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Steelhead Fishing

Now that winter has made its appearance in central Pennsylvania, even the diehard trout fishermen have shelved their trout tackle until next spring. If you don’t mind a little road trip, however, you can still get in on some fantastic trout fishing; more specifically, I’m talking about steelhead fishing in the Lake Erie tributaries. Several

Now that winter has made its appearance in central Pennsylvania, even the diehard trout fishermen have shelved their trout tackle until next spring. If you don’t mind a little road trip, however, you can still get in on some fantastic trout fishing; more specifically, I’m talking about steelhead fishing in the Lake Erie tributaries. Several fishing friends have been talking about some recent trips reminding me of some steelhead forays of my own several years ago.

All of my steelhead fishing was done to the east of Erie; here, the streams are named based on the miles of distance they are from Erie. Most of my steelhead fishing was done in Four Mile, Seven Mile, Twelve Mile, and Twenty Mile. Still, certainly, Walnut and Elk Creek west of Erie are great destinations, however, be aware that they also get a lot of attention, and you will probably have some fishing competition.

Steelhead are actually rainbow trout that migrate into the tributary streams of Lake Erie to spawn and then return to the deeper water of Lake Erie. Now is a good time to hit some of these streams, and that can be especially true if there is a bit of discoloration to the water following some rain. I’ve fished in the very clear water and the somewhat off-color water and caught steelhead under both circumstances, but the very clear water probably decreases your chances of hooking up.

I’ve also opted to utilize several different methods and lures and baits to take steelhead, and I’ve had success with all of them. If you like typical trout fishing tackle, that’s fine, but you should go to a bit more robust outfit for steelhead-something you might use for finesse fishing for lake bass. An open-faced spinning reel with at least six or eight-pound test fluorocarbon line and just enough split-shot to allow the lure or bait to roll naturally along the bottom. One of my most successful outings was using a rig like the one I just described with a number 12 hook and two Mikes Lucky Seven salmon eggs pushed onto the shank. A couple of split-shots got me down to the bottom in a medium-fast riffle where I picked up several nice steelheads by keeping a tight line as I felt the eggs bump along the bottom. If you’re not into the egg fishing, you might want to rig a live minnow, but the really cold water may limit chases.

Another method that worked pretty well was using a fly-rod, and the same one you use here for trout in our bigger streams will probably do just fine. As for flies, it’s tough to beat an egg pattern. Years ago, I tied only natural-looking egg patterns-pale yellow with a small, brighter orange spot, and they worked well, but don’t hesitate to play around with some of the more vibrant colors like bright orange and bright green. I haven’t tried it yet, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised that you could also take your fair share of steelhead with a bright-colored mop-fly-it certainly works here on trout. Woolybuggers, streamers, and any number of nymphs may also produce. I’ve even taken steelhead on a pale yellow sucker spawn pattern.

If you do decide to head to Erie for some steelhead fishing, keep in mind that you must have a Trout/Salmon Permit and a Lake Erie Permit as well as your fishing license. Steelhead are great fighters often jumping several times, and you measure these beauties by weight-not in inches.

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