Ohio Steelhead Fishing Off and Running:

Article Posted: November 21, 2001

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FAIRPORT HARBOR, OH -- Anglers are now flocking to streams along
tributaries of Lake Erie's central basin as the annual steelhead spawning
runs begin. Rivers and creeks where these big shiny, silvery fish spawn are
attracting anglers from all across the Midwest as the popularity of Ohio's
steelhead fishery continues to grow, according to the Ohio Department of
Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
"With every rain event or snow melt, steelhead are entering streams
and should be well distributed throughout all lake Erie tributaries by early
December," said Kevin Kayle, supervisor of the ODNR's Fairport Harbor
Fisheries Research Station. "Steelhead are a feisty fish that are a
challenge to catch in our main streams and small tributaries and provide
year-round opportunities for trophy fish potential."
Ohio's steelhead fishery has gained tremendous popularity and is
becoming an annual fishing custom for many locals and those traveling the
region according to Kayle. The Division of Wildlife maintains this popular
fishery by stocking four Lake Erie tributaries each spring. These fish
migrate out into Lake Erie and spend the summer in the cooler part of Lake
Erie's central basin. Adult steelhead return to stocking streams from fall
through spring.
"Lake Erie anglers experienced a steelhead bonanza on the waters off
Cleveland to Conneaut during August and September," Kayle said. "Now these
fish will perform double-duty providing stream anglers some great action
throughout the winter."
Stream anglers can expect an average steelhead trout to be 25 inches
long and weigh 5 to 6 pounds. Larger fish measure in the 28- to 31-inch
range and weigh 8 to 12 pounds.
Trout released in Ohio's steelhead program are a wild strain of
Michigan steelhead trout from the Little Manistee River. The fingerlings are
reared at the Castalia State Fish Hatchery, a premier cold-water hatchery
purchased by ODNR specifically to raise trout. The yearling trout are 6- to
9- inches long when released.
Approximately 400,000 (100,000 per stream) steelhead trout are
released annually in the Rocky, Chagrin and Grand rivers and Conneaut Creek.
Anglers should note that besides the four current stocking streams, several
other rivers including the Vermilion, Ashtabula, Arcola and even the
Cuyahoga sport runs of stray fish.
Currently, some steelhead trout are still roaming nearshore areas as
they prepare to enter streams. Shore anglers are having success from piers
and shore areas using spoons and spinners as are boat anglers trolling in
the harbors and nearshore areas. River anglers in the lower stream reaches
are landing steelhead using spawn bags, jigs and maggots, or flies such as
woolly buggers, weighted nymphs, egg patterns and streamers.
"The key for successful anglers is to be aware of stream conditions
such as water clarity and stream flow and volume because upstream movements
of these fish are highly dependent on periodic increases in stream flow from
rain or snow melt-off," said Kayle.
The numbers and distribution of steelhead within a particular stream
are tied to these stream conditions. During late fall through February
anglers should direct their efforts towards the deeper pools where there are
distinct current lines. If a cold snap locks up most stream sections,
anglers should look for a subsequent thaw, which will send a surge of
steelhead moving upstream.
December through March provides peak action for fishermen. By this
time, the trout that are already in the rivers are well distributed, and the
bulk of the population begin heading up the streams to spawning areas, Kayle
Throughout March, the fish move from the deeper pools of rivers and
creeks to prime spawning areas. They seek out shallow or riffle areas with
light to moderate current over a gravel-lined bottom and can be found
spawning there from March through mid-April. Fish that have completed
spawning activities drop back to deeper pools before beginning the
downstream journey to Lake Erie. By the end of May, most fish surviving the
rigorous spawning events have returned to the lake.
Anglers are reminded of a daily bag limit of two steelhead trout
from September 1 through April 30 and a minimum length limit of 12 inches

Source: ODNR

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