Meet The Guides
Best Time 2 Fish
prices and packages
Ohio Steelhead Fishing
Western PA tribs
NY Trophy Browns
NY Salmon River
Online Photo Album
Steelhead Alley Links
e-mail us at
Steelhead alley Map
Google Map of Cleveland Ohio
Steelhead Alley Map
Google Map of North East Ohio
Steelhead Alley Map
make sure your fishing with a Steelhead
is our number one priority at Steelheadschool.com
We want lifelong customers. We strive to exceed our
guests expectations. Our guarantee is simple. If
your not 100% satisfied with anything we do contact us.
If we can't make it right. We will give you a full refund.
No questions asked.
Sorry No Openings
Often imitated but never
duplicated. We have over 150 satisfied Graduates thru the years. It is a
three day adventure into the world of fishing Steelhead Alley. Our team of
local steelhead pro's teach you everything you need to know to be a successful
steelhead angler. It also includes a nine hour tour of the hot spots on the
streams. We will cover, When to fish where, knots, rigging terminal tackle,
leader construction, fly selection, reading water, fighting fish, spin, fly, spey and cenerpinn techniques
plus thee hours of hands on fly tying. All you will need are an Ohio fishing license and a
pair of chest high waders. . The weekend is value priced at $350 per angler and
included in the price is two nights lodging. Contact Don at 330-565-5457 for
Bill Rusinko at
Realistics Taxidermy is the
only one I will trust with my trophy fish, He lives in Michigan's UP and
he is an expert at correctly painting our great lakes species.
Blog's from the Alley's
This link takes you to
Greg Lum's blog. Greg is
a good friend of mine and an expert with the center pin. He is on the
river almost every day and his reports are funny but accurate.
Mike Engelhardt's Blog is
packed with great photography and stories of his adventures.
Ohio DNR Info
OH Fishing Report
Ohio Steelhead Fishing
Ohio Steelhead Info
The Best informational book on fishing
John Nagy has updated his great book on Lake Erie Steelhead fishing.
Tube flies are all the rage on the
alley. If your interested in tubes you gotta check out Tony DiBenedetto's
web site tubeflytech.com
County Visitors Bureau's
Dfishinfool's Guide Service is a proud members of the
Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Their website lists local attractions, the areas fine wineries, hotels and other
information on the area.
Our Team of Guides have the
required permits to Guide on
Lorain County Metro-Parks property. Lorain County is host to some beautiful
well appointed parks.
Dfishinfool's Guide Service is a proud members of the
Lake County Visitors Bureau
Helpful links on rigging your spinning
outfit for Steelhead
We trust quality
RedWing floats and terminal tackle on
our guided trips
Here is a great link from
Redwing Tackle on rigging up your Spin or Pin outfit
Team Member Guide Websites
DDon Mathews and
Dfishinfool.com have been your Source
for Steelhead Alley info since 1997
Jeff Novak's website. Jeff
travels the Great Lakes Guiding Anglers.
Guide Dick Keagy is a true
OhioSteelheader check out his
Guide Travis McAllisters website.
Ben's Bait and Tackle Garden River Ontario
Clubs, Trout Unlimited Chapters, Sports Shops
put together a great Power Point Presentation on Fishing
"steelhead Alley" its not just a bragging guide with a
bunch of big fish pictures. We have put together
an informative lesson on steelheading. It contains
many tips we have learned in our 10 year history of
Guiding Steelhead Alley. The principals we
show you can be applied to many other fisheries. We
offer this presentation at a very reasonable cost of
$100 plus our fuel expenses. We have a high
Definition Power Point projector all we need is a screen
or blank wall and a group of fishermen. Feel free
to contact Don at 330-565-5457 to set up a date for your
Area Fishing Clubs
Pennsylvania Steelhead Association
3 c u Trout Association
North West Pa
SONS of Lake
Erie Club (save our native species)
Trout unlimited Cleveland OHF
Boys Fly Fishing Club Toledo Oh
Tri County Trout Club
Other Great Clubs
United Fly Fishermen
Louisville Trout Unlimited
of our streams in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York hold fish during the winter months
MOST YEARS ALL OF OUR STREAMS FREEZE OVER IN JANUARY AND
York Steelhead fishing is best in October thru December
but most years the Cattaraugus Creek s the first stream
to get a run of fish
Pennsylvania Steelhead fishing peaks in November and
December but gets runs as early as September. They
are the most heavily stocked streams on "Steelhead
Alley" and hold the most fish per square mile.
Steelhead fishing starts in October and lasts until
early May. Ohio streams are usually fish the best
in the spring.
Family Winery 440-593-5403
Favorite Great food**
Ferrante Winery 440-466-8466
River Cellars 440-298-9838
Harpersfield Vineyard 440-466-4739
Firehouse Winery 440-466-9300
Wine live music **
Old Mill Winery 440-466-5560
My Favorite wines **
South River Vineyard
Family Winery 440-466-1314
Area Rental Homes
Orange Street Rentals in Conneaut
Ohio rents out a nice home in a quite neighborhood minutes from Conneaut Creek.
Fairport Harbor Rental Home for
very large Groups. 8 BR Sleeps 20. Vey Nice views of lake 440-773-2741
Fairport Harbor Cottage Sleeps 6 with nice
Lakefront views. 440-773-2741
Our Favorite Lake
Erie Charter Boats
If you want
to catch a bunch of Perch without spending a bundle.
Check out the Edward John head boat out of Erie Pa. Just
$28 for adults..!! Call 814-883-7622
Todd runs his 600 H.P. 33' Maxum out of Sima Marina on
the Chagrin river. He offers Walleye and Perch Charters.
PLUS.. They offer private dinners cruises.
