The Division of Wildlife annually stocks five Lake Erie tributary streams with 6-8" yearling Little Manistee River (Michigan) strain of steelhead. These fish migrate out into Lake Erie and spend the summer in the cooler part of the lake before returning to streams during the fall through the spring. Steelhead trout caught by anglers in the streams typically average 25" long and weigh 5-6 pounds. These fish have usually spent 2-3 summers out in the lake (see growth chart below). However, there are a good number of fish that are over 30 inches and weigh more than 10 pounds and have spent up to six summers in the lake.
Ohio's primary steelhead streams are Vermilion, Rocky, Chagrin and Grand rivers and Conneaut Creek. Several other rivers including the Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Huron and Black rivers, and Arcola, Cowles, Wheeler, French, Euclid, Turkey, Beaver and Cold creeks get runs of stray steelhead. While Ohio Division of Wildlife biologists have noted a small amount of natural reproduction, it varies greatly from year-to-year. It is too low and erratic to support the quality fishery that has been developed and that anglers have come to expect. Good quantities of cold, spring water and adequate juvenile trout habitat are also rare in NE Ohio's Lake Erie tributaries. The fantastic fishing has been maintained by annual stocking and by the practice of most anglers to catch and release. See below for methods and links on how to catch 'em.
For the near future, the Rocky, Chagrin and Grand rivers are scheduled to receive 90,000 fish. Conneaut Creek is scheduled to receive 75,000 fish from Ohio and 75,000 fish from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. The Vermilion River is scheduled to receive 55,000 steelhead. Total targeted annual stocking numbers projected from Ohio hatcheries will remain at 400,000 steelhead; there are no current plans to deviate from this target. All steelhead for Ohio's program are raised at the Division of Wildlife's Castalia State Fish Hatchery. Stocking numbers were lower in 2011 due to hatchery contingencies, external production losses, and some disease issues.
During the previous two steelhead seasons (Fall 2008 through Spring 2010), we conducted creel surveys to evaluate our steelhead fisheries and gain knowledge about our fish returns, fishing pressure, and angler demographics and opinions. Results from the creel surveys have been summarized in a final report (PDF) which is available by clicking here.
Thanks go out to the many anglers who participated in our follow-up study of Ohio's steelhead anglers in cooperation with the Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources. We learned a lot of good things about the popularity of the Ohio steelhead program, motivations of our steelheaders, and the avidity of our steelhead anglers. A PDF copy of the final report can be found by clicking here.
Where to catch 'em: November 19, 2012 - Mainstem rivers and tribs east of Cleveland have slightly below average flows and are still declining. Rivers from Cleveland west are still showing slightly above average flows and are slowly declining. Most streams are clear to stained with some leaf litter and tree debris still possible from the big storm. Fishing conditions overall should remain very good through the Thanksgiving week and weekend. Steelhead are well-distributed throughout the stream reaches. Anglers are using eggs, jigs tipped with maggots, minnows, or small spinners. Fly fishers are using streamers, egg patterns including sucker spawn, woolly buggers and other nymphs.
Fish from the Vermilion boat ramp up to Birmingham.
Fish from the Metroparks marina to the dam above the Cedar Point Rd. pools.
Fish in Cleveland Harbor and up into the Cuyahoga Valley Nat'l Park.
Fish from the soccer fields upstream to the North Chagrin Reservation metropark.
Fish from the Fairport breakwall up to Harpersfield Dam.
Fish the river mouth, estuary and creek in the Metropark.
Fish from the river mouth up through Indian Trails Park.
Fish from the river mouth up to the state line.
Don't forget the daily bag limit of 2 steelhead trout and salmon in the aggregate valid from September 1st through May 15th!