The rod tips were nodding softly in the rod-holders as the small outboard motor pushed the14-foot boat slowly across the mouth of the Manistee River where it empties into Manistee Lake. The water was 10 feet deep, an ideal depth for our lures to be.
I made a slow outward turn into slightly deeper water, and as we made the turn to port one of the rod tips snapped down toward the surface, and 60 feet off our stern a 10-pound steelhead seemed to hang two feet above the water before crashing back down with a heavy splash.
John McKenzie of Mt. Morris grabbed the rod as the fish burst off on a 20-yard run, yanking 10-pound monofilament off the reel. John had played this game before, and knew to keep the rod tip high and the line tight.
"It feels like a good fish," he grunted, as the trout took out more line before it was ultimately landed. The intense tug of war took place under a leaden November sky as a cold north wind came tunneling down Manistee Lake. It was cold and getting colder by the minute, and this was the second fish to strike in an hour.
Our first fish was a bit smaller, and it hammered a silver with pink spotted X-5 FlatFish, and tore line off the baitcasting reel as it lathered the surface. I grabbed the rod, leaned back to tighten into the fish, and McKenzie reeled in the other two lines to avoid having this fish tangle everything up.
Trolling for steelhead is a trip, in more ways than one, and it can be especially productive during November and December as steelhead move upstream from Lake Michigan, through the lakes and into the rivers. The trick is to be there at the right time, and knowing how to troll.