Give them a call at 440-487-2349
Goble runs a 30 foot Baha the
"No Woes" on eries central basin. He also owns
Chagrin River bait
and tackle in Eastlake. Bill has 30 years of
experience and his rates are some of the best around. He
is a pleasant knowledgeable Capt. Give Bill a call for a
first class Lake Erie Walleye or Perch trip.
My Time Too Charters
George Neil runs a 30' Baha out of Ashtabula Harbor
He will put you on the fish 330-637-0989
Capt Don lives
right on the water in Fairport Harbor. His boat an
gear are first class 216-337-1208
Clark runs out of Ashtabula Ohio in a 30' Baha Give
him a call for some hog eyes and perch. 440-241-2214
tells me Capt Gary Raymond catches fish when no one else
looking for some huge Lake Ontario Browns and Salmon I
Brian Edwards and Fatal Attraction Charters out of
Sodus Bay in Fair Haven NY 315-754-8914
If your ever fishing in central
Kentucky look up are friends at
Cumberland Drifters for a great float trip
If your looking for a guided trip on
the Mighty Muskegon or the surrounding Michigan Streams give
Chad Betts a call at
John Valk runs
Grindstone Angling . They
are located in South Central Ontario Canada. I have used John as a guide in the
past. He is pleasant and nice to fish with. I highly recommend John as
your guide if you travel to the area.
Grindstone Angling also has a
very nice flyshop.
A neat new concept in floats.
Want to experience the thrill of
steelhead fishing on the world famous
at the right place now..!! We invite our to browse our
web site. We have maintained
Steelheadschool.com and the
reports page for almost fifteen years now for your
enjoyment. So have fun reading about our past
adventures on Steelhead Alley but please ignore all the
bad spelling. We have assembled a bunch of
information for you here but were always learning and
updating things with the times. So feel free to call or
drop us a line anytime. We want to hear from you.
Have Fun..!! Don
Find out what's new and where they are biting on our
daily updated twitter page. Real time stream
conditions and fishing reports from the team of
Steelheadschool guides. Click on the link below
and we will accept you to follow us.
have openings for
our Garden River
2014 Salmon Trip
thru Sept 26 Garden
River Trip The Garden River is located six
hours north of Detroit near Sault Ste Marie.
This fall we will offer four, 5 night packages in our deluxe all inclusive
streamside camp. Sept 10-14, Sept 14-18, and Sept
18-22 and Sept 22- Sept 26. We fish a exclusive
PRIVATE area of the
Garden River reservation with native Ojibaway guides.
Fishing is spectacular for Pink (humpies) and Chinook
(King) salmon as well as Atlantic salmon, rainbows,
Brookies, Coho and Steelhead. Our groups of anglers land
unbelievable numbers of fish to 30 lbs. We have
miles and miles of river to ourselves. The fall foliage
is spectacular and the river is easy to wade. Our Camp
accommodates sixteen anglers in heated wall
style tents with oversize cots. We have two hot water
showers and lighted latrines in camp. We eat like kings in
camp and our cooks prepare the delicious meals camp
style in cast iron cookware. Everything is
included in the package price except for your fishing
tackle. The Garden River Salmon fishery is the
best the great lakes has to offer. It is the trip
of a lifetime.
Five days fishing including all meals. $1195
See the pictures
and read the story about our Garden River Trip
Spring 2014 Steelhead Alley
A message from Don
Thank You for your continued support. I guess
we must be doing something right. We are so busy I was
forced to turn away 2 out of 3 trip requests last fall.
This is frustrating for me. AND spring 2014 is
almost full now. I can't put off my knee replacement
surgery any longer. In February I go under the knife. So
I will not be guiding at all this spring. I will be back
at it in September for our Canada Salmon trip. Jeff,
Jason, Travis and Kurt will be doing all of our guide
trips on Steelhead Alley and their schedules are filling
up fast. Jeff and Jason will be doing the Grand
River float trips in late March and Early April.
If your interested in a Spring date contact me ASAP
and I will try my best to get you on the schedule
Good Fishin...!!! Don "Dfishinfool" Mathews
is Steelhead Alley ?
have you been man..!! Steelhead Alley is giving anglers
the hottest steelhead fishing on the planet.
Steelhead Alley is the nickname given to the 30 or so
tributary streams that flow into Lake Erie's southern
shoreline. It's a man made steelheading bonanza
created by Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York .
is Steelhead Alley ?
East side of Steelhead Alley starts near Buffalo NY and
follows the Lake Erie shoreline west all the way to
Michigan. I call Erie Pennsylvania the heart of
Steelhead Alley. This is where the heaviest
concentrations of fish are stocked. All of the streams
that flow into Lake Erie receive a run of Steelhead
is a steelhead trout?
Basically a steelhead is a strain of a rainbow trout.
The State's fish commissions raise the fish in
hatcheries for their first year. Then each spring
they stock the 6-9 inch fish in select streams. As
summer approaches the water in the stream gets too warm
for the fish to survive. Their instincts take over
and the migrate to the cool deep waters of Lake Erie.
There the feast of a variety of food sources and live
the good life. The Steelhead reach sexual maturity
at three years old. They now average 23 inches in
length and are very strong and full of vigor. Their
instincts take over and the migrate back to their home
stream to carry on the spawning ritual. They show up in
the fall and stay in the stream until they finish
spawning in the spring. Many of our steelhead survive
the spawning run and return to lake Erie to grow even
bigger. We call these fish repeat spawners.
is the secret hotspot on "Steelhead Alley"?
all honesty Steelhead are migratory. We fish water
that is open to the public to fish. We move
streams daily chasing fresh runs of fish and prime water
conditions. To be successful every day of the
season you must be willing to drive a little. Most
die hard steelhead fishermen watch the weather very
closely. They know that when the stream levels are
dropping it is the best time to steelhead fish. The guy
that fishes the same spot every day, has many a slow day
here on the Alley.
