolt the second it is hooked. I had a new record in my boat last fall when we had one jump 13 times before hitting the net. Later in November colder air and water temperatures will slow the metabolism of the fish down, and you will have to fish slower by spending more time in each hole. Steelhead will move into slower water as the month goes on and not typically be in the center of the current seams of the river.
Egg flies, beads, and spawn are the best choices at the first part of the month but spinners, streamers or plugs seem to work better near the end of the month. With our below average salmon run, this fall eggs may not work as well as normal – time will tell.
Keep in mind that the steelhead in the fall does not have to be in the river. They typically come in during periods of rising water and can drop back to the lake several times over the course of the winter. I feel when the fish make it upstream of Walhalla they are likely to spend the winter, until the spring when the water warms up to 42 degrees, and they spawn and return to Lake Michigan.