By Bojan (Bojangles) Zivkovic | 03/20/2013
The Credit River: March Madness in the Concrete Jungle
You might be thinking about the NCAA basketball games that have begun to air this month. However, as much as I enjoy playing basketball, and love the sport itself, ‘March Madness’ to me means gearing up and getting ready to start chasing heavy runs of fresh, chrome steelhead making their way up tributaries throughout Southern Ontario to spawning grounds.
Spring has sprung, and we have gained an extra hour of daylight to spend more time on the water. The rivers are shaping up well. Thankfully, we have received a good dumping of snow this year, which made river levels much higher than last spring. Living ten minutes from the heart of downtown Toronto, many steelheaders, including myself, are fortunate to have a few rivers in the region that have great numbers of steelhead. These rivers in the concrete jungle usually see their biggest runs in the spring, since the water levels are generally lower throughout the fall season.
The Credit River
Located 20 minutes from the core of downtown Toronto, flowing through the middle of Mississauga, anglers are fortunate to have a great urban fishery. This river arguably boasts one of the largest runs of steelhead on the north shore of Lake Ontario, even better than the Ganaraska River in Port Hope. The Credit River has great returns of strong, wild steelhead, and with the help and support of local conservation groups, there is also a mix of stocked steelhead from our hatcheries. The Credit River has about six kilometers of prime water open for fishing.
Deep pools, riffles, and runs; The Credit has it all. I would describe the river as a ‘textbook’, medium sized river. Whether you want to run centrepin set-ups, swing a fly, chuck lures, or even bottom bounce, the Credit is a river suitable for all styles.
With temperatures rising anglers will experience different river conditions on a weekly basis due to thawing and spring run-off. This means that anglers will have to change their approach and tactics for catching early spring run steelhead.
When fishing high water conditions with less than two feet of visibility early in the spring, you will want to key in on the slower water with bright baits. Also, expect the water still to be generally colder for the next several weeks. Steelhead that are willing to strike will spread out in slower water since the rivers are generally high this time of the year. The stronger fish with better genetics have no problem shooting right up when there is a lot of flow. These are the fish you want to tangle with out there, but you have to fish hard and come across them before they shoot way upriver.
For these situations, everything I use is generally much bigger and brighter. This means big floats, lots of split shot, brighter baits, heavier leaders and slowing down your presentation. Pautzke’s BorX O Fire works wonders on roe bags that have been tied up for these situations. I prefer using scraped skein in high and dirty water situations. Using BorX O Fire cured eggs the steelhead will have so much more to smell, see and key in on when you are presenting your bait in the strike zone.
As we head closer to the month of April, which is generally the peak time of the steelhead run on the Credit, the water drops a couple of feet and the river clears up noticeably since there is no more run-off and thawing. At this time of the year, you’ll start to see a mix of few fresh fish, fish currently spawning, and recovering fish dropping back to Lake Ontario after their spawning period. The water has warmed up over 40F and the fish have become more active.
Natural presentations now play a key role as a fish producer. Downsizing baits and using natural colors will put more fish on the banks during the spring steelhead season. This is when smaller and more natural baits like Pautzke’s Balls O’ Fire in various colors (Orange Deluxe & Yellow Jackets) are the ticket when it comes to finesse fishing gin clear conditions.
Smaller floats and lighter lines are a must when fishing these clear spring conditions. Don’t be afraid to use plastics, and if you have to, apply natural scents to bait if you want to increase your catch rates. Drop back steelhead, however, are almost more than willing to hit any offering, so changing up your baits constantly throughout the day will pay off when you’re on the hunt for these fish. Now that the water is warmer, swinging flies and casting lures is a great way to target spring steelhead. Versatility is key.
The fishing this year has been good on the Credit River. I have no doubt believing that the Credit will have one of its record runs once again this spring season. I’m glad and fortunate to have such a great Steelhead fishery minutes away from my doorstep.
If you are seeking angling opportunities on the Credit River, or anywhere else in Ontario for that matter, don’t forget to read the regulations book before heading out since most of our rivers do not open until the fourth Saturday in April. Don’t forget to practice catch and release!