Noodle Rods, Switch Rods, Tube Flies, Center Pins, Spey
rods, Steelhead fishing sounds really complicated.
Steelhead fishing isn't difficult at all.
Different methods are used than most typical types of
fishing employ. Most of the time it comes down to
a bobber and baited hook or fly. Simple ultra
light tackle is all that is usually required to be
successful but steelheading is trendy. Sometimes
steelheaders choose methods or styles of fishing that
they enjoy. Even though these may not be the most
effective way to catch fish on that given day.
Some steelheaders are very loyal to their particular
style of fishing. The good thing is no mater the
method, the fishing is great here on "Steelhead Alley"
need to buy a bunch of expensive gear to catch
at all. Most of the best steelhead fishermen I
know, are not wealthy people. As with any sport or
hobby you can spend a fortune if you want, but it
doesn't guarantee your success to do so. Basically
you need light spin or fly equipment with a reliable
Should I go online and research the new latest and
greatest gear before buying anything?
Buying steelhead gear isn't like buying a new laptop. A
good Rod and Reel will serve you for years and years.
As with any sport there are lots of choices in gear.
I read some of the tackle reviews once in awhile and
most sound like a used car salesman wrote them.
No one gives any of us anything for free to say how good
their product is. That's not my cup of tea.
A few manufacturers provide us gear at a discount price
to use on our guide trips but I'm not obligated to
advertise their stuff in any way. I put my gear though
the ringer day after day and I know what lasts. I
invite you to call me or any of my guides for some free
advise on equipment to buy or to just talk fishing.
am hooked now..I want to give steelheading a try.
So I'm heading down to the W-mart to
pick up the tackle. What do I need to get?
Stop..!! Don't make the mistake I see so many others
make. The mart stores just don't carry real steelheading
gear. Bobbers, flies, and hooks aren't real expensive but
you must get the right ones to make it all work. The
bubble packed flies you buy there might entice a fish to
bite but the hooks will straighten out. The rods they
sell will work but for the same money you can buy a
specialized steelhead rod at one of our local shops.
You will save a bundle in the long run. Just go into one of
the local flyshop's we have listed here. Swallow
our pride, tell them your a beginner and ask for some
help. Trust me they want your repeat business and they
will not steer you wrong. For the online shoppers
there's the FishUSA website. They have the best
selection of steelhead gear I have seen anywhere.
have the gear where do I go from here?
your homework. Research the web. Ask for advise at
the Bait Shop. There are a lot of great links on
this website to point you in the right direction but no
steelheader in his right mind is going to tell you where
he's going to be tomorrow. That's all part of the game.
If your a first timer. Print out a map a drive the
streams. Look where the cars are parked and
the guys are fishing. Look at the water if it
looks like chocolate milk don't waste your time there.
Move to anther stream. Always obey the number one rule
enter posted property without permission.
Whatever you do don't crowd another angler on the stream
or wade thru the water he is fishing. A little
politeness goes a long way. Tangling up in another
anglers line will make you look like a real rookie.
Instead of crowding out other anglers pay attention to
the types of water they are having success in.
Then do some walking and find similar sections of
stream. Unpressured fish are always better customers.
is steelheadschool.com ?
Whether you are a spin or fly fisherman, Steelhead
School is your one stop source for Everything
Area weather Info,
area lodging, where
local fly shops,
and everything else you will need to make your trip a
successful one. My name is Don Mathews and I am
the webmaster here but we are a team of seven
steelhead guides who network together on the stream
daily. We fish steelhead alley but
these same tactics can be applied anywhere steelhead
would anyone in their right mind give out so much
information for free?
hope is that you consider attending one of our Bi-Annual
Steelhead Schools or consider a guided trip with one of
our team member guides.
we consider ourselves
instructors as opposed to guides. We are so
confident of our ability to put you on the fish we offer
Catch Fish Or You Fish Free"
policy on our guided Steelhead fishing trips.
Want to learn more?
Feel free to browse our website. Even if you never
attend one of our schools or go on a guided trips. We want you
to be informed of the
rules of the game. River
access, ethics and landowner issues are critical to the
success of the fishery. There are a lot of great
tips on the pages of this site and the other sites we
link too. Learning to steelhead fish is so much
easier these days. If you really want to shorten
the steelheaders learning curve then consider attending
our next class
Spring Class March 23rd, 24th, and 25th 2012.
We are the original
Steelhead School since 2001. Often imitated but
never duplicated. Learn
the secrets to becoming a
angler. Three days of instructional steelheading with
the areas best LOCAL guides. Plus a 9 hour tour of the
fishing hot spots on our streams. Value priced at $350
per angler with two nights lodging included in the
thinking about a guided trip. Please
consider one of our team member guides.
do I book a trip with a team member guide?
use Steelheadschool.com as our central booking
source for our team of five self employed local professional
steelhead guides. Of course you can call your
guide at anytime to check on availability or to answer
any questions you might have. We think our prices
are very reasonable, as low as $125 per angler in groups
of three or more.
If I come on a guided trip, what would I need to bring?
We provide all the rods, reels,
tackle, flies, bait, Coffee, and a streamside lunch with
desert. Our trips are all inclusive there are no
hidden costs.. All you will need are waders
and a fishing license. We are centrally located in North Eastern
Ohio. A short drive from over twenty different streams.
We are licensed to guide in Ohio, Pennsylvania,
and New York.
"We fish without borders!"
