Steelheading is big in Ohio and anglers throughout the Midwest come to target the Ohio Steelhead from fall through spring, as weather and conditions permit. With a recent jump in stream water levels, this area could get hot right now.
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.
This just about guarantees great fall and spring runs of Steelhead in the Ohio region. 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. Most of the larger fish are caught later in November through April as the fish stage for the annual spring spawning rituals.
Rainbow 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.
These attractive game fish strike aggressively, fight valiantly and are an angler's joy. Steelhead are the anadromous (migrating) version of rainbow trout. Rainbow trout are the "land locked" version, and remain in freshwater throughout their life. Oncorhynchus mykiss, or "Steelhead" as they are called, migrate from the ocean into freshwater to spawn, and then can swim back out to the ocean again if they wish.The first rainbow trout planted in the Great Lakes were probably "steelhead". This is a strain of rainbow trout that migrates into the ocean before returning to spawn in their freshwater home streams. Rainbows have adapted well, moving in and out of the Great Lakes much as they would the ocean. As might be expected, they range widely throughout Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Tagging has revealed that some migrate as far north as the Canadian tributaries of Lake Superior.
?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 ODNR 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.?
?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 said.
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 fishing Ohio 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.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources
National Marine Fisheries Service
Other good articles and sites about ohio steelheading
Ohio Steelhead on a Fly by Gerald Darkes at Fly Fish America Online
Ohio Divison of Wildlife Fishing Information - Reports, Maps, Tons of good stuff for Steelhead and all other speices as well. One of the better "DNR sites around.