By Ben See | 03/07/2014
Cabin fever is in full swing here in Steelhead Alley. For well over a month, most rivers in the region have been locked up. Anglers that were able to sneak out before the Northeast deep freeze were rewarded with some fantastic examples of Steelhead Alley chrome.
However, conditions haven’t been consistent. One day the river is locked up and the next there may only be shelf ice. Mother Nature has put a damper on steelhead fishing access in the region, but those who are willing to do a bit of walking are finding scattered openings throughout the stream systems. A few friends and I were able to get out on the water just before a massive freeze and caught 50-100 fish between the three of us. That is a fantastic day!
Meanwhile, the lower sections of all tributaries are unfishable at this point due to massive ice flow and jams. With Lake Erie being more than 99% ice covered we are predicting some flooding once winter recedes and warm weather arrives.
As soon as the weather breaks, the ice jams flow free again and we will get back into the action. The spring steelhead run in Ohio is typically in March and April. The March thaw and rising water temperatures triggers steelhead in Lake Erie to begin their spring run. Lake Erie has two strains stocked steelhead. A fall running “Skamania” strain and a spring run “Manistee.”
Due to clearer water and having to deal less with left over icebergs and lingering shelf ice (that are commonly seen in and near the lower stretches of water) anglers are better off first targeting upper stretches of the systems. BorX O’ Fire cured spawn sacs are effective in March.
As the water temperatures continue to rise and fish make their migratory journey, I will add Pautzke single eggs, such as Gold Label eggs, to my arsenal. Targeting the deep pools below a riffle can be deadly. As fish on the redds are spawning, the eggs will trickle down towards the pools, hence the single egg presentation is effective when the time is right.
Most common pool depths in Steelhead Alley are between three-to-six feet deep. Depending on flows, I first figure out if the fish are running or holding. If the fish are running target the heads of the pools where there is a visible current line. Meanwhile, if they are in more of a holding pattern due to lack of flow, daylight and or water temperatures being less conducive for running, I target the tailouts and inside bends of the streams.
As April rolls around the action in The Alley can be fast and furious. This is when the saying “You should have been here yesterday” holds true. Schools of fish push in quickly. If you’re there when it happens, you can be rewarded with double-digit days.
Fishing pools and inside and outside bends are the hot spots. BorX O’ Fire and Fire Cured eggs are effective in April. There’s an endless number of steelhead in many of our streams, on the other hand, the Grand River is our largest and longest and should give us a fantastic spring. It can’t come fast enough as cabin fever has taken a toll on Northeast Ohio anglers this winter.