Simply put we go where the fish are!
name is Don Mathews,
I am the
webmaster at Steelheadschool.com. I also have been
an instructor at the Steelhead School for the last
fourteen years. I grew up fishing Lake Erie, and
the streams along her southern shoreline. I caught
my first steelhead forty some odd years ago and I have been hooked from
that moment on. I have been guiding steelhead anglers
since 1997. My favorite place is my home state and the
Ohio streams. They offer the opportunity for today's
steelhead angler to escape the crowds that "Steelhead Alley"
is known for. Most of our streams are relatively
small and most of the time boats are not a option. When
conditions are right the Grand River in
Ohio offer's the
rare chance to do a
float trip on steelhead alley. In
addition to wade trips. December thru April
we offer Grand
River trips in our Hyde Pro-Guide aluminum
McKenzie style drift boat. We don't typically fish from
the boat but it is a awesome tool to reach remote
sections of stream and un-pressured fish. I have a intimate
knowledge of over twenty different watersheds. Our team
of guides are on the stream daily. We network with each
other to stay on top of the fish. Don't forget
Steelhead are migratory. This gives us a big advantage
over any other guide service on the Alley.
The Manistee fish Ohio stocks are from wild brood-stock
and they average over 24" in length. We take Trophy Ohio
fish over 15 lbs every year. Our season runs from
October thru May! Lets go fishin!
to aggressive stocking programs, Lake Erie's southern
shoreline is becoming known as one of the best steelhead
fisheries in the world. The numerous tributaries in this
area have been nick-named "Steelhead Alley". Our
of local professional guides are on the stream guiding more
than 150 days per year. We know where the fish are and
we can put you on them !!
We guarantee it.!!!!!
Whether your floating down the Grand River in Ohio with
Hyde boat pro-staff guide Don Mathews for spring
steelhead or casting streamers at aggressive
cruising early fall chromers with Travis. You can rest assured you will get your fish.
have assembled a team of the best Steelhead Fishing Guides out there.
These guys are the cream of the crop and they will go
that extra yard for you. You can be sure you are getting
the best possible Great Lakes fishing adventure
area coined "Steelhead Alley" stretches along Lake
Erie's southern shoreline from Buffalo New York to
Western Ohio. Virtually every watershed that flows
ito Lake Ere gets a run of steelhead. With many streams to choose from.
Traveling anglers staying in either Pittsburg, Erie,
Cleveland, Painesville, Ashtabula, Youngstown, or
Buffalo are just a short drive from the
action. Excellent accommodations are available at a
very reasonable cost.
Many unlicensed part time guides have opened up shop
on "Steelhead Alley" Some are excellent
fishermen but beware. A part time guide only
fishing a couple of streams is severely handicapped
on the "Alley". Many of the guides don't even
own quality equipment they expect you to bring your
own specialized steelhead gear. Plus they
charge you extra for flies, tippets and even
don't do business like that. There are NO HIDDEN
COSTS on our guided Steelhead Trips. Our
costs are very reasonable. A full day of
all inclusive guided fishing for $125 per angler in
groups of three or more.
Our guides are
licensed full time professionals who do hundreds of
guide trips a year. They are locals who live
in the heart of steelhead alley. Do you really want
to book a trip with a guide who lives hundreds of
miles from the streams and needs a GPS to find his
way around? Our team of guides are available seven days a
week. Can you afford to go with anyone
For our Fly Fishing Guests we provide quality Scott fly rods and
Orvis reels! You will use
beautiful hand tied flies. We spare no expense in giving
you the Great Lakes Steelhead experience of a lifetime!
There are no hidden costs as with many other outfitters!
All you will need are waders and a fishing license. Your
guide will be professional and will have all of the
licenses required by the state to guide. He will have
training in CPR, first aid, and water safety. He will be
well versed in fly casting and beginning fly casters and
fishermen are welcome. Our guides dedicate their time to
instructing you the angler, they do not fish! We welcome
first time fly fishers and children..!!
Fighting steelhead is hard work but once you start you
will not want to stop! That's why we will bring lunch to
the fish. Included on all guided trips is a streamside
lunch with desert and beverages. We will have a warm cup of
coffee or coco to warm you in the morning and bottled
water or soft drinks throughout the day. All of this is
included in the cost of your trip. No hidden charges.
Ohio Steelhead Fishing
History in the Making
By: Don Dfishinfool Mathews
In my younger days there were very few steelhead to be
had for a kid living in Ohio. Pennsylvania had
been stocking a few steelhead since the early 60's.
Ohio was still experimenting with Salmon and hadn't
started stocking steelhead yet.
Steelhead are not Native to the Great Lakes.
first stocked into Lake Erie around 1900. Since then there has been a
small population of wild fish. Most of these wild
fish reside in the cooler Canadian streams on the North
side of the Lake. A few of these wild
Canadian fish stray to our streams, but not many.
My first Ohio steelhead came from Conneaut Creek. You
see Conneaut creeks head waters are in Pennsylvania.
They stock put and
take trout in the upper stretches of Conneaut creek.
When the stream warms up in June these stocked trout are
forced to migrate to Lake Erie in search of cooler
water. Three years later these put and take trout reached sexual
maturity and come back to spawn. To beat the odds
they faced and make it back to spawn meant these fish
were true survivors. They are few and far
between. In my youth we knew them as Lake run bows.
Every one was a trophy..!!
In the late 70's I was a young teenager who spent my
summers in the Conneaut and Ashtabula areas. On
occasion I found
work first mating, cleaning fish and puke on the areas
Walleye Charter Boats. My uncle Pete Mathews ran
the charter boat "Sin or Swim" and I spent a lot of my
time on his boat. This was the good old days
of our Erie Walleye fishery. Limits were easy and
the guests were always smiling.
always loved fishing Lake Erie's waters but I have a
thing for our area streams. In those days I spent my winters
trapping the Grand, Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, and Conneaut creek
watersheds. Muskrat, Mink, Coon and
Beavers all fetched a good price and I did well for a
kid. I loved the streams and spent all the
time I could on them. In the fall you could often find me and
my buddies floating the Grand or Conneaut in our Canoes.
