Klamath River Steelhead Fishing Techniques

Klamath River, located at the foot of the Cascade Mountains in California and Oregon, has been a famous fishing destination for salmon and steelheads. Steelheads are forms of rainbow trout that are abundant in the entire stretch of the Klamath River. 

It is known that steelheads are one of the most difficult fish to catch, especially for beginners who have just started fishing. Some anglers have not even caught one single steelhead in their entire life. If you plan to go to the Klamath River for some steelhead fishing, here are some techniques and tips to help you. 

Klamath River Steelhead Fishing Techniques 

The perfect time to go to Klamath River to catch some steelheads is between early July to early September. During this time, summer steelheads are only starting to migrate into the lower Klamath. Each steelhead weighs differently, but they are all fast swimmers. They will certainly keep you busy while challenging your angling skills. 

You should also know the best riffles for steelhead fishing. Some anglers find these riffles by riding shallow running jet boats, especially in the lower stretch of the Klamath River. Other people try to catch some steelhead and access these riffles by wading.

A tried-and-tested fishing technique for Klamath steelheads is “swinging flies.” It involves casting across the current and allowing the fly to swing downstream before lifting and rising towards the surface. You can use either a one-handed or two=handed fly rod for this technique.

Klamath steelheads are still abundant by November, but they can be found in the other stretches of the Klamath River. These steelheads range from the juvenile steelheads doing their first run before returning to the ocean to adult steelheads weighing 10 pounds.

1. How do you fish for steelhead on the Klamath River?

The best way for fishing steelheads on the Klamath River depends on when you intend to fish. These steelheads travel across the entire Klamath River in various seasons of the year. It’s better to be informed about their whereabouts per season or month so that your visit to the Klamath River will be worth it. 

There are summer steelheads as well as winter ones. Summer steelheads make their way to the lower Klamath River as early as July. However, they are still abundant, even from mid-August to mid-September. 

For the early steelhead season, the best steelhead fishing is in the lower stretch of the Klamath River, from the mouth of the Klamath upstream to the junction where it meets with Trinity River near Weitchpec.

When it transitions to the Fall Season, the best place for some steelhead fishing is in the middle stretch of the river. The middle stretch includes the communities of Orleans and Happy Camp. There is abundant shore access off Highway 96, so anglers will not have a hard time looking for a spot in the Klamath River to fish for steelheads.

The middle stretch of the Klamath River often has fast currents and steep banks, so anglers have to be cautious of these spots. 

By November, steelheads start to travel towards the upper Klamath River. They continue to arrive until February. The steelheads increase in abundance this season as they stack up in the tailwaters just below the dam. Anglers usually access the upper Klamath River by jet boats.


2. What is the best bait for steelhead in the Klamath River?

The best baits for Klamath steelheads are freshly cured roes because of the instinct of the steelheads to kill the eggs. Steelheads are naturally protective of their eggs, and this makes roes the effective baits for steelhead fishing. 

Free-floating eggs are baits for predator fishes. For steelheads to avoid encountering their predators, they smash and destroy eggs when they see them freely swimming around. When a steelhead picks up a roe, it just wants to pop it. 

These steelheads open their mouth, smash the egg, and then spit it out, killing the eggs. However, winter steelheads are quick to spit the roe out. You have to be quicker and always on the trigger for them. 

3. What are the best lures to catch steelhead on the Klamath River?

The best lures for steelhead fishing are spinners, spoons, and crankbaits. These lures have techniques and advantages that make them the preferred lures to catch steelheads for many anglers.

Spinners are one of the best lures because of their swiftness in moving and covering water. For steelhead fishing, the best spinner sizes range from size 3 to size 5. As there are different spinner colors, the most suitable color for steelhead fishing is a silver blade spinner with a silver or colored body. 

Another good lure for steelheads is a spoon. Spoons are considered deadly lures for steelheads. If you are using spoons as lures, the recommended color is silver or silver with another color. 

Silver is the standard color of choice when fishing in rivers because when the silver flashes together with the wobbling of the spoon, it resembles a baitfish. A baitfish is what steelheads often seek out in the lake or ocean. 

Crankbaits are another type of lure for steelhead fishing. These lures are recommended when you plan to fish in the deeper parts of the river. Some anglers do deep diving crankbaits to ensure effective steelhead catching. Good crankbait colors are those that can mimic natural forage like small trouts, suckers, and minnows. Silver bright color combinations are also a good color. 

4. What are the best techniques for bank fishing for steelhead on the Klamath river?

When you bank fish, you should know how to control it even when the current affects your route. In bank fishing, the bait, drift, hookset, strike, and presentation are factors that can affect your success in catching a steelhead. You should first monitor the water condition because this can dictate the rig you will be using to fish. 

Drift fishing is one of the easiest techniques in bank fishing. This technique involves bouncing the lure or the bait along the bottom of the river. 

Another method in bank fishing is to cast and retrieve using casting spinners. Since steelheads are more commonly located in fast waters, you have to learn how to cast upstream and allow them to drift downstream. 

The cast and retrieve technique is more effective during summer since steelheads have faster metabolism during warmer weather. Fishing plugs is another technique that uses diving plugs that are released downstream from a boat. 

5. What are the best techniques while boat fishing for steelhead?

First, you should study the river before you go boat fishing for steelhead. Be familiar with where the current will be more aggressive. You should also know the areas where rocks are common. You’ll need to avoid that.

If you plan to fish in a boat, make sure that you have found a good spot to anchor your boat so that you can fish safely. It is especially true when fishing for winter steelheads since they move faster and are more aggressive. 

In the Klamath River, some anglers prefer to use jet boats to access the best riffles of the river. These riffles are where most of the steelheads are located. 

Final Thought 

Klamath River steelhead fishing is one of the most sought out fishing activities of anglers. To be successful in catching steelheads, you need to know and follow certain tips and tricks, especially if you are a beginner in fishing. 

More than the right skills in fishing, you should also have the best fishing gear and equipment and the right bait for steelheads. Steelhead fishing may be challenging, but it becomes easier when you have gotten the hang of it.

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