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Winter steelhead tactics that work

By DICK MARTIN • Nov 24, 2018 at 8:00 AM

It's basically winter now, and the news is full of deer hunting, duck hunting, rabbit hunting, and similar sports.

But there's still fishing too, and some of the best and most exciting can be had right now. That's seeking steelhead trout along Lake Erie and its various tributaries.

The Division of Wildlife has been stocking these hard fighters for years, and each winter fish return in sizes averaging five to seven pounds, but reaching 10 pounds or more.

Right now is top time to seek fresh run fish and while they have eventual spawning in mind, they're going to be hungry and the tributaries hold little natural food at this time of year, so under ideal stream conditions and in a good spot you might land even 10 to 15 fish in a days or even mornings fishing. Where do you seek these fish? The DOW stocks the Vermilion, Rocky, Chagrin, Grand and Ashtabula rivers and Conneaut Creek. Secondary streams like the Cuyahoga, Huron, and Black rivers also get runs of steelhead, as do Arcola, Cowles, Wheeler, French, Euclid, Turkey, Beaver and Cold Creek which makes for lots of places to go.

If you're new to the sport and aren't particularly familiar with the above rivers and streams, it's a good idea to pick up a free map or two. You can download these from Google by typing in wildohio.com, clicking on Wildlife Home, then Fishing, then Fishing Maps, then River & Stream Fishing Maps. If you're planning a trip to one or more of these tributaries, one thing is vitally important and that's to check stream conditions before you go.

Driving a goodly distance only to find the rivers muddy and bank full or iced over is pointless, so first call HOOKFISH for a free fishing report, or better yet, check with such as the Mad River Outfitters at 1-888-451-0363. They have guides who fish the various rivers almost daily and are on top of conditions. Better yet, hire a guide for a day and share the $375 cost with a friend. You'll learn enough about steelhead fishing in one day to assure your success for the season.

Gear is vital to the success of any trip, and the first thing you'll need is a long, whippy rod that can absorb that first breathtaking run and leaps of a hook stung trout. Add a reel with a drag smooth as butter and 15-pound test line, and you're off to a good start. Terminal gear? Right now the trout are hitting brightly colored dime to nickel sized spawn sacs, and beads that imitate salmon eggs. Some like small marabou jigs tipped with a few maggots or a waxworm drifted just above bottom below a bobber, and others prefer hardware like Little Cleo spoons and Vibrax spinners.

I've made some good catches on live bait too, even tightlining minnows or nightcrawlers in pools or drifting them along beneath a bobber. It adds up to lots of choices and there are definitely lots of fish. If you've killed your deer and are tired of rabbit hunting, this will be a good choice in coming weeks.

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Hooks & bullets

• As Ohio's duck and goose seasons heat up, hunters are encouraged to familiarize themselves with waterfowl identification before heading forth. Some species like the state-threatened trumpeter swans and migrating tundra swans especially, are often mistaken for snow geese and even Canada geese.

• Mistaken identification of any waterfowl can be expensive as two hunters found out during the early teal season. Wildlife offices caught them with a grebe and a mallard, neither of which even slightly resemble teal.

• The Bass Angler Sportsmens Society (B.A.S.S.) has announced its college and high school slates for 2019, and readers who have a youngster who loves to fish for bass might be interested in stepping forward to try their luck. The organization said it will be adding a junior division to its annual slate of events in the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster HIgh School series. Those interested can find more detail by visiting [email protected] or writing to B.A.S.S. at 3500 Blue Lake Drive, Suite 350, Birmingham, AL 35243. 

• Hikers should be happy to hear that the ODNR has invested nearly $7 million in trails for local communities through the Clean Ohio Trails Fund. Studies have shown that hiking trails are highly popular with 90 percent of outdoorsmen walking or hiking a trail a few times a year and approximately a third walking or hiking a trail monthly. Among the trails awarded funds this year are the Great Miami River Trail in Monroe County, Solon to Chagrin Falls trail in Solon and the Cahoon Basin Trail in Bay Village.


Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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