We hunted ducks, deer, squirrels and whatever else
we could find along the riverbanks.
would have told me then that one day I would make my
living fishing these streams. I would have looked
at you like you were crazy.! You see
there were very few fish in our streams back then.
If I caught a Lake run bow it was cause for celebration.
I would string it up and show it off all over town.
The state was experimenting with stocking Salmon in
those days. We did catch a few Salmon in the fall
but the returns were poor. Lake Erie didn't have
the Alewives baitfish like the other great lakes.
Salmon just never did well in Erie. For the most
part we caught Catfish, Smallmouth and Suckers. On
rare occasion the Grand would give up a walleye or two
if you were lucky.
One fall day myself and a couple of buddies were fishing
under the High Trestle Bridge in Lower Conneaut in hopes
of tangling with a big King salmon. As usual we
were catching nothing. Along comes old
Curtis Knightlinger. He sets up directly across
the river from us. Even in those days Kurt was
old. Especially to a kid who didn't have his
drivers license yet. Kurt owned the local bait
shop in town. Old Kurt had a slow methodical way
about him. He never hurried anything.
That day after about 30
minutes of fussing with his gear he makes a cast.
The ripples from the splash hadn't even disappeared when
suddenly the water erupts in Silver. Old
Kurt fights the the silver trout in and reaches down and
unhooks it. I watched in disbelief as he let it
go. Surely this old man has went crazy letting a
fish like that go. I watched with amazement
as he repeated this five more times. Six lake run
bows in one day, heck that was more than I had
caught in all of the previous year. I just had to know what he
was using for bait. So we talked my buddy Rich
into casting across old Kurts line to discover what the
magic bait was. Of course this pissed off
Kurt who knew what we were up to. He yells
out You little Sons of !@#$@, don't you dare
tangle up my line again, come on over here if you
want to find out how to catch them. That afternoon
I sat and listened. I learned about light line,
floats, black jigs and maggots. Soon after I was
fighting a big silver hen. Kurt also told us how
these fish didn't die after spawning like the Salmon.
I learned the importance of letting them go.
Sure I had caught steelhead before, but it was on this day
that I became a Steelheader. Kurt passed
away about three years ago and he is missed by many.
The knowledge he shared with me and many others lives
on. In my youth, I spent many days just hanging
out at his bait shop. It was there that I
learned about, curing eggs, tying egg sacs, salting shiners and
all the other odd tricks Kurt had up his sleeve.
Little did I know Ohio steelheading was in for a big
Ohio is the new kid on the block when it comes to
trout fishing. They started to stock fishable
numbers of Steelhead in
the Early 80's. Trout fishing has a long heritage
in Pennsylvania but in Ohio we lack the cold water
streams necessary for a year round trout fishery.
People definitely do not associate Ohio with trout
fishing, even though our steelhead fishery is
The reason for our success is the wisdom of the Ohio DNR and
the abundant forage in our shallowest of the great
lakes. It is my honest belief that Ohio will soon
be known as the premiere Steelhead destination in the
Great Lakes region.
You see Ohio has something
that Pennsylvania lacks. ACCESS.... We have lots
and lots of miles of river flowing into Lake Erie.
Our forefathers here in Ohio were very wise.
Thanks to a large network of State and local parks we
have many miles of public access to our streams.
In Ohio we have more unobstructed river miles flowing
into Lake Erie than Pa, and Michigan combined.
Pennsylvania on the other hand has a small handful of
very short streams that are almost entirely privately
owned. Angler crowding is becoming a big problem
in Pennsylvania. So far the landowners in all of the states
have been very tolerant of the crowds of anglers but I
fear it is reaching a breaking point in Pa.
Already we have groups leasing the streams in an attempt
to privatize the fishery. It seems like every day
I hear about another section of stream being posted or
closed to fishing. The situation in Pennsylvania
worries me. I find each year I do fewer and fewer
guide trips in Pennsylvania. BUT
The steelhead fishery in Ohio is coming of age.
We trade Channel Catfish fingerlings to Michigan for
Steelhead smolts and eggs. Michigan gets these
eggs from the Little Manistee River Weir. The fish
in the Little Manistee are a self sustaining wild
population. The Michigan streams are cold enough
year round to support natural reproduction.
Unfortunately here in Ohio our stream temperatures do
not allow the fish to successfully reproduce. Our
fish do spawn but the fry die shortly after hatching due
in large part to our stream temperatures. Virtually all of
our fish in Ohio and Pa are stocked by the states.
Our streams are some of the most densely stocked streams
in the world. Pennsylvania stocks close to 1.5 million
6-9 inch long smolts each spring. Ohio stocks
400,000 in her streams. The survival rate of these
implanted smolts is very good. It is considered a
success If 10% of the smolts reach adulthood and return
to the stream. One Pennsylvania study had close to
50% of the fish returning. This is almost
unbelievable and shows how well Pennsylvania understands
the Steelhead game. Of course Pennsylvania has
over 100 years experience raising trout.
making great progress with their steelhead program. Our
DNR seems genuinely committed to making continuous
improvements to our steelhead program.
Stocking steelhead is a costly and the states
have appx $1 in each stocked smolt.
