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peter-s-c 01-08-2005 11:54 AM

Great Lakes Steelhead Forage Fish
 
Bill, (h20) has asked me to post this up. The info should be quite useful for anyone wanting to "match the hatch' with forage fish.

Thanks Bill.



Lake Erie And It's New York Tributary's Most Common Baitfish For Steelhead
Composed and gathered for the purpose of flyfishing patterns and interest by Bill Ingersoll
Updated January 2005
Credits and thanks to the New York State DEC Dunkirk NY

Lake Erie Open Waters
Listed in descending order of assumed importance along with availability to Steelhead (data on current studies is not in as of 1-7-05)

Emerald Shiner

http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/d...eraldshine.gif

Different from many other species of minnows, emerald shiners are open water (pelagic) fish. They are only found in large rivers and lakes, such as the Hudson, Niagara, and lower Mohawk Rivers, and in the Great Lakes, Oneida Lake, and Lake Champlain.

Emerald shiners average three to four inches in length and have very short snouts with large eyes. They are generally silver in color with green iridescence on the top fading to silver/white on the belly. Young emerald shiners are semi-transparent in appearance.

Emerald shiners travel in large schools. Unlike most other minnows, they do not spawn over gravel or vegetation, but release their eggs in mid-water.

Plankton feeders, emerald shiners will approach the surface at dark to feed, but retreat to deeper water in the day. Their population levels widely fluctuate, with one year their numbers being low and the next year their numbers being high. In years when emerald shiners are abundant, they are important forage fish for predators, as well as important bait fish for anglers. Many anglers know these fish as "buckeyes

Composer's Note : Considered the # 1baitfish for Lake Erie Steelhead

Rainbow Smelt

http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/d.../rainsmelt.gif

The rainbow smelt is a slender, elongated, pale fish that averages seven to eight inches in length. A distant relative of trout, salmon and whitefish, it has a greenish back and silvery sides with a bright silver stripe and brown or black spots. The large teeth and distinctive curved canines found in the mouth help distinguish this fish from the whitefish.

The rainbow smelt inhabits large, cool lakes and rivers. It is an important food item for a number of popular sportfish, including walleye, landlocked Atlantic salmon, lake trout and other trout, and salmon species. In New York, rainbow smelt are found in Lake Champlain, most of the Finger Lakes, Canadarago Lake, Neversink Reservoir, Lake George, some smaller Adirondack Lakes, the Great Lakes, the Lower Hudson River, and on Long Island.

Spawning takes place in the spring from March to May. Adult smelt migrate into tributary streams or onto shoals and scatter their adhesive eggs. The eggs sink and stick to the gravel bottom. After hatching, young smelt feed on zooplankton. Adult smelt eat crustaceans, insects, and other fish. In addition to their importance as a prey fish, rainbow smelt provide excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers catch smelt by ice fishing in the winter and dipnetting in the spring. In Canadian waters of Lake Erie, rainbow smelt are an important commercial fish species. As with alewives, a diet rich in smelt may result in a thiamine deficiency in pre

Composer's Note: Gizzard Shad and Alewife's are considered of much lesser importance to Steelhead.

Inland Tributaries
Listed in descending order of abundance and assumed importance to Steelhead. Based on electro shocking studies of Lake Erie tributaries of New York state.
It is not known which "species" Steelhead may prefer to feed on.

Blacknose Dace

http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/d...lknosedace.gif

A small minnow, blacknose dace rarely grow larger than three inches long. They live in clear streams where current is present and are often the only fish found at a stream's source (beginning).

Blacknose dace can be distinguished from other minnows by the numerous speckles on their dark upper bodies. The lower part of the body is cream colored with few speckles. A dark line runs from the nose to the tail and during breeding, males develop a green tint and red fins.

Relatively short lived, blacknose dace mature at age two and rarely live past age four. They are spring spawners, with males establishing territories over gravel in shallow riffles. Males perform a spawning ritual but must then immediately defend the eggs from other dace who attempt to eat them.

In addition to falling prey to other fish species and birds, blacknose dace are used as bait by anglers in some areas. They are easily captured in minnow traps or by seines, where allowed.

Composer's Note : The Black Nose Dace population is prevalent in the Lake Erie Tribs Of New York State

Longnose Dace

http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/d...longnodace.gif

Unusual in appearance, longnose dace look like miniature sharks. They have a prominent snout with an underslung (lower jaw shorter than top) mouth. They range in color from olive to brown on back shading to cream on the belly. They are medium-sized minnows, reaching three to five inches in length.

Longnose dace are found in streams across New York State, except for Long Island. They have specific habitat requirements, living only in riffle areas where there is fast water current.

