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Steelhead and an Early Thaw

by: Roger Bohner
An early thaw in February has Ohio steelhead anglers lining the streams. The rivers are normally frozen during the months a January and February leaving little opportunity for fisherman to catch the ever-present steelhead. The steelhead typically run upstream in the fall and remain under the ice waiting for warmer temperatures to spawn. The unseasonably warm weather has opened up Ohio’s rivers and allowed fisherman the opportunity to catch large numbers of quality steelhead.

Many fishermen are catching 20 or more steelhead in single day. These fish range from 2-10+ pounds and reach lengths over 36 inches. A variety of techniques are being used to catch the fish including fly fishing with nymphs, bottom bouncing egg sacks and suspending a jig tipped with maggots under a float.
Lake Erie, most famous for its walleye, smallmouth bass and perch, has a relatively untapped fishery in steelhead. Thanks to aggressive stocking programs by Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, steelhead are plentiful in the rivers feeding into Lake Erie. Ohio rivers such as the Rocky, Chagrin, Grand and Conneaut receive the bulk of the states stocked fish. Smaller feeder streams occasionally will have some fish stocked in them as well.

The Ohio steelhead stocking program began well over 10 years ago. Ohio stocked mainly the “london” strain of steelhead. Return ratios weren’t as high as biologist expected and they introduced the “manistee” strain of steelhead approximately three years ago. The “manistee” run up Ohio’s rivers from early September through march to spawn. Scattered fish remain in the rivers well into May. The “manistee” are characterized by long, slender, muscular bodies. Their fight is nothing less than spectacular with drag screaming runs and gravity defying leaps.
Steelhead fishing in Ohio has historically been a well kept secret among local fisherman. Few places in the world offer the opportunity to catch the size, quality and quantity of steelhead that are available in Lake Erie tributaries. The popularity of the sport has boomed in the last three years. You’ll seldom find a spot in the rivers where you can fish alone. The good news is that there are more than enough fish for everyone to catch. Local fishing stores offer maps and information to anglers who are unfamiliar with the area. A number of guide services are also available to both first time and experienced anglers.
Take advantage of the thaw while you can. The window of opportunity can be brief as Ohio weather is extremely unpredictable this time of year.

Good Fishing!

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Added: Fri Apr 11 2008
Last Modified: Fri May 15 2009

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