You are currently viewing Float Fishing Guide for Steelhead [Complete Guide]

Float Fishing Guide for Steelhead [Complete Guide]

Steelhead can be a fun fish to catch, but it takes time to learn the technique required to land them. Steelheads sit on the bottom of the river and tend to cling here very closely. The key is to get your bait right in front of them without dragging on the bottom. This is where your float comes in.

To start, gauge the depth of the water column you want to fish in. Set your float so that your bait hangs down at least three-quarters of the way to the bottom. Cast once upstream from where you want to fish and let the bait sink. The bait takes a while to sink, and this is why you want to let it hit upstream and float back down.

Take a look at your float. It should be vertical. If it’s not, the angle of the float will give you a good indicator of what is wrong with it. For example, if the float is horizontal on the water, the bait line is too long, and it’s laying on the bottom. If it’s tilting to one side, the float is either dragging, or the current is too strong.

Reel your float in and reset it. Cast upstream again and see how your float looks. The presentation is so important because the goal is to entice the fish to take the bait. Steelhead are more likely to do this if the bait floats right in front of their faces. After you cast a few times, you should get a good feel for the area.

If the fish refuse to bite, you can try a slightly deeper or more shallow depth. Keep adjusting it and trying different areas until you feel nibbles. These will eventually turn into hits.



When is the Winter Steelhead Run in Ontario?

Winter steelhead run starting in January and going through February. You can expect a second run starting in the middle of March and continuing on through April. This is when the steelhead spawns, and you’ll see waves of fish coming and going through the lakes and streams throughout Ontario.

How are Steelhead Different from other Trout?

Both steelheads and rainbow trout are the ray-finned fishes belonging to the salmon family. However, steelhead spends a large portion of their lives in the sea before returning to spawn. Most trout don’t go to the sea and come back again.

Steelhead also have a very streamlined shape with a deep brassy color. This color is where they derive their name from. On average, steelhead spend two or three years in the ocean before spending two or three years in freshwater. This makes them grow much larger than most other trout species. They can weigh more than 50 pounds and get up to over 42 inches long.

Float Rod for Winter Steelhead 

Okuma Aventa Float 13ft Rod For Steelhead.

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This large rod is excellent for fishing for steelhead because it flexes and bends without developing weak spots. The longer length allows you to quickly and easily cast far upstream and give the bait plenty of time to sink before it gets to your chosen fishing area. It has redesigned guide frames that ensure your line glides smoothly when you release it or reel it in.

There are fore and rear cork grips on this fishing rod that make it easy for you to fight with the fish when you land one. They also help you keep your grip in wet or humid conditions. The rod comes with a durable bag for easy storage and transport, and the rod breaks down into several smaller pieces. Finally, you get a lifetime warranty with this purchase that protects you against damage or wear and tear.


  • Has a lifetime warranty attached
  • Has a flexible design
  • Transport bag is rugged


  • May have too much give
  • Not strong enough for bigger steelhead

Float Reel for Winter Steelhead 

Okuma Raw ll Centerpin float reel for Steelhead.

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This reel comes with durable and precise 6061-T6 aluminum that makes it durable and resistant to corrosion, rust, wear, and tear. You’ll get a two-tone anodized frame and spool, and this design helps to ensure you get a smooth glide when you cast or reel your line back in. The coating process adds a greater durability to this reel that ensures it’ll survive dozens of fishing adventures.

There is a high balance level to this reel to reduce wobble, and this reel comes equipped with German-made stainless steel ball-bearings. The bright orange and deep silver detailing create an eye-catching design that looks sharp. This is an aggressive reel that is perfect for hauling in those trophy steelheads. It’ll grip the line without slipping, and this can speed up your process to ensure you don’t lose your fish.


  • Uses 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Has a coating that resists corrosion
  • Has a sharp look


  • Better for beginners
  • Spool tension is finicky

Float Line for Winter Steelhead

Blood run float fishing line for Winter Steelhead.

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This float line comes in six different colors with low memory that enables you to pack a lot of line onto your reel. This is a great feature as steelheads like to run, and you’ll need a lot of line to give them enough slack to tire themselves out. This line is resistant to abrasion, and this ensures that it won’t snag or catch on anything. Additionally, the line comes with a high float that makes it easy to keep track of in the water.

This line is specially designed to catch steelhead and other trout species. The nylon resins create a strong line without adding a lot of excess weight to it. It won’t absorb water, and the line has an excellent knot strength that ensures they won’t slip out in the middle of your fishing outing. You get 300 yards per spool. This is more than enough line to run both large and small steelhead.


  • Bright colors make visibility easy
  • Available in 300-yard spools
  • Doesn’t absorb water


  • Slick coating can wear away
  • May not be thick enough

Best Float or Bobber Bait for Steelheads

There are several types of bait or bobbers available for steelhead fishing. You will have to try out a few of them to see which ones pair better with your fishing style. We’ll outline them for you below.

1. Jigs

Jigs are usually very brightly colored. You can buy them or tie your own, and steelhead love them. In general, Aerojigs hackle patterns, Yakima Baits Maxi Jigs, Beau Mac, and John’s Jigs all work very well. In normal water flow, you want to try out one-eighth ounce jigs in white, orange, pink, or the Nightmare pattern. If your river conditions are very clear, switch to one-sixteenth of an ounce jigs in the same colors or patterns. Whatever you choose, make sure you pick out several different patterns and colors to try when you’re out.

2. Beads

There are soft and hard beads you can use when you fish for steelheads. Steelheads are attracted to beads because they can resemble salmon eggs, and this is something steelheads like to eat. Soft beads, in particular, trick steelheads into thinking it’s an egg. There is a debate on which colors or sizes are best. Brighter beads give your set up a larger lure profile and greater visibility in murky water, and duller beads give you a smaller lure profile. You’ll have to experiment and see which bead works best for the steelhead in your area.

3. Trout Magnet Worm

Trout magnet worms work well for a variety of panfish and steelheads because they float in the water. This helps them mimic what a real worm would like like if it were to fall into the water. As the fake worm floats downstream, it’ll gradually sink to the steelhead’s level in the water and drift by. As it drifts by, the steelhead isn’t able to resist them. You can choose from traditional browns and reds, or this bait comes in bright and bold colors. You can even get glow in the dark ones.

4. Pink Worm

Steelheads eat real worms, so it makes sense that fishing with real and fake pink worms work well. The worms move once they hit the water, and this motion is what catches the steelhead’s attention. The worms come in several different sizes and shades. The fake ones have a gummy texture that mimics a real worm with a hook hidden in the body. If you want to try with real worms, anglers have reported successfully landing steelheads using a traditional worm and hook.

5. Yarn Flies

A yarn fly is a very beginner-friendly piece of bait because it’s easy to make with inexpensive materials. Additionally, you won’t be out a lot of time or money if you lose it. You can create yarn balls with flared pieces of yarn to mimic eggs or larvae. Get steelhead-specific yarn for this project because it’s more durable and able to withstand being formed into a ball.

6. Roe or Roe Bags

Roe is fish eggs. You can use roe by itself on your hook to try and entice steelheads, or you can create a roe bag. All you’ll need is a small mesh bag, roe, spoons, and scissors. Cut out a small piece of mesh or open your mesh bag and spoon the roe in. If you’re fishing in clearer water, you want fewer eggs for a smaller presentation. If you’re fishing in dirty water, use more eggs. Don’t touch them with your fingers. Tie off the bag to finish, and make sure you have a round layout.

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