Published March 2005

It’s been a slow winter for steelhead fishermen.  Some fish have been caught in Lake Erie tributaries, but floods and other rigorous winter problems have slowed action to almost nothing for weeks at a time.  Now. there’s good news.  As of last weekend rivers from Conneaut Creek to the Rocky River and Grand were low and fishing extremely well, and while rains during the early week might have changed that picture temporarily, the trend through the rest of March and into the end of spawning runs in April is for fishing to be good and water conditions decent to ideal.

That suits me fine.  I’ve slammed hooks into steelhead from October through much of April, but long years have shown that some of the winters best fishing starts right now.  These big trout will spawn whenever, but they seem to get most serious at this time of year, moving up onto shallow riffles where they’re easily visible, and splashing noisily as males compete for females.  They’re hungry too, especially after weeks or even months in the rivers because there are very few crayfish, minnows, and insects to be found in icy water.  So, anything edible is likely to draw more than usual attention.

 If you’re interested in catching something that might weigh 10 pounds or better, leaps high, and runs with line sizzling frenzy, the first thing you’d best do before making a long drive is to call first and check on water conditions.  Low, clear water is good because of high visibility, water just coming down from a high with its light green color is better, and muddy water?  You’d best stay home.

So, call The Grand River Tackle Shop at (440) 352-7222 and ask about the fishing.  They have guides for hire, incidentally, and last week two sports caught 25 fish off Route 84 at the Grand.  Try the D & W Sports Shop too, at (440) 354-8473, and you might check The Division of Wildlife’s (888) HOOKFISH and (800) WILDLIFE.

Once conditions are right, you’ll need bait and right now the best is spawn sacs.  In fact, I’ve caught more big steelies on spawn, than on most other offerings put together.  Some anglers who  visit the rivers often make their own using steelhead spawn cut up, placed in tiny mesh sacs, and frozen to be thawed as needed.  Or sucker spawn or salmon eggs.  If you’ve none of these, plan to stop at one of the local bait shops up there like, again, the Grand River Tackle Shop, and buy some.

Actually catching steelhead isn’t hard at all.  You might try drifting spawn below a float and splitshot across pools and riffles, especially where you can see the fish.  Keep the spawn just above bottom.  In deeper water, skip the float, but add enough shot to keep it down there.  Try a float and a small jig baited with maggots too, something in black, purple, white, chartreuse, or yellow.  As the water warms a little, you can have success on big minnows drifted down to holding fish or nightcrawlers, and dropping a madly gyrating small crankbait down to fish on a riffle or pool with good water movement will sometimes drive them nuts!

Where to fish is your own choice, and it’s important to make sure you’re not trespassing on private property.  But in general the Vermillion River, which has a modest run is best upriver to Brimingham, and the Rocky River with its plentiful public access is productive up to the nature center.  Try the Chagrin from the soccer fields to Todd Field, and the Grand River up to Harpersfield Dam.  Don’t neglect Mill, Pair, and Arcola Creek since these small waters clear first after rains.  Or Conneaut Creek, my own favorite, up to the State Line.  The Huron River always has a few too, though access is very limited for non-boaters.

It’s a good time of year and some nice pods of fish are waiting.  Better weather, hopefully lower water, and a hard fighting fish make even long drives worth the trouble.

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