March marks the return of open water fishing in the northland. Catch and release trout seasons provides a good warmup for the Brule river steelhead fishery which opens on the last Saturday in March.
Steelhead (a lake-dwelling rainbow trout introduced in Lake Superior in the 1880’s) are widely know as a difficult quarry and the Bois Brule’s transient population is no exception. Temperature, water level, water clarity, and weather conditions are just a few of the variables leading to a successful steelhead encounter.
Spring is spawning season and the reason for the arrival of the lake-dwelling rainbows we refer to as steelhead. Lake run brown trout ascend the Brule to spawn in the fall and can be found looking to grab a few meals of eggs before heading back to the big lake as the ice recedes.
Early season steelheading is typically a deepwater nymphing game as the fish tend toward deeper pools when the water is at its coldest. Spawning starts in March and usually winds up for the most part by mid- to late-April. New fish are coming into the river during this time as well so observing the day-to-day progression of the run is a big advantage and one of the key reasons to hire a guide. As the fish finish spawning and begin their journey back to Lake Superior they become more aggressive in the warming waters of late-April and early-May and with the right water conditions can be a lot of fun to target by swinging streamers.
As the steelhead season starts to wind down in late-May the warmwater season starts to shape up. The northern part of both Minnesota and Wisconsin both offer an early catch and release season for smallmouth bass that opens with the conventional walleye and pike season. This season gives anglers a great shot at connecting with some super fat pre-spawn smallies in many rivers and lakes throughout the northland.