The 2019 steelhead run will begin in September and continue through May of 2020. It consists of adult steelhead from the 2017 smolt stocking [biologists agree 5% smolt survival rate is a reasonable #], plus “jacks/skippers” from 2018 smolt class & a few 2nd run “super steel” survivors from 2016 stocking year. 

What follows is a list of Lake Erie tributaries and the number of steelhead smolts stocked in 2017.  If you apply the smolt survival rate of 5%, you can easily estimate the number of mature steelhead that will enter a specific tributary during this season.

2017 Stocking Chart Chart data provided by -

Some anglers ask why the fishing is so “hot” at Trout Run even though the estimated fish count is a fraction of the total run. They would add that Walnut gets some excellent days, but Elk Creek is usually hit or miss.

Experienced anglers know that most Trout Run returning steelhead are trapped at the mouth of this tributary. A few hundred fish crowd into the nursery waters, but are stopped 50-yards upstream by a man-made barrier above the falls. The remainder of the run stays a short cast away along the lakeshore. This fishing experience is not for everyone because “hot fishing” attracts large crowds of anglers.  

Walnut Creek also has a fish holding, natural barrier 100-yards above the Manchester Bridge. The “falls”, a steep incline, temporarily causes fish to stop their upstream run. Anglers find fish stacked from the falls downstream through the “chutes”- a narrow deep run above the Manchester Bridge. 

From the bridge north to the lake, you also find a few deep runs and pockets that are worth some fishing time - sometimes referred to as the Project Waters and Stop Sign Hole.

Finally, the last locations as you get to the lake are the concrete Walnut Marina pier, Marina Basin and stream mouth. These locations are favorite spots for young anglers who need fishing assistance and other anglers who have mobility issues.

Elk Creek, compared to other tributaries, gets the majority of smolt stocking, receives the highest number of returning steelhead, has the most public fishing access, and is the best steelhead fishing tributary in Pennsylvania.  While it provides the best fishing, Elk Creek does not always offer the best fish “catching”.  At times it can be tough to figure out.

Many miles of upstream water and countless number of fish holding locations makes Elk Creek’s nomadic steelhead a here today gone tomorrow ghost.

Experienced anglers know how to find Elk Creek steelhead.  The best steelhead anglers seldom leave a spot that is holding fish or stay in a location that is not producing. If an angler who is putting on a clinic day after day suddenly disappears, you can be sure the fish have moved. You should as well.

Just remember that the “steelhead run” is not a rush of fish into the tributaries, but it is a season-long migration of fish from Lake Erie to upstream stocking locations.