Tips for Fishing Superior’s North Shore Tributaries

By: Tyler Dunn

The beginning of fall represents the start of a new school year, a new hunting season and my favourite; the annual run of chinook, pink and coho salmon. With the runs of salmon coming into the tributaries to spawn the food present is amazing which attracts hungry steelhead that then enter the river systems gorging themselves on roe, invertebrates and small minnows.

From Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay, Ontario there is a smorgasbord of rivers, streams and creeks that all receive annual runs along highway 17. These rivers on the north shore of Superior are generally smaller and made up of various kinds of rocks and stones. Although I fish some stretches of the bigger rivers that do offer slow water stretches with sand and mud bottoms. Most of the rivers being relatively shallow, fast with a ton of rocks. Bottom bouncing can be the most effective method to consistently hook up with salmon or trout along Superior’s tribs. Pencil weights from 1/2 to 1 ½ oz will cover all depths and currents. A good tip for anyone bouncing with a pencil weight is to give the weight a slight bend like a banana. This small bend seems to help the sinker from hanging up. Another option many anglers use to combat snags is slinky weights. A fluorocarbon or mono leader anywhere from 18-36” to bait is sufficient. I run a slightly longer rod than most on the tribs north of Sault Ste. Marie which is currently a 9’6 St. Croix Wild River with a Shimano Stradic 3000 spooled with 10 pound test.

Float fishing the northern tributaries is another exceptional method to hook up with fish. Even though these rivers are ideal for bottom bouncing, float fisherman do extremely well. Typically, I run a 10 pound monofilament mainline to a fluorocarbon or mono leader which is usually 8 pounds but will go as low as 4 pound test when needed. My season usually starts targeting fresh run coho salmon in September with worms then roe for steelhead during most of October and into November. From this point up until freeze up is when artificial baits such as pink worms and micro tubes shine. Also small stone flies, prince nympths and wooly buggers are all deadly flies to drift below your float. Fish these baits along current breaks, back eddies and the tail outs of pools. Most of the time you will find steelhead set up just downstream of the salmon where they wait for single eggs to drift by. Float rods I use on my home waters on Superior are a 13’6 Raven RV9 and a 12’6 Raven Matrix with a Raven SST-3 attached.

Casting hardware for salmon and trout produces a ton of fish for anglers during fall. Small wide wobbling crank baits such as storms hot n tot are responsible for some of m y catches each fall. Another go to for me is an inline spinner such as a Panther Martin, Mepps or Blue Fox Vibrax bare or most often tipped with a worm. Casting spoons such as a Little Cleo, Mepps Cyclops and EGB are all excellent casting spoons for salmon and steelhead. Cast these lures in the pools found in the river or directly at the mouth on Lake Superior. I use the same rod for bouncing as I do casting hardware.

Lake Superior boosts healthy populations of salmon and steelhead which are accessible by shore from September until December each year. These unpressured waters offer anglers not only as great shot at catching a fish but the scenery is second to none. Come and enjoy what northern Ontario has to offer!

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