One of the best float fishermen in North America, Danny Colville, shares his thoughts on specific baits for targeting female vs male steelhead and other trout species. Danny is owner of Colville Outfitters in Hamburg NY, and manufactures Colville Custom Centerpin Reels.
Back in the day I had the privilege to fish with two of the finest fishermen I have ever spent the day with. The guys I am referring to are Rusty Bell owner of Western Fishing Operations and Josiah Darr owner of J Darrs guide service. We spent the day on an Oregon Coastal River fishing for ocean run chrome steelhead. After putting a hurting on a pile of chrome using my Great Lakes tactics I asked Rusty to pick me out any worm he thought would be my best shot at catching a steelhead with on a jig head.
Out comes a translucent almost creamcicle colored paddle tail worm in 4.5". I was hesitant but coming from the producer himself on one of his home rivers who am I to question him.. I made a cast and within 2 seconds I had a crushing hit that nearly ripped the rod out of my hand. I didn't even see the float go down the hit was so vicious. After a couple minute battle I had a gorgeous hatchery buck steelhead. We were towards the end of the drift and I think I picked up a couple more fish which were all males on the worm.
I decided to cover some of the water I had drifted with the worm after and boom female....this was on a pink roe bag though. I pointed out to Rusty that all the fish I got were males and he said that to that day only males were caught on that worm. I was determined to prove him wrong and my next few days fishing coastal Oregon Tribs I would have a rod rigged only with that worm.
My plan hit every hole first to catch the aggressive fish and than worm through my arsenal. I spent 2 days of trying to catch a female on that clear water orange worm with no luck....lots of males. It was to the point I would not leave a hole before drifting a bubble gum worm through the hole.....most times if it was a fishy spot I would pick up a male first take a bunch more drifts with the clear water orange, than thrown on a bubblegum colored worm and hammer a hen.
If worms didn't work I could usually rustle up one on a sac if I could keep the ocean run cut throats off of it. So I basically stuck with the theory that that worm only caught males. I was sure in the right situation and if there was piles of fish somewhere of course a hen would take that worm, but from my personal experience over 3 days that trip and a trip a year later I only caught males on the clear water orange worm. I talked to Phil Gray about that and he is quite the worm efficianado. He said he debunked that theory but Phil fishes worms more than most other baits.
While thinking about this whole situation I can't forget about my roots and the teachings of one of my mentors. I have always experienced I catch more male Steelhead and Lake Run Browns on Chartreuse roe bags. Of course I catch females on these occasionally but if I am targeting female brown trout for roe, I tend to do much better on peach and light yellow sacs, very small. While when trying for a trophy brown I would stick with chartreuse bags. Overall I use more pink than any other color and it seems like I do equally as well across the board with that color. I have definitely noticed that I tend to catch more males on flashy egg sucking jig patterns with a bright head vs. A toned down natural looking jig. Of course their is an exception to all of these rules and it would be interesting if I ever found the time, to go through my 15 years of journals and see if I can find a pattern. I can tell you guys that when I used to fish for steelhead early season in other Tribs I would actually catch a lot more females than males on sacs.
I could also go into great great detail on types of eggs that work for different species of salmonoids but I will spare you and keep my secrets for another time. One thing for sure is it is burned into the fishes biology on what eggs to eat even if they are transports from the great lakes. In another post I will go into detail about brown eggs vs. Steelhead vs. All the different types of pacific salmon eggs...pros and cons and why it's burned into their biology over thousands and thousands of years.
Obviously run times have a lot to do with when the males vs. Females will be accessible. Owning a shop though I hear of most guys having a 50/50 ratio overall....I have noticed more females have come on spoons this year than skein. I also want to point out my friends who fish for steelhead with jigs tend to catch more females than I do fishing with skein.