Ohio has some of the best steelhead rivers in the north east. Most anglers think of the North West when it comes to world class steelhead fishing, but Ohio ranks in that top category now. With steelhead ranging from 3-15 lbs. caught daily in the fall, winter, and spring in the tributaries of Lake Erie. The steelhead will return 4 years in a row to the same spawning ground if the conditions are right every year. It’s no wonder Ohio ranks with the best.

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Ohio stocks 5 main Lake Erie Tributaries:  The Vermilion River, Rocky River, Chagrin River, Grand River, and Conneaut Creek. Each year ODNR stocks roughly 400,000 steelhead smolts into the river mouths to begin their lifecycle.  Conneaut Creek has an added bonus because Pennsylvania Commission stocks another 75,000 trout added to the 75,000 trout Ohio stocks.  This is because the creek is half in Ohio, half in Pennsylvania.  There are however many other rivers and creeks that receive stray steelhead runs including the Huron River, Black River, Ashtabula River, Arcola Creek, Cowles Creek, French Creek and any other river or stream that is a tributary of Lake Erie. Many Steelhead fishermen keep the other creeks that aren’t stocked a secret and only share fishing information with close friends and family.

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Steelhead have good return numbers in Ohio, mostly due to anglers catching and releasing steelhead when they are caught. Steelhead are also very strong fish and can survive in harsher climates than regular rainbow trout.
There is a small number of steelhead that has been documented to successfully reproduce in Ohio waters. The number is so low because Ohio just does not have the support in its river system to sustain small trout. Running springs in a river or creek help this and Ohio lacks springs in its Lake Erie Tributaries. Another downfall why steelhead do not reproduce in Ohio is the sporadic rainfall and its effect on the river systems. Steelhead need a constant flow in the summer time for their growing season and Ohio tributaries have the tendency to drop too low and gain temperature and kill the young trout before they have a chance to grow.

The success of the steelhead returns in Ohio Lake Erie Tributaries is due to the fact that ODNR has a good management program in place. They know what numbers need to be stocked and where to maximize the return runs of steelhead the next year.