Once a steelhead reaches maturity it returns to the
stream it was implanted in to spawn. They
locate their home stream by smell. Our steelhead
smolts do not have a long time to acclimate to the
stream before warming spring water temperatures chase
them to the lake. It is my belief that this is why
so many of our Ohio fish stray. This is a good
thing in my opinion. It helps to spread the
fish out to un-stocked streams.
When I say our fish stray, what I
mean they make a mistake and run up different
river than the one they were implanted in. Simply put
some of our smolts do not spend enough time in the
stream to acclimate. This seems to be especially true in
Ohio. Pennsylvania has figured out that
stocking fish in the upper sections of the stream helps
Many of the Pennsylvania smolts
are stocked in the far upper sections of the streams.
In Conneaut Creek the Pa smolts are stocked about 45
miles from the Lake.
Ohio on the other hand stocks their fish near the stream
mouths. This does help keep the smolts from
becoming unintentionally caught by anglers in the upper
river. It is my belief this is the reason several
of our our un-stocked Ohio streams get such a prolific
Year after year I track where the
trucks dump the smolts into the streams. Let me
tell you the majority of fish comeback to the exact spot
they were implanted in. On the Pennsylvania
streams there are noticeably less fish upstream of the
point the trucks put them in at. Its a sure bet
there will be a good pod of fish near where the trucks
stock the fish. This is why I so carefully keep
track of where the fish are being stocked.
Our Manistee Strain Ohio fish tend to run much later
than their Pa and NY cousins do. This is because
of their Genetic lineage. Their parents are from
the little Manistee River in Michigan. It stays a
cool temperature year round. Most fish in the
Little Man tend to spawn in Late April or Early
May. It only makes sense that their offspring will
tend to spawn at the same time. This is why most
steelhead veterans consider the Manistee to be a spring
Our Ohio fish will start to enter the
streams in Late November. They will continue to run and
will holdover all winter. The bulk of the Ohio run
will happen in Early March most years. The fight
of our wild Manistee strain fish is terrific.
Ohio used to stock London Strain fish. They were a
fall run fish. There were several problems
with the London's so Ohio decided to stock 200,000
Manistee Strain Fish in 1996. Ohio soon
discovered that the return rate was much better
with the Manistee strain. Now have switched to a
Manistee only program.
At first I was upset. I
feared the fall fishery would disappear in Ohio.
As I predicted the catch rate for the Fall month's in
Ohio went down. I discovered that there were
enough fall run strays from Pa and Early run Manistee to
make fall fishing Good for most of the fall. It also
helps that Pennsylvania is stocking Conneaut Creek with
it's fall run fish. I will admit the more I
get to know the Manistee the more I like them. Its
nice having fresh fish around in the spring, plus their
wild genes show in the fight they give on the line.
The mighty Manistee has earned my respect.
Ohio stocks five of it's streams with Steelhead.
Conneaut, Grand, Chagrin, Rocky, and Vermillion.
All of these streams receive appx 65,000 smolts each
spring. Conneaut Creek also receives
75,000 fish from Pennsylvania. This makes Conneaut
unique, it gets both spring and fall run fish.
Many Ohio streams that do not get stocked get good runs
of fish each year. Ashtabula, Cowels,
Wheeler, Arcola, Euclid, Cuyahoga, Black, Portgage,
and the Huron River all receive runs of Steelhead
strays. There are dozens of smaller streams or
ditches that are worth mentioning also but I will not
for obvious reasons.
If one were to compare the number of fish stocked per
stream mile between Ohio and Pennsylvania, it would seem
like Pa is the place to fish. This can be true, at
times there are unbelievable numbers of fish in Pa.
This is why I continue to shell out the $400 non
resident guide license fee each year. There are several
other factors to consider though.
in much worse in Pa. Unless there is a blizzard
you can forget the weekends. On the other hand one
willing to do a little walking in Ohio can always find a
section of stream to himself.
A recent study done
in Pa shows one in three steelhead that is caught is
kept. This is bad news for steelhead.
Believe it or not most fish are caught repeatedly
through the season. Some winter holdover fish are
caught and released dozens of times. Sooner or later
most Pa steelhead end up that one out of three.
This means all these kept fish will not survive to
become a repeat spawner.
Less repeat spawners is
not a good thing. We will
get back to that later.
In Ohio on the other hand far fewer fish are
kept. The limits are lower but that doesn't seem
to matter. I really can't explain why this holds
true. I honestly believe that people in Ohio
just don't have a taste for trout like they do in Pa.
Maybe its because of the abundance of Erie caught perch
and walleye in my freezer. I personally never eat steelhead.
Most locals around here don't have much trouble catching
perch. If you have never ate Lake Erie perch your
Another reason few fish are creeled in Ohio
might be because of the work involved. If your hiking miles into
the Grand River in Ohio who in their right mind is going
to lug a adult steelhead out of there? In
all honesty I don't know why less fish are kept in Ohio.
The fact that less fish are kept means
there are more repeat spawners in Ohio
than in Pennsylvania. If your into big steelhead that's a
good thing, trust me..!!
A steelhead reaches maturity at three years of age.
They spend their first year in the stream as fry and
then fingerlings. At one year old they migrate out to
Lake Erie. They spend their time in lake
Erie gorging on Shiners, Smelt, Shad, Gobies, Mayflies,
spinney water fleas and other high protein food sources.
Their growth rate is far faster than a stream trout
living on a diet of nymphs.
When they return to
the stream as three yr olds they are 22-24 inches long.
If they are lucky enough not to end up on a rope or a
fatality of weather they return to the Lake. We
call them drop backs as they hobble back to he Lake
after the rigors of the spawn. They are dark
and beat up with wounds from fighting and digging in the
After spawning the hens quickly return to the Lake.
