Spring Steelhead Fishing Opportunities on the Lake Erie Tributaries

Navigating Spring Steelhead Fishing in Erie

Every fall, thousands of anglers pack their steelhead fishing gear and head to Erie, Pennsylvania. The annual steelhead spawning runs that fill the tributaries that empty into Lake Erie are prolific. These runs draw anglers from all over the country, casting for a chance at a colossal steelhead. What could be better than that? Spring steelhead fishing opportunities of course!
Streams are crowded and fish are spooky for good reason in the fall. Numerous anglers cast all kinds of steelhead fishing lures from their trusted outdoors shop up and down the tributaries that feed into Lake Erie. Steelhead make their way up these streams in fall to start their annual spawning trip. This is the best time to fish and of course is also when most anglers flock to Erie. However, spring steelhead fishing in Erie offers as good of opportunities to catch fish in this renowned steelhead fishery.

Why Spring Steelhead Fishing is Worth the Trip

The flurry of fishing activity in Erie occurs mostly in the fall and into early winter. Once the big fall spawning runs are winding down, the fishing pressure lets up. Although, steelhead remain in the tributaries well into April and provide a great spring opportunity for anglers.
Spring brings with it warmer water temps and rising water levels. These two factors make March the second best time to fish for steelhead. Higher water levels in the spring provide remaining steelhead a fighting chance to return to Lake Erie. Their mass exodus back to the lake for the summer gives anglers a great ambush opportunity with a variety of steelhead fishing lures. Steelhead fishing in the spring is good from early March until around the opening day of trout season in early April. Once trout season opens, the Erie tributaries become filled with anglers again, as many of these creeks receive trout stocking for opening day.


The Best Place to Fish for Spring Steelhead in Erie

Walnut Creek offers the best steelhead fishing in spring. Walnut Creek is the second largest steelhead tributary and also second in popularity to Elk creek among Lake Erie tributaries.
Steelhead fishing in the spring on Walnut Creek is a great choice for two reasons. First, Walnut Creek is not an approved trout water in Pennsylvania and receives no trout stockings, unlike Elk Creek. This is important because the creek gets less spring pressure from trout anglers fishing opening day and the weeks after. Second, the creek has plenty of access for both anglers willing to wade and those looking to catch a few from the bank. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission maintains the Walnut Creek Access Area at the mouth of Walnut Creek. The access has plenty of parking and facilities. The area can be accessed via State Route 5 off of either Dutch or Manchester roads, east of the town of Fairview.
The first place to start spring steelhead fishing on Walnut Creek is the wall along the marina near the mouth of the creek. A great spot for those fishing from the bank, this deep pool collects steelhead before they spread back out into the lake. For those anglers willing to wade, another good spot is upstream from the mouth in what is called the Manchester Hole. This long, deep pool is only a short distance upstream from the access area just south of the Manchester Road . Here you can cast any number of steelhead fishing rigs and catch numerous spring steelhead.

Essentials for Spring Steelhead Fishing in Erie

How you fish for steelhead in the spring is all about having the right gear. Spring conditions change daily and being able to adapt not only your steelhead fishing tackle but also your other gear is key.
To start, you need some basic steelhead fishing gear.
  • Chest waders Insulated, with wading boots that have good traction or spikes to prevent slipping on the shale rocks.
  • Quality fishing vest Often you need a large selection of steelhead fishing tackle in the spring so a quality fishing vest is a must to keep everything for a full day on the water.
  • Cold weather clothing Even in the spring, temperatures in the morning and evening can be around the freezing mark. Layered, cold weather clothing will allow you to adapt throughout the day.
  • Polarized sunglasses When the water is not too high or muddy, steelhead can be spotted and then fished. A steelhead fishing technique that is impossible without polarized sunglasses.
Steelhead can be fished for using fly or spinning gear, however here we will focus on spin fishing.
Choose a medium-heavy, fast action rod that is in the 8- to 9-foot range. A long rod will help you light lures while still providing enough backbone to fight a big steelhead.
For reels, choose one with a smooth drag and capacity to handle at least 200-yards of 6-lb test mono line. A larger steelhead spinning reel will let you fight fish more effectively and result in fewer break-offs.

Steelhead Fishing Techniques for Spring

Successfully fishing Erie tributaries for steelhead is heavily dependent on water conditions. In spring, water conditions vary daily with snowmelt, precipitation and temperature. The best advice for spring steelhead fishing is to think like a trout.
Steelhead are trout and as such, they act similarly. When the water is low and clear, fish will move towards deeper pools like the Manchester Hole mentioned earlier. Fish long riffles when the water becomes discolored and focus on eddies near shore when the water is high and muddy.
The most popular steelhead fishing technique is drift fishing. Cast across and upstream and let your line drift as naturally as possible downstream towards the fish. You want to make sure you keep your lure or bait as close to the bottom as possible. Steelhead rarely swim in the upper two-thirds of the water column so fishing near the surface is pointless.
Steelhead fishing lures like spoons, spinners artificial eggs and worms should all be part of your arsenal in the spring. Fish artificial baits like eggs and soft plastics on a #6 single hook with enough weight, about a foot from the hook, to keep the bait just off the creek bottom. In addition, you can also fish flat water by drifting an artificial worm or live bait on a 1/8-ounce jig head. Finally, when all else fails, try casting and slowly reeling a large trout spinner or spoon. Often times these steelhead fishing lures can trigger a reaction bite when nothing else is working.
If you are itching to hit the water after a long winter, then spring steelhead fishing is for you. The springtime opportunities on the Lake Erie tributaries are second only to the fall steelhead runs. Focus on Walnut Creek and stick to yourtrout know-how” to land a few retreating steelhead.

