Shore Casting for Winter Kamloops & Steelhead

For many a Steelheader, spring can NEVER come soon enough. Waiting for the rivers to open and flow can be incredibly frustrating and almost intolerable at times. However for those ambitious, thick-skinned fishermen (and women), there IS another option. An option that can produce some great fish, both trout and salmon, and give us the rush we all chase as Steelheaders as well. Shore casting.

Shore casting is a simple, basic fishing technique that is proven to work. Some gear needed to get into shore casting you likely already have though you may be “forced” to invest in some new equipment.

Equipment for basic shore casting on the Minnesota North Shore:

 • Slow to medium action casting rod with spinning reel (many outdoor outfitters do carry nice rod/reel setups specifically for shore casting.)
• 6lb. to 8lb. monofilament, low-visibility line
• Size 6 or 8 hooks (some of us prefer red hooks)
• Small swivels
• Slide sinkers or snap-loc casting sinkers
• Worm blower (if opting to float worms)
• Slip bobber, sinkers and gear required for typical slip bobber set up (if choosing to fish bait under bobber)
• Rod holder (keep hammer on hand to secure your holder)
• Cleats to attach to boots in slippery conditions especially when navigating icy rocks or terrain
• Net if preferred

• Rubber bands
•Popsicle sticks (for those with kids, stock up during the summer time)

Bait Choices:
• Worms - for fishing beneath a bobber or for floating (a personal favorite of many)
• Spawn - to fish below bobber
• Floating spawn bag - as you’d float a worm
• Looper bugs (type of jig) - to use with wax worms beneath bobber

Equipment Setup for floating bait:
Note, your leader whether floating bait or fishing below a bobber should be around 24-36 inches.

• Place rod holder so it’s in place and ready
• Remove your reel so that you can slide two tight rubber bands above the reel then replace reel
• Place 1-2 popsicle sticks between your rod and rubber bands
• When floating bait, place your sinkers above your swivel
• If using a worm, hook worm through nose then through collar
• Using a worm blower, fill worm with air without puncturing worm too many times
•Take rod to the water and ensure your worm floats (or floating spawn bag floats properly if using spawn).  If your bait sinks, remove it from your hook and try again until it floats or it won’t be effective.  It is essential your bait floats if you choose this technique.

Once the bait is good to go, open the bail and cast, letting it fly as far as you can. Using a rod with a longer handle can provide better leverage for casting and is recommended. Now reel slowly until your line is tight and you have some bend in the tip of the rod. Once you feel some resistance, place your line between your rod and popsicle stick so that you don’t lose that resistance or bend in the rod. Then open the bail so that if a fish takes the bait, you’ll see your rod release and the fish can take some line until you grab your rod, close your bail, reel down and SET THAT HOOK! And hopefully after that fight, you’ll land a nice Steelhead or Kamploop. (Note that many times your rod won’t release for many reasons, especially if the bite is really light that day so if you see your rod tip bouncing like crazy but your line hasn’t released, it’s a no brainer that you most likely should close the bail, release the line, slowly reel down until you feel a slight resistance and SET THE HOOK!)

Shore casting can be done year round, but if you’re looking for Steelhead and Kamploops specifically, your best chance is going to be late winter as the water begins to warm. That said, the water begins to warm around the south shore first and makes its way north so depending on your patience level or where you’re commuting from, beginning along the southern portion of the shore may be the way to go for some folks, remembering the further south on the shore you are, the more Kamloops you are likely to encounter. When fishing near a river mouth remember that regulations require you can fish only 1 rod within 100 feet of the mouth while further from the mouth you may fish two rods.

Shore casting begins to pick up around February and March and continues all the way to the spring run and even after the run. It’s an efficient way to go, especially for people that have physical limitations that keep them from navigating the rugged terrain and wading the rivers the rest of us are SO FORTUNATE to be able to do.

Just as you have to put up with all types of weather during the spawning run, if you want to get a fish from shore, that same principle applies. You have to work just as hard and put in just as much time and effort as you did when you first began fly or drift fishing. At the same rate, boredom can set in quickly so it’s not a bad idea to try throwing some spoons or as I prefer to do, just spend some great family time together at the beach.

Reminder of the Difference between a Steelhead and Kamloop:

While Steelhead will have no clipped fins, loopers will always display a clipped adipose (rear fin on back), and sometimes a pectoral clip (front fin).  As of this article publication, all steelhead must be released.  Check the current fishing regulations for more specific information.

Final Thoughts: Fishing is such an awesome privilege and to keep it that way for the future Steelheaders of the North Shore, remember to keep our lakes and rivers clean and be sure to familiarize yourself with the species of fish in the area that you’re fishing so that you don’t end up taking a fish that should’ve been returned to the water. Poaching can’t be tolerated even if accidental because it’s up to us to protect what can’t protect itself. And last but not least, snagging doesn’t give the fish a fair chance so please always fish within the rules and regs.

~ LM


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