Most male fish remain in the river until late spring
waiting for more hens to show up. This is why
there are almost always more male fish than female fish
in the streams. Eventually the water temperature will
warm to the point the Males will be forced to return to
the Lake also. Once the fish return to Lake Erie
they will rejuvenate. They will loose their
spawning colors and turn silver again. The Males
Kype will shrink and their battle wounds quickly heal in
the cool Lake waters. By the fourth of July they
are completely transformed back into Chromers.
They will spend yet another summer in Lake Erie feasting
on its abundant forage until the urge to spawn draws
them back to the stream.
The larger fish in the stream are repeat spawners.
Meaning they have survived a previous spawn and have
returned to spawn again. Being fishermen most of
us want to catch the biggest fish possible. On
Steelhead Alley this means finding repeat spawners.
I fish sections of the Grand River from my drift boat
that I have never seen another soul fishing. The
odds of anyone keeping a fish there are slim. Logic
tells us that the odds of finding repeat spawners in
such places is far greater. The average size of
the fish is much larger on the Grand River than most
streams on the Alley.
A friend of mine named Jimmy Dallas has been involved
with 3 CU's and the Pennsylvania steelhead program since
it's beginning in the early 60's. Jimmy has
forgotten more about steelhead than most of us will ever
know. One theory of Jimmy's is that the
larger fish generally come from the lower sections of
stream. He believes that the biggest of big fish do not
run very far up the streams instead they quickly spawn in the lower
rivers then head immediately back to the Lake. I totally
agree with this theory. I see far more large
repeat spawners in the lower river than the upper
sections of stream. Jimmy's reasoning for this
phenomenon is that the fish remember from previous runs
that there are lots of anglers upstream and little good
spawning gravel. I personally have seen about
twenty fish over 15 lbs caught. All but one came
from the first three miles of the stream. If your
targeting big fish this is something to keep in mind.
What will the future bring to our fishery?
Stream Access, Pollution, VHS infections, Zebra
mussels, Gobies, Many real threats to our
steelhead program exist right now. I have
faith in our current Ohio DNR leadership. I
think they are on the right track. With a little
luck our children will get to catch more steelhead in
I did as a youth.
Let's Go Fishin..!!
Northeast Ohio Steelhead Fishing |
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Steelhead Alley Guided Fishing | Steelhead
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Steelhead Fishing Reports Ohio
our Home page. Here you will
find Links to Everything Steelhead Alley..!! Up to
date fishing reports from our team of guides, Plus
stream maps, flow gauges, area fly shops, online tackle
shops, Bait shops, taxidermist, area hotels, camp
We want to hear from you
Tackle we depend on..!!
valuable stream time, buy your fishing license online
the day before your trip.
Webmaster - Guide
listed below are self employed. We have joined
forces. We believe that by networking together on
the stream our group of local guides can give the best
steelheading experience possible. We guarantee it..
Feel free to call any of us at anytime to check on
availability or to just talk fishin.. Don't be
fooled by the NEW wave of guides in Ohio. These
guys are your
true local steelhead pro's
a trip with any of the above guides please call Don Mathews at 330-565-5457 .
He handles the website and our central booking calendar
You may also call your guide of choice at anytime with
questions or to check on availability.
Best Area Bait and
who travel to the area are in luck. Dan, Eric and
the team at FishUSA
are there for you. They stock what you will
need. Don't waste your money at the marts.
FishUSA will have
your order to you very quickly. They also have a
storefront in Erie Pa. with everything they stock
available there. You can stop there and get
online prices on the spot. Tell them I sent you.
Elk Creek Sports
have known Dan Seaman since I started guiding in Pa.
his shop Elk
Creek Sports is open early has licenses, shiners, bait and
everything else the Steelheader needs. He is
located on Rt.5 right at Elk Creek. He keeps his
reports page up to date and the info is good.
BAC Bait and
Tackle has Several stores with a great selection of
fly tying materials, bait, tackle, rods, reels and
waders. Located around the Erie Pennsylvania area
Gary and his wife Dot run a great bait shop located on
Rt 5 near Walnut
Creek in PA called
I have been a customer there since Gary bought the place
many years ago. The prices are good.
The selection is great, with everything you need to
catch fish, fly or spin. They clean fish and will
exchange your fresh caught steelhead for a smoked fish
on the spot. Check them out..!!
Jim runs Folly's End fly shop and campground. Jim
bought the shop a few years ago from my good friend
Larry. Jim has done a great job of keeping the
shop well supplied for steelhead fishermen and done some
nice improvements to the campground. Clyde Murray
has worked at the shop for years. He is a
steelheading icon. Clyde's friendly advise has caused
the demise of countless steelhead. The shop is
located on the banks of Elk Creek in one of the most
productive sections of stream. You can park on the left
side of the driveway going down to the shop. From there
you can access the stream to fish. Please stop in the
shop and let them know though.
at 3737 west 12th Street in Erie Pa. They are a
Orvis shop that carry's a nice line of upper end fly
fishing equipment 814-833-4040
Market is located just a half mile ease of Chautauqua
Creek on Lake Rd. The have NY fishing licenses,
bait and steelhead tackle.
Appalachian Outfitters is located at 60 Kendall Park
Rd in Penninsula Ohio. They are a full service
outdoor shop with a nice fly fishing department.
Bait and Tackle
Bait and Tackle is located in the Ashtabula county
metro-park at the Harpersfield Dam. They are open
seasonably and they have Bait, Tackle, Snacks, and flies
tied by local tiers. Give Joe a call at 440-983-9500 for
and see Frank at TMF Orvis if your ever near Ravenna
Ohio. Frank is about as good natured and friendly
as anybody you will ever meet. He runs a very neat
and tidy shop that has a great selection of fly fishing
gear for the steelheader, trout fisherman or saltwater
angler. His fly tying material
selection is great. They also have lots of quality
rods and reels.
at 263 Liberty st in Painsville Ohio. Minutes from some
of the best stretches of the Grand River. Kevin
has the best fly fishing selection in the area.
