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GLIN==> Summer Steelhead Fishing

Posted on behalf of Dave Kelch <Kelch.3@osu.edu>

Summer Steelhead Fishing

June 20, 2002

For more information contact:

Dave Kelch, Ohio Sea Grant Extension

Attention Lake Erie Anglers! Summer Steelhead Angling Opportunities Are Now!

Elyria, OH - Lake Erie's summer steelhead fishing is just beginning and
anglers from Lorain to Conneaut are reporting good catches of Lake Erie's
'silver bullet.' "Steelhead fishing on Lake Erie is a hidden treasure for
anglers. The fishery offers year- round opportunities for anglers, fishing
that gets better every year," states Dave Kelch, Ohio Sea Grant Extension
District Specialist in Lorain County, Ohio. Unlike their cousins, the
rainbow trout, which live their entire life in landlocked streams or rivers,
steelhead migrate from streams as juveniles to a large lake or ocean
environment. These food rich environments permit steelhead to attain sizes
far larger than their stream-run cousins. Within the U.S., the Pacific
Northwest and Great Lakes regions are the most popular areas for these giant

Thanks to the restocking program started in the 1980s by Ohio Department of
Natural Resources: Division of Wildlife, steelhead have provided diversity
to the fishery and have added more angling opportunities (call
1.800.WILDLIFE for information). Because of abundant food resources in Lake
Erie, steelhead juveniles achieve rapid growth, reaching an average length
of 18 inches and weighing two to three pounds in their first year.
Three-year-old steelhead can average 30 inches, weighing eight to ten

Steelhead are known for their speed and fighting ability, and once hooked
will repeatedly jump from the water attempting to get free. While tributary
river and stream anglers can enjoy steelhead fishing from late October
through early May, open lake 'steelie' fishing generally takes off in June
and continues into August. Steelhead seek out Erie's cooler deeper waters
during the summer months, both for temperature preference and an abundance
of baitfish.  A variety of baitfish tend to concentrate in the cooler waters
both above and within the lake's thermocline; a layer of rapid temperature
change generally found around 40 feet from the surface. "Steelhead have a
preference for cooler water temperatures, and spend the summer months
feeding and growing on Erie's abundant supply of baitfish species. Anglers
will want to keep this in mind and choose lures that will entice the
deep-water steelhead," adds Kelch.

Successful offshore steelhead anglers will seek summertime steelhead in
offshore depths ranging from 50 to 70 feet while trolling with lures such as
"flashy spoons" and "long bodied crankbaits". Planerboard systems, designed
to troll lures out to the sides of the boat, are popular with Lake Erie
anglers. Lures can be trolled  at prescribed depths through the use of small
diving planer discs; the most common are products called Dipsy Divers and
Jet Divers, which can take lures to depths of 40+ feet. If more depth is
needed, a 2-3 ounce lead weight is attached in front of the Dipsy or Jet
diver. Downrigger systems, seen more frequently in other Great Lakes salmon
fisheries, can also be used for Lake Erie steelhead.  Even though anglers
pursue steelhead in deeper waters, steelhead tend to be found suspended at
and above the lake's thermocline.

When fishing for summer steelhead, a variety of lure sizes and colors can
tip the scales in your favor, as a flashy gold lure may be productive early
in the day, with finicky steelhead switching their preference to a blue and
silver lure within just a few hours. An electronic fish locator is essential
to take the guesswork out of where fish are and at what depth. In addition,
a modern electronic GPS navigation unit can immediately record where that
last 'steelie' was caught, so anglers can return to the same location the
next day. A GPS unit can also get boaters back to port in darkness, fog, or
rainy weather. Varying trolling speeds and trolling in a "zig-zag" or figure
eight pattern are also proven tactics for putting more fish in the cooler.

As most summertime steelhead angling is done far offshore, anglers are
reminded to check weather conditions often. Make sure to carry a functional
ship-to-shore radio, have all Coast Guard required safety gear aboard, check
vessel seaworthiness, and make sure boats are large enough to handle rough
weather and wave conditions which can accompany a sudden developing storm.

For more information about steelhead, visit the Ohio Sea Grant exhibit at
the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center in Bay Village, Ohio. The exhibit
entitled "Steelhead Trout: A Fish For All Seasons" features year-round
steelhead fishing and will be on display through the end of the year. The
display shows the steelhead lifecycle, a map documenting the best steelhead
fishing locations on Lake Erie, and frequently asked questions and answers
about steelhead. Also, see the feature article "Steelhead Trout: Lake Erie's
Best Kept Secret" from the Nov/Dec. 2001 issue of Twine Line, available
on-line at:

Anglers who desire to pursue Erie's summer steelhead fishery may also want
to hire one of the many charter fishing services available in Lake Erie's
Central Basin.  Contact the local visitor bureaus in Lorain, Cuyahoga, Lake
and Ashtabula counties for listings of available charter fishing captains.

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