The Muskegon river near Newaygo, MI has been slowly dropping in level over the last few days and is presently running just above average flows for this time of winter.
As the water levels drop and colder air temperatures settle in for a few days, water temperatures will drop and fish will start to move to their winter “lies”. Both resident Rainbow and Brown trout will seek out slower current that’s close to the rivers main flow, but not far from safety in the form of structure or deep pool or trough that’s just a few tail kicks away.
Steelhead will also be looking for areas close to feeding lanes, but not far from the cover they need as they ID their “winter home”. Many steelhead will spend the next couple months in the river, before their annual spawn, which for the “winter fish” is usually done as early as February, in slower moving runs with suitable rock or gravel bottom. Many such “redds” are in deeper water and not easily visible to the naked eye.
We are still catching fish and this should be the norm for the rest of the winter season, presuming we don’t get into an extended bout of really cold air temps that drop water temperatures to around the 33 degree mark, at which point the fish become very lethargic due to extremely slow metabolism.
At this time, we’re seeing some steelhead shift their diets and key in on more nymphs and larva, as opposed to egg imitations. With most all lake run Brown trout having wrapped up their annual spawn, egg count in the river is down. That said, egg imitations for steelhead have worked for the 20 years I’ve been guiding full time for them, at times when their is nary an egg to be found !!
Resident Rainbow and Brown trout are moving to their winter lies and once settled in, will be fun to catch on 3-5 weight rods, with small nypmhs such as PT’s, Midges, Scuds, Caddis and micro egg patterns, on 6 and even 7x tippet for the #16-22 size flies being used.
Present water temperature in the mid 30’s.