Navigating the degrees to successful Fall Steelheading in the Great Lakes.

A Lake Erie Beach on a warm, October evening with the family waiting for some Steelhead to visit.
Navigating towards Steelheading success during the autumn months is a game of degrees but not on a compass. The degrees anglers should be more aware of are those on a thermometer. In the Great Lakes the annual decline in water temperature from summer to fall is the cue for Great Lakes Steelhead to begin the stream portion of their life cycle. Lake temperatures dropping into the low 60’s is the best invitation for Steelhead to begin this process. Through the first three weeks of Autumn in 2017 we have seen unseasonably warm water temperatures across the Great Lakes Basin. As I am always inquisitive about such things I wanted to find out much these water temperatures were deviating from the normal range. How can anglers determine the state of current conditions for their local waterways? There are many sources of information available to anglers online. Let’s review some current conditions and sources for this information.

The Great Lakes surface temperature are currently above the long term average.  In the last 5 years (2012 to 2017) this is the warmest spike in water temperature during this time period for Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Only Lake Superior had slightly elevated water temperature during the same time period in 2016. See figure below and this link: Great Lakes Water Temperature 2012-2017



Of course this may sound like a lot of doom and gloom, it is not. Lake temperatures will  eventually drop and Steelhead will eventually begin to work their way into Southern Ontario rivers and streams. This will be helped with some much needed rain this week. The rains will bring some rivers up from summer lows to more seasonable flows. Seems things are finally starting to shape up, even if only a few weeks overdue.

Lake Erie Surface Temperatures (GLCFS) 10-10-2017
Lake Erie Surface Water Temperature (Date: 10-10-2017) Source: NOAA
For those looking for more information on Great Lakes here is the home page for the NOAA Great Lake Forecasting System. This system is setup to provide a wide range of Great Lakes based information including current conditions, forecasts and historical data. Anyone who spends time on, or near, the Great Lakes will find this information to be an invaluable planning tool!

In future articles I will review the impacts on stream temperature and precipitation on Steelhead movements through the fall and winter. Until then I am looking forward to cooler days, cooler nights, more rain and light winds. Bring on Autumn Steelheading! I am ready!


Searching for early morning Steelhead on Lake Erie