Coyote Hunting Gear Checklist and Suggestions

Coyote Hunting Gear List

The combination of the AR-15 boom, silencer market, and the coyote’s continual sprawl into the urban landscape have all come together to create a perfect storm. Unfortunately for coyotes, this storm has produced unrelenting pursuit for the species! With new rifle calibers, new coyote calls, and rising tournament communities, coyote hunting is gaining in popularity. This type of hunting allows a hunter to not only control the predator population around hunting properties, farms, and now even urban areas, but also to carry a wide range of weaponry into the field.
Besides the various calibers, guns, accessories, and opportunities to hunt coyotes, the seasonality and nature of the hunting also increases its popularity. Coyote season arrives in most states just as deer season closes, offering a hunting opportunity in the winter months before spring turkey season arrives. The method to hunt coyotes during the winter offseason months is comprised of several setups hunted over the duration of one hour or less(15-45+ minutes per setup). This results in quick, adrenaline-filled, and highly successful hunts in a variety of environments.
As with any other hunting, the popularity brings debate amongst hunters over which calls are best, which optics are best, which sounds are best, and of course the most popular debate… “which caliber is best for coyotes.” While opinions are vast, there is one thing that is certain, carrying every necessary piece of coyote hunting gear into the field is a must!

Coyote Hunting Gear Must Haves”

Coyote hunting gear can greatly vary from hunter to hunter, from region to region, or simply by a setup’s habitat and layout. Being agile with your gear, and understanding the needs for different coyote hunting scenarios will lead to the best gear layout possible. Overall the same components are needed to excel at coyote hunting. The list includes:

Best Calibers for Coyote Hunting

The most popular debate related to coyote hunting gear is centered on the rifle caliber of choice. While some believe the .223/5.56 caliber is king, others may have a wide array of calibers that they use. The development of rounds such as the 6.5 Creedmoor and .224 Valkyrie has prompted debate as to which round is best for coyotes. Regardless ofnew caliber fever” and current debates, your caliber choice needs to exude accuracy, range, and knockdown power. The most popular coyote rounds are:

Of course, there are many other accepted rounds that can be used, so just because your current rifle is not on the list, doesn’t mean it’s a good coyote gun. If you have a deer rifle” you have a coyote gun. However, you may just be shooting a round that might be considered overkill. Magnum calibers for instance are widely used as deer rifles but are definitely considered overkill for coyotes. Regardless of your choice, ensure you know the limitations of the rifle you are carrying. If you’re not comfortable with the combination of your riflescope and ammunition past 200 yards, don’t take a shot over 200 yards!

Once you have a favorite round and the gun sighted in, don’t change a thing! Build confidence with that gun and round before changing over to new ammunition. Having trust and confidence in a weapon will allow you to shoot faster and with more accuracy over time.

Best Ammunition for Coyotes?

Regardless of the caliber, the ammunition you shoot at coyotes should always be optimized for a quick and ethical kill. This means an immediate expansion upon impact. A good coyote round also offers forgiving trajectories, enough bullet weight to survive moderate winds, and still hit the coyote with enough force at reasonable distances. With that being said, most coyote hunters want a tiny entrance hole, but massive expansion on the inside of the coyote. Mostvarmint” ammunition does just that. This ammunition has a polymer tip and is designed to improve ballistics, trajectories, and downrange velocity.
Photo: Winchester Ammunition
Of course, the problem with choosing varmint rounds is that they can often result in an unrecovered coyote when encountering bone or a poorly placed shot. This is where you need to make a choice based on your hunting situation.
If you are hunting coyotes for the pelts then a smaller round like a .17 or .204, that doesn’t force an exit wound with a varmint round is a good choice. If you’re hunting for predator population control or for tournaments then knock down power should be the biggest concern, not pelt damage. This style of hunting also strives for the mosthumane” kills. These hunters typically shoot a soft point bullet and calibers like the .243 and .22-250 that produce shots that are hard for a coyote to walk away from.


Depending on your caliber of choice, the optics put on your coyote rifle can make or break a hunt. Both the caliber and optics choice should be made from the standpoint of the style of hunting and the habitats you’re hunting.
Western hunters in expansive brush country should have a rifle setup that can comfortably handle 200-500 yard shots. Midwestern hunters pursuing coyotes on farms and hunting properties will have a shooting range from 0- 200 yards. If cost is a deciding factor, choices such as a Nikon Prostaff are a great value and perform to a high level. For the purchase of optics that have immaculate glass and reticles for further yardage distances. These scenarios also factor into what kind of gun you want to shoot!
For the occasional coyote hunter, a precision shooting scope or tactical AR-style scope will do just fine. For example, if you already have a Red Dot sight for your platform, the addition of a simple magnifier will allow you to shoot further distances more accurately.
Like most things related to coyote hunting gear, the best option for optics varies according to habitat, hunting style, and the weapon your mounting it to. More often than not, it takes a couple of hunts and optic trials to figure out what is needed for your rifle.

Coyote Calls

The two most important items when it comes to coyote hunting are the weapon and