Most anglers think about putting away their fishing gear for another year as we move into autumn. Now, many anglers are getting into a fantastic fishing opportunity for large, hard-fighting fish in Ohio’s streams and the nearshore areas of Lake Erie’s central basin that lasts from the fall through the spring. The ODNR Division of Wildlife has developed a world-class steelhead (trout) fishery in the central basin from Vermilion to the Pennsylvania border. It has become part of the renowned “Steelhead Alley” that brings in anglers from all across the country to fish for these silvery beauts from west of Cleveland to Buffalo.
Ohio’s steelhead program is maintained by annual stockings of Little Manistee strain steelhead yearlings reared at the division’s Castalia State Fish Hatchery. Each year 400,000 steelhead are stocked: 55,000 in the Vermilion River, 90,000 each in the Rocky, Chagrin, and Grand rivers, and 75,000 in Conneaut Creek. These juvenile fish spend less than a month in the rivers before migrating out into Lake Erie, where they eat and grow. Fish will begin to return in the fall after a good summer’s growth spurt and some cooler rains. The average steelhead caught by an angler has spent two or three summers out in Lake Erie and averages 24-25 inches and 4-5 pounds. About 10 percent of the steelhead caught by anglers exceeds 30 inches and 10 pounds.
The fall fishery blossoms first on piers, breakwalls, beaches, and harbors. Popular places include access locations at Conneaut’s west harbor, Ashtabula’s Walnut Beach breakwall, Geneva State Park breakwall, Arcola Creek beach, Fairport Harbor short pier, Mentor Headlands breakwall, the CEI breakwall in Eastlake, Cleveland’s E 55th Street breakwall, Huntington Reservation beach, and Bradstreet Landing pier by the Rocky River.
Anglers throw spoons, spinners, small crankbaits, and jigs tipped with maggots to entice the wandering steelies. Long fishing rods and fluorocarbon line help turn and land these powerful fighters. Keeping the drag loose and preparing for a fast, tough fight are helpful in keeping a moving and leaping steelhead on your line.
As the water and air temperatures cool and we move closer to winter, steelhead will migrate up our five stocked streams and adjacent streams, too. Anglers commonly switch over to trout or salmon eggs, small jigs, or a wide variety of fly fishing patterns to catch steelhead in the rivers and creeks. Steelhead fishing peaks in the streams from November through April.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife maintains a Steelhead Fishing Report webpage seasonally. We have the latest fishing conditions and hot bites, along with links to other basic and advanced steelhead fishing resources that are available from the ODNR Division of Wildlife and other government sources. Maps of stream access for the primary Lake Erie tributaries can be found here. Another good link is the US Geological Survey real-time stream data for Ohio gauging stations. This resource will help you evaluate river conditions before you go. They also have a similar mobile app available for your smartphone.
So don’t think of putting that fishing gear away just yet. The opportunity to hook and land a chrome freight train is waiting for you right on Lake Erie’s doorstep. Source: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov. By Kevin Kayle, Fish Biology Supervisor, Fairport Harbor Fisheries Research Station