Cooler temperatures bring on steelhead fishing in Ohio

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio’s steelhead trout fishing is heating up now that colder weather is incoming, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. November through March provides peak action for anglers pursuing northeast Ohio’s silver bullets.

Six Lake Erie tributaries are stocked with steelhead trout annually. In the spring of 2021, nearly 500,000 yearling trout were stocked: Ashtabula (56,686 steelhead stocked), Chagrin (92,221), Conneaut (81,966), Grand (102,114), Rocky (100,532), and Vermilion (65,453). These fish will soon grow to trophy sizes, and larger fish will be pursued by thousands of anglers during the fall, winter, and early spring.

Steelhead caught by anglers in streams typically average 25 inches long and weigh up to 6 pounds. These fish have usually spent two or three summers in Lake Erie. However, many steelhead are longer than 30 inches and weigh more than 10 pounds when caught. These fish have spent as many as five summers in the lake.

“Many anglers pursue steelhead in harbors and lower rivers early in the fall, then move to smaller streams later in the winter when the main rivers are high and muddy or beginning to freeze,” said Scott Hale, the Division of Wildlife’s executive administrator of fish management and research. “Seek streams with 8 to 12 inches of visibility and then fish close to the bottom.”

In the fall, steelhead make their way from the deep waters of Lake Erie to spawning areas in upstream tributaries where they will stay until spring. Steelhead have limited reproduction in Ohio as they require clear, fast-moving rivers with a gravel base to be successful. Because of this, steelhead are stocked each year by Ohio’s state fish hatcheries to maintain the fishery.

Many anglers fish for steelhead with spinning or fly rods with light line. Common lures include small jigs tipped with live bait rigged with split shot under a light bobber. For more steelhead fishing tips, stocking numbers, and growth rates, visit (search steelhead fishing).

Make sure to read through the fishing regulations before pursuing steelhead, because they vary based on time of year and location. Fishing regulations can be viewed online at or through the free HuntFish OH mobile app. Anglers can also obtain paper copies wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold. All anglers ages 16 and older are required to have an Ohio fishing license.

Fishing is a great way to introduce someone to the outdoors. The Division of Wildlife wants to help new and experienced anglers make the most of their outdoor adventures. Visit the Wild Ohio Harvest Community page at for information on getting started, fishing tips and tricks, and delicious wild game recipes.

The mission of the Division of Wildlife is to conserve and improve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainable use and appreciation by all. Visit to find out more.

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at

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