Chagrin River Bait
Bill Goble is a seasoned veteran Erie charter Capt. who
runs trips on his nice 30 foot Baha the
"No Woes". Bill also owns
Chagrin River Bait
and tackle located at 140 forest dr. in Eastlake
Ohio. They sell fishing licenses, bait, and
steelhead tackle. Bill closes up for a few months
in the winter but he offers fish cleaning during the
summer. His BBQ Ribs and Fish dinners are a big hit with
the locals. They open at 6:00 am most mornings 440-942-9716
River outfitters located at 100 North Main Street in
Chagrin Falls Ohio 44022. They are a full service fly
shop and they have one of the areas best selections of
Steelhead Alley fly gear. Give Dan a call at
Erie Shore General
and tackle located in Eastlake Ohio 440-942-3470
has bait and steelhead tackle plus a selection of Lake
Erie Tackle. Located at 413
South Ridge Geneva, Ohio (440) 466-3561
Neshannock Creek Fly
Shop is located on a nice trout stream about an hour
or so south of Erie they have a great fly fishing
Craig Lewis runs
Located in Sheffield Lake Ohio. They have a great
selection for the steelheader as well as lake fishermen.
There is a nice launch down the street that puts you about 6
miles from the sandbar. A lake Erie fishing hot spot in
recent years. Erie outfitters has shiners, bait and
Gone Fishing Bait
Laughard owns Gone fishing Bait and tackle at 1027
Munroe Falls ave in Cuyahoga Falls Ohio. The word
is out on the steelhead runs the Cuyahoga has been
getting the past couple of years. Plus it has some great
bass and pike fishing. Bill knows the river well
and he knows where they are biting. 330-945-4590
Snug Harbor Bait
Snug Harbor Bait and tackle located at 1021 Broad Street
in Conneaut Ohio. The shop sits on the bluff looking
over the mouth of Conneaut creek and the Harbor. I'm in
his shop daily in the summer because in my opinion
Conneaut is the best fishing port on lake Erie. The
perch fishing is consistent all summer and fall and the
walleye fishery peaks in July and August. Snug Harbor
has the right bait, tackle, and advise to make your trip
a success. they also clean fish. Jack also maintains a
river report line call 440-593-3755
store carrying a variety of fly tying supplies at
DeMartino owns the online store CustomFishingTackle.com
out of Rochester NY. He is a Great Lakes pioneer
of using Centerpins for steelhead. He also builds
custom Rods and sells a wide selection of gear for the
centerpin enthusiast online
Area Camp Grounds
Open year round
Jim and Clyde at
Folly's End have a great fly shop on site
at their riverfront campground. You can access one of the best sections of Elk
Creek from their campground. They offer daily stream parking and camping.
As well as seasonal camping. If your near Elk Creek stop in. They will hook
John's Elk Creek Campground is located right on the
stream near the mouth of Elk Creek. Fishing is
very good on their property. John is a great guy
and he let me hold my Boy Scout Merit Badge Classes in
one of his cabins for free. The cabins are for
rent they are new and are very nice. The showers
and restrooms are great The place is always clean and
well kept. It is very angler friendly. He offers
daily stream front parking for a small fee.
Campground Geneva Oh Phone 440-466-8191
Best Area Chow
can' find something you like to eat in Cleveland
your in trouble. I'm not going to waste your time
trying to list hotels or restaurants in the Cleveland or
Reynolds Road Mentor 440-946-2090
4057 Erie Street Willoughby Try the Cheddar Ale Soup..!!
101 River Street Grand River is located on the water
and is a locals favorite for Crab Legs, Prime Rib and
Shrimp. I highly recommend them. 440-352-6343
Street Grand River Excellent fresh fish and seafood
Friends Restaurant Located right at Exit #218 Good
Breakfast and reasonable prices. 440-466-0041
located right at Exit #218 On Rt 534. They have a
nice dinner menu and serve some local wines
Winery is my favorite place. Don't wear your
waders. Good Italian food. Meals are $10-$20.
Located 5 minutes from Exit #218 call 440-466-8466
Nest Restaurant Follow Rt 11 north and you will dead end
in their parking lot. Good choices lots of selections
reasonable prices. The monster bowl of Chili will
warm you up. 440-964-2696
in Historic downtown Ashtabula harbor 440-964-2273
Beer Great food for the money. Home cooked meals.
Daily specials, Hearty burgers. Bottled beer your
real likely to run into one of us there. They Even have
a fish tank table. Located Right at I-90 Exit #241 Right
near the state line.
Biscotti's Restaurant 186 Park Ave Conneaut
Local favorite Pizza and Italian food Call 440-593-6766
is just 2 1/2 miles south of I-90 on Rt 18. Great food
but don't wear your waders. They have a grill in the
center of the place and you can cook your own steaks if
you want. Call 814-774-8450
for me to drive by Avonia Tavern Just West of Walnut
Creek on Rt 5. Great Wings and Burgers all the food is
great and they have reasonable prices.
is located at 5360 West Lake Rd. Just a short
drive from walnut creek. The subs are fantastic
and a big hit with the area fishermen all 814-833-6913
I-90 to Peach Street and there are a lot of choices.
Quaker steak and lube wings are a local favorite.
Or jump on I-79 North to Mill Creek Mall. All the
big chains are in town.
Lighthouse Inn 3704 East Lake Rd is our favorite over
that way. 814-899-9300
located East of 20 mile Creek on Lake Rd just across the
NY state line. They have good burgers and cold