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Ohio's Lake Erie Steelhead Fishing

by: theangler
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.
quality steelhead through May
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. All steelhead for Ohio's program are raised at the Division of Wildlife's Castalia State Fish Hatchery.

Where to catch 'em: May 4, 2009 - Rivers have moderate to low flows and are clear. Smaller streams are low and clear. Many fish have begun to move back down the rivers, and some fresh fish are in lower stream sections. All steelhead have been stocked for 2009, please gently release any smolts you may catch.

Vermilion River: Fish from the Vermilion Muni ramp up to Birmingham.
Rocky River: Fish from the Metroparks marina up to Lagoon dam.
Cuyahoga River: Fish in the metroparks and CVNRA up to Peninsula.
Chagrin River: Fish from the soccer fields to N Chagrin Reservation.
Grand River:

Fish from the St. Rt. 535 bridge up to Harpersfield Dam.
Arcola Creek: Fish the estuary pond area and in the creek. Also check out the small creeks in and adjacent to Geneva State Park.
Ashtabula River: Fish from the hospital to the new State Rd. covered bridge.
Conneaut Creek: Fish from the Woodworth Rd access up to the PA line.

Don't forget the daily bag limit of 2 steelhead trout and salmon in the aggregate valid from September 1st through May 15th!
There are many public access areas on Ohio streams. If you are on private property, you must have landowner permission. Don't trespass! Private landowners have the right to restrict access on their property. In Ohio, you can gain access to the stream from public access points, but the private land ownership includes their land under the stream. The streams listed above are navigable streams, meaning you can float a boat through them to fish; however, you cannot get out of your boat and stand on private property to fish unless you have the landowner's permission.

Fish Consumption advisories have been issued for certain Lake Erie trout and salmon species and locations in Ohio. Find out more specifics and guidelines from the Lake Erie Fish Consumption Advisory Web Page.

Real-time stream flow data is available at the following links for the Grand, Chagrin, Rocky and Vermilion.

Want to know how much rain or snow fell in the last 24 hours?
Click this: Intellicast Web Site for the region.
How to catch 'em:
Typical set-ups are long (7-10'), limber, spinning or fly rods with light line (4-8 lb. test). Common lures in the fall, early winter, and again in the spring include small (1/16 to 1/80 oz.) marabou or synthetic hair jigs tipped with maggots rigged with split shot under a light pencil-thin bobber. Spoons (Little Cleo, KO Wobblers) and spinners (Rooster Tails, Vibrax, etc.) are commonly used on piers, beaches and lower stream reaches. Flyfishers (using 6-9 wt. rods and weight-forward lines) prefer larger, weighted fly patterns, such as nymphs and streamers like woolly buggers, princes, egg-sucking leeches, stonefly and shiner patterns and clouser minnows. Egg fly patterns (single or cluster, sucker spawn, etc.) work well as a single fly or in tandem with a nymph or streamer once the fish move upstream. Salmon or trout eggs are fished as either individual eggs or grouped together in mesh "spawn bags" about the size of a dime or nickel. Eggs can be bounced along the bottom with the current or fished at or near the bottom suspended under a bobber. The fish will be oriented to cover or moderate to deep water pools in the fall, and move into cuts or gravel runs as they make their way upstream for spawning. As stream temperatures warm during the spring, expect fish to be more likely to chase lures or bait and to be found in riffles and runs. Then in mid April - mid May, they move back downstream and into Lake Erie for the summer.
For more info contact:
Fairport Harbor Fish Research Unit
ODNR Division of Wildlife
1190 High St.
Fairport Harbor, Ohio 44077
Phone: 440-352-4199
Fax: 440-352-4182
Email: kevin.kayle@dnr.state.oh.us

Sandusky Fish Research Unit
ODNR Division of Wildlife
305 E. Shoreline Dr.
Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Phone: 419-625-8062
Fax: 419-625-6272
E-mail: jeff.tyson@dnr.state.oh.us


Division of Wildlife Information: 1-800-WILDLIFE

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Added: Thu May 07 2009
Last Modified: Tue Jan 08 2013

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