Where are the steelhead?
Every steelhead season the debate begins about the number of available steelhead this year verse a previous year. Likewise, every day during the season, anglers ask where are the steelhead holding - upstream, at the mouth, in fast water, or in the deep holes? When you see wandering groups of anglers parading up and down the stream, you know they can't answer that question.
Anglers have limited time to fish for steelhead. Once or twice a year they make the pilgrimage to Erie and hope for the best. Unfortunately there will be times when weather, water, or hard to find steelhead spoil their trip. Local anglers who fish more often have learned to accept the down times, and they have developed strategies to overcome steelhead fishing challenges.
Every trip has the potential of being that once in a lifetime fishing day.
This season, much like previous years, a black mass of steelhead should be holding in the lower sections of the major tributaries for several weeks. Steelhead responding to the urge to spawn will enter the tributatiries and stack near the lake waiting for increased water flow that is necessary for their migration upstream. Anglers fishing Erie early in the season will have an easy time finding the fish. They will be stacked in the first deep pools of a stream or cruising close to shore waiting for the weather to change. On these days, anglers enjoy day after day of consistent fishing! Granted the heavy fishing pressure early in the season does spoil the experience.
The timing for that early season period when steelhead "stack" near the lake usually takes place in late September or early October. Sometime during that 4-week period, you may experience the best steelhead fishing Erie has to offer.
Unfortunately the old timetable for good fishing usually pegged Columbus Day weekend as the best. By the time most of us arrive in October, a high water event may put steelhead in a swimming upstream mood. Those stacked fish that provided great fishing for several weeks are gone!
Who knows what will happen this season.
At times when early season high water events occur, upstream anglers will find pods of hungry steelhead in unlikely locations. They will enjoy day after day of best ever fishing until a weather shift moves the fish or the drag and brag crowd depleted the number of fish.
A steelhead season with record breaking cold and snow can turn November into January. This type of weather will make all tributaries ice locked for several days. On those days when you find some open water, modify your presentation, you can "egg sack" several dozen steelhead. The conditions may be unbearable. You may never see another angler, but it may be the best winter steelhead fishing day you have ever experienced.
Just remember. The story of the worst steelhead season ever is true. The story of the best steelhead fishing day ever is also true. Erie steelhead fishing is like that.
If you have ever hunted for turkeys in the fall, you will understand the parallels between steelhead fishing and turkey hunting. Both species are sometimes impossible to find, but easy to catch or kill once you do find them. Both can be found were conditions that they prefer exist. Both often occupy the same locations year after year.
Where are the steelhead? You either know the answer or you may need to change locations.