What Size Hook For Steelhead? (3 Things You Need To Know)
UPDATED 03 NOVEMBER 2023
by Robert Ceran
Steelhead are among the most popular game fish in North America, and hooking one of these hard-fighting fish is well worth the effort, and if you manage to land a fish north of 10 pounds it’s a memory you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
However, in order to catch steelhead, it’s essential to use the right hook sizes, as they can be challenging to catch, both in terms of getting them to bite, and also in terms of avoiding losing a steelhead after you set the hook.
This is due to the rolls and acrobatic jumps that steelhead make during the fight.
In this article we’ll walk you through the best hook size to use for steelhead, depending on the techniques and baits that are most commonly used, so you can choose the right option for your purposes.
What size hook should you use for steelhead?
The best all around hook size for steelhead is size 2, which works well for most techniques and baits.
Depending on the size and buoyancy of your bait, you may prefer to use a larger size 1 or 1/0 hook, or a smaller size 4 to 8 hook.
Now let’s dive into the details, and look at what hook sizes are best for the most important steelhead rigging options and baits.
Best hook size for steelhead float fishing
The best all around hook size for steelhead float fishing is 2 to 4, but can vary depending on the size of your bait.
Here are the ideal hook sizes to use for the most commonly used types of baits:
- Large plastic worms (over 4 inches): size 1 to 2
- Prawns and sand shrimp: size 1 to 2
- Small plastic worms (2 to 4 inches): size 4 to 6
- Spawn bags (roe sacs): size 6 to 10
- Single salmon egg: size 10 to 12
In general, you should aim to choose hook sizes that you can conceal as much as possible inside the bait.
You also want to choose a hook that’s big enough to weigh down the bait in the water, as it’s important to get your rig down into the strike zone as fast as possible.
Best steelhead bead hook size
Which hook size you should choose for steelhead beads depends on the bead sizes your using:
- 6 mm beads: Size 6 to 8 hooks
- 8 mm beads: Size 4 to 6 hooks
- 10 mm beads: Size 2 to 4 hooks
- 12 mm beads (or larger): Size 1/0 to 2 hooks
The most commonly used bead sizes for steelhead are 10 and 12 mm, and the best all around hook size to use with these beads is size 2, although sizes 1 and 1/0 also work well (and some steelhead anglers claim they lose less fish with larger hooks).
When fishing for steelhead with hard beads, it sometimes happens that the bead slides all the way down to the hook, and acts as a fulcrum that can cause the hook to come loose inside the steelhead’s mouth.
In order to avoid this, it’s definitely better to use larger hooks, but you can also avoid it by making sure that your bead is firmly pegged to the leader, or by using soft beads, which don’t have this effect (even if they slide down to the hook).
Hook size also affects the ability of beads to sink down fast enough in the water to reach the strike zone, which is one reason why you need bigger hooks for bigger beads, since they have a lot of buoyancy.
What treble hook size should you use for steelhead?
When you are allowed to use treble hooks for steelhead, the best sizes to use on lures are 2 to 4.
However, most steelhead rivers don’t allow you to use treble hooks (even on spinners and spoons), and require you to switch out the trebles with siwash hooks.
If you do need to replace a treble with a siwash due to your local regulations, go for a size that’s 1 to 2 sizes bigger than the original treble.
Best hook size for steelhead flies
The best all around hook size for steelhead flies is size 2, though you can also go with a range of sizes between 1/0 and 4.
When it comes to fly fishing for summer steelhead, you may be able to get more traction with smaller sizes of 6 and 8. But keep in mind that you’ll also hook a lot more smaller trout with these sizes, so if you want to target steelhead specifically, it’s best to stick to size 2.
Steelhead egg hook size
Among the most effective fly patterns for steelhead are egg patterns, and the best hook sizes for steelhead eggs are size 6 to 10.
These smaller sizes are necessary because the egg pattern is intended to imitate a single salmon egg drifting with the current.
Tips on choosing the right size hook for steelhead
Here are some general tips for choosing the right size hooks for steelhead fishing.
Choose a hook size that fits with your bait, since an oversized hook looks unnatural, and is easy to spot for steelhead, which can easily end up spooking them.
So if you’re fishing in crystal clear water with a relatively slow current, you may need to downsize your hooks, and also choose a model with a thinner wire. A thin wire hook also allows your bait to move more naturally with the current.
However, another factor that you need to consider is how quickly your baited hook sinks in the water, which is especially important when fishing in a strong current, where you only have a very short amount of time to get your rig down into the strike zone.
In that case, you’ll probably want to choose a larger size hook with a thicker wire, that’ll weigh down your bait in the water.
Also, the stronger the current, the less time the steelhead have to inspect your bait before they commit to eating it, which means a larger hook is less likely to spook them.
This is also true in stained water, where the visibility is much lower than in clear water. So especially after high water, with colored water and strong currents, you can choose much bigger hooks than you normally would.