Spawning takes place in late spring in shallow riffles over gravel bottoms. Male longnose dace guard territories and mate with females as they enter this territory. Following hatching, the young float downstream to live in quiet water areas. After several months, longnose dace change to their adult lifestyle and move to areas of high water velocity.

Bottom dwelling fish, longnose dace use their underslung mouths to feed on fish eggs and insects, especially black fly larvae. Except for occasional use as bait by anglers, this fish has little interaction with man.

Composer's Note : Good populations of Longnose Dace in Chautauqua & Canadaway Creeks. However still second to Blacknose Dace

Rainbow Darter

(couldn't get the picture)

What's In a Name?

Common Name:
Rainbow darter -- named from the range of colors displayed by males during the spawning season.

Scientific Name:
Etheostoma (ee-thee-ah´-stoe-mah) taken from the word etheo meaning to filter, and stoma meaning mouth in Greek
caeruleum (sair-rule´-ee-um) means blue in Latin

Composer's Notes : The Rainbow Darter is more common than the Sculpin and nearly as common as the Dace. They average 2" - 2 1/2". Males as pictured above range in color depending on spawning season or not. As a whole they are orange with green vertical barring and some red on fins. Females are less colorful and are olive green with brown vertical barring.

Slimy Sculpin

http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/d...slimysculp.gif

Rather unusual in appearance, the slimy sculpin is a small fish (three to five inches long) with an enlarged, flattened head; a smooth, scaleless, brown colored body; and large, winglike pectoral (front side) fins. Small prickles or spines are located behind the pectoral fin and its eyes are positioned high on the head and close together.

Especially common in Lake Ontario and in waters in the Catskills and the Adirondacks, this fish is found in areas scattered across New York State. It is a bottom dweller and prefers cold, rocky streams and lakes with some shelter.

Spawning occurs in stony creeks or lake shallows during the spring. The eggs are laid in nests built in rock crevices. Male sculpins remain with the nest to protect the eggs and young. Adult slimy sculpin eat a variety of organisms, including insect larvae, large bottom dwelling invertebrates, and some small fish.

Slimy sculpins are an important prey fish for lake trout, brook trout, and northern pike.

Emerald Shiner

http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/d...eraldshine.gif

Different from many other species of minnows, emerald shiners are open water (pelagic) fish. They are only found in large rivers and lakes, such as the Hudson, Niagara, and lower Mohawk Rivers, and in the Great Lakes, Oneida Lake, and Lake Champlain.

Emerald shiners average three to four inches in length and have very short snouts with large eyes. They are generally silver in color with green iridescence on the top fading to silver/white on the belly. Young emerald shiners are semi-transparent in appearance.

Emerald shiners travel in large schools. Unlike most other minnows, they do not spawn over gravel or vegetation, but release their eggs in mid-water.

Plankton feeders, emerald shiners will approach the surface at dark to feed, but retreat to deeper water in the day. Their population levels widely fluctuate, with one year their numbers being low and the next year their numbers being high. In years when emerald shiners are abundant, they are important forage fish for predators, as well as important bait fish for anglers. Many anglers know these fish as "buckeyes"

Composer's Note : The Emerald Shiner is also listed under "inland tributaries" because it will move close to shore and run the lower trib sections during spawning. This depends on water temperature usually late winter - spring depending on the year.

Charlie 01-10-2005 08:48 AM

Peter & Bill,

Thanks for posting this info. I think it will have great value to many great lakes fisherman. And reading through it would seem to explain the reason why some patterns and colors would work better than others. Patterns in olive, white, purple and gray are very good producers on the Erie tribs, colors that are contained to greater and lesser degrees in the Emerald Shiner and Rainbow Smelt.

Charlie.

h2o 01-10-2005 10:28 AM

Your welcome Charlie :) I find it interesting.....................
Most of the feedback comes from phone call's with the DEC. I was surprised by the number of Dace in the streams, which is a sign of pretty good water quality as a whole.

Really enjoy your posted ties also :Eyecrazy:

Played around tieing Steelhead swing patterns most the weekend. Even messed with some saltwater synthetics but, as usual once I dunk test them (saltwater flies), they lack the enticing swiming movement I like in swung flies that naturals have.

I guess maybe saltwater strip profile flies and swung enticing movement fresh water flies may always be a bit differant, except for the overlaping grey area.

peter-s-c 01-10-2005 10:49 AM

All of my early steelhead successes came on streamer patterns and my best steelhead day ever was on my brown trout weamer. I think the trick, as Bill has mentioned, is to design a minnow imitation that has adequate movement when swung as opposed to stripped. It requires us to design our streamers more like wets (the reason for my use of the 'weamer' name). The fly is still a baitfish imitation but its construction owes more to wet flies than to standard streamer construction.

I've mentioned it elsewhere before -- my biggest concern with standard streamers when swung, is their tendency to droop the hook in weaker currents, producing a ">" profile between the long shanked hook and the wing. The downturn eye on most streamer hooks exacerbates the problem. A wet fly on a TULE hook, constructed to imitate a baitfish, seems to produce a fly that swims right, even in weak currents.

Last time out, I broke the point off of a weamer so I cut it off and tossed it casually into the water. As the fly slowly sank, I was surprised to see it correctly oriented itself into the current, maintain a level position, and slowly "swim" as a dropped back and down in the weak current. I think that this sort of characteristic is essential for a streamer that may frequently be swung through weak currents as well as fast ones.

Dornblaser 01-10-2005 03:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by peter-s-c
All of my early steelhead successes came on streamer patterns and .......


Peter, do you mean early as in early in your steelheading career or early as in early season?

Thank you for posting the information.

David

peter-s-c 01-10-2005 04:24 PM

Early in the career when I didn't have a friggin' clue what I was doing besides whacking the water with the fly.

h2o 01-10-2005 05:43 PM

Peter, I agree in regards to the ">" and also swiming movement on a swung "river" fly. I pre test flys for a close up look in a sink or bath tub................I know crazy :whoa: I also tie a piece of 10# test mono to them and swim them :o . (if you just hold the hook eye they all move, much differant with mono tied on) All to many fly's look very nice at the vice, but, de-funk in the water. Also many look great when pulled out wet, but de-funk when in.
"De-Funked" means materials splay or > , seperate in a un-natural way,etc, hooks may flop, lack of swiming movement from materials is a big one.

Even marabou when over clumped as in a tail or wing has little swiming motion. It has much more when sparcely palmered or sparcely wraped spider style. Arctic fox swims , Arctic Goat fairly well but both are "picky" to work with. Matched hackle wings add profile to say palmered marabou, but little swiming movement in it's self. For synthetics craft fur moves like arctic fox but then synthetics drop off fast from there. Most with less movement than bucktail. Great for profile and striping to feeding saltwater fish on a blitz but, not for enticing river fish into striking. Certain flashy stuff like flas-a-bou or k-flash added to fly's can "entice" with sparkle which looks like movement. Game bird feathers swim pretty well if sparce. I have seen nothing to date, swim and hold profile (no >) like a zonker strip though (now in more colors and sizes than ever)...........they flat out swim.
In my "bathtub tests :wink: " I also test, weighted to slightly weighted flys. A lead wire wraped hook shank kills the movement. No weight is good (if the fly rides right with a wing............many don't). I find a small amount of weight near the eye best (to much dead again) like small size lead eye ,brass eye or medium - small bead chain eyes, a bead, six wraps or so small .15 wire. I see the "West Coast" guy's talking about this...............and I agree. Second no weight.

Of course this is all just my nutty conclusions and ramblings and when a Steelhead wants to smash a basterdized nothing fly.................it surely will. :wink:
But, you get more takes swinging & twitching a good swiming fly while the other flys need to be striped.

Charlie 01-11-2005 02:57 PM

Bill,

Have to agree with most of your observations on materials and flies. And the development of patters in the Great Lakes seems to back them up also. Flies with rabbit strips and marabou seem to be very common lately. One deviation I can see, however, is in extreme low and clear water conditions. I seem to do better with very small un-obtrusive patterns with minimal motion in these conditions. Small white streamers with stiff polar bear wings are my bread and butter during these times. With that said, I would much rather fish a big rabbit strip pattern in high water.

Peter,

I was wondering about the origins of the weamer name. Very interesting. By the way, I’m still working on the tube version of that fly for the lower Niagara. I will have to get some pictures for your approval when I get it done.

Charlie

peter-s-c 01-11-2005 03:45 PM

Send us a picture when you have the tube version ready -- I'll be interested to hear how it performs. My own tube attempts have been rather tepid so I'm interested to find out if the concept can move over to tubes. My weamer design has one major flaw, it's a relatively long fly vs. hook length so short takes are common -- the tube idea will probably help in this department.

I'm also planning to use Bill's minnow info to extend the weamer idea to black nose dace, emerald shiner, creek chub, and rainbow smelt. I'm especially interested in producing aa large weamer design for the rainbow smelt to swing on the surface of the Whirlpool, but right now, I'm still on the hunt for a large but light TULE hook.

h2o 01-11-2005 05:34 PM

Charlie,

"One deviation I can see, however, is in extreme low and clear water conditions. I seem to do better with very small un-obtrusive patterns with minimal motion in these conditions. Small white streamers with stiff polar bear wings are my bread and butter during these times."

I agree water level, size and clarity are key. I usually downsize to a small steelhead bugger..........maybe even as small as a sz. 10 at times, bucktail streamers which tend to appear sparcer in the water etc. However I do like Pine Squirrel zonker skins :) and they make some dandy downsized Zonkers for low, clear or pressured water conditions.

Peter,
I should have put the "Creek Chub" on the list :confused: it came in right after the darters & dace as far as quanity. A bit larger size also, which is fun. I am sure Steelhead give them a wack now and then. One of the chubs "creek or river" also had a purple upper body sheen if I remember correctly.

Maybe someone can post a picture or drawing of one ?

smallmouth 01-29-2005 12:10 AM

Brown Trout Weamer
 
Peter,

As a fellow streamer fanatic and fellow resident of Southern Ontario I am intrigued by your brown trout weamer and your concept of working mobility into your patterns. Do you have a picture of this fly? I looked for it on your site (great resource for a streamer man!) but I couldn't find it there.

peter-s-c 01-29-2005 06:58 AM

Here's a link for a set of tying instructions that I wrote for a swap:

http://home.mountaincable.net/~pcharles/weamer/weamer.html

One of these days I'll get the new site finished and it'll have a complete section on these flies.

Where do you normally fish?

smallmouth 01-29-2005 08:09 PM

Weamer
 
My kind of fly Peter.! (Nice tutorial)
I don't get out as often as I like and living in Brampton I've been mostly to the Erindale stretch of the Credit a few times but have only caught smolts and suckers. Just when I find time to hit the river it usually starts to get cold enough to freeze up or it rains so much the river is a "washout". I'm staying in Wasaga a bit lately so I hope to check out the Nottawasga pretty thoroughly.
My friend and I fish the Grand a bit in the brown trout sections. He slays the stockers with his glass bead nymphs. I fish the big stuff and have yet to hook up solidly but I have raised some beautiful browns a few times. I also like to fish bass as you can discern from my "handle". I know what you mean about synthetics. I like natural materials as well but have found some interesting things at the craft store to add interest to the business of fly creation.

I was hoping to check out Caledonia before it closed down but it didn't work out. I'm really curious about the Niagara Whirlpool but I deal with a heart condition and I'm a little reluctant to go down on my own. Describing the trip down and back up in the dead of winter usually doesn't get much positive response from my friends. I'm guessing that location is one of the few places you can count on getting a chance to fish as I doubt it ever freezes. May I congratulate you on your dedication to streamer fishing. I always find your postings and your website interesting. Don't think I could afford to "Spey" though.

peter-s-c 01-30-2005 08:37 AM

I've picked up some very nice fish in the Grand on the fly so you might want to give it a try. Here's two fish taken on the weamer:

http://www.mountaincable.net/~pcharl...wn-trouter.jpg

This 19" brown was taken out of Cedar Run when I was fishing with a prototype "Trouter 4/5/6" two-hander supplied by custom rod builder, Bob Meiser.

http://www.mountaincable.net/~pcharles/caledonia-4.jpg

and here's a steelhead from Caledonia taken on the same fly. It's also a great pattern for smallies, though I don't have any pictures of them. Last time on the Maitland at Hwy 21, I was swinging the weamer for steelhead and kept picking up monster smallies in the 3 to 5 lb. range.

The Whirlpool isn't the best place to go in the middle of winter when it comes to ease of access and the climb back up is enough to give anyone a coronary. I don't go there much anymore though I suppose I should.

I'm hoping the relatively warm week we've been promised will clear out the Credit enough for some fishing next Sunday.

Peter

smallmouth 01-30-2005 04:23 PM

Nice Fish
 
Peter,
Those are great fish! How long is that Spey rod? What kind of blank was it built on? I would love to get into a light weight Spey rod. (4/5/6) sounds ideal! But I don't think a high end rod is in my budget for a while. I can imagine how effective a nice long rod would be for fishing the way you do.
In the past I've spent some time swinging very light jigs on my flyrod with a spinning reel loaded with 4 pound test. Jigs were 1/64th and 1/80th and constructed with a lot of marabou and hen feathers. The longer the rod the better for good control.

You mentioned your success on the Maitland with smallmouth. That river is on my list for the upcoming season. Have you tried the Saugeen anywhere above Denny's dam?

I've been tying up a storm lately making some wonderfully mobile streamers and leeches. I can't wait for a chance to start flinging them. If you go to the Credit at this time of year on a weekend do you encounter many other anglers.? I am an occasional teacher so I can pick my spots and I've only been through the week.

Were you hitting those smallmouth on the Maitland in the spring or fall? I've heard of that phenomenon before; while targeting steelhead guys were picking up a lot of smallmouth. They must travel or hang in schools. I once caught smallmouth that size one after the other in an inlet to a lake in the Algonquin area. One thing for sure whether it's a steelie or a smallie you know it's going to jump and give you a heck of a fight. That's why they're my two preferred species especially on the flyrod.


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