Ohio is famous for its superb walleye and bass fishing, but a newcomer to the Ohio fishing scene is creating a fantastic fishery. Steelhead are a migratory rainbow trout that have taken up residence in Ohio's tributaries that feed into Lake Erie. Thanks to an aggressive stocking program each spring since the mid-1990s, these oversized rainbows return to the river every fall through winter, providing anglers with the opportunity to catch steelhead. As with any fishery, there are tricks to catching these fish consistently.
Use the Real Deal
Steelhead have survived for generations by eating salmon and trout eggs as juveniles. Experienced steelhead anglers acquire their own eggs and make them into sacks. Scoop a small amount of eggs onto a piece of mesh or "spawn" netting. Pull up the corners to form a ball and use a piece of spawn-tying thread, such as EZ Thread, to tie off the top. Cut off the excess.
Bright Colors for Dirty Water
All five rivers that Ohio stocks with steelhead all share the same trait -- they rise quickly after a good rain thanks to their shale river bottoms. They also have a muddy color when high because of the heavy amounts of clay washed off the river banks.
Because steelhead are predominately sight feeders, anglers have to wait a few days to a week for the rivers to gain better clarity. Sometimes, though, the rivers never fully clear up, meaning anglers have to fish in off-color water or not at all. Because the fish's sight range is decreased, use brightly colored spawn bags, spinners or spoons to attract attention and bites.
Use Minnows in the Fall
When the steelhead are spending their adult lives in the open waters of Lake Erie, they are constantly feeding on the abundant baitfish, such as emerald shiners. As steelhead mature and migrate up their natal river, they have this instinct to feed on minnows. Drift a live minnow suspended under a float or cast a minnow, imitating a crank bait, into a deep hole where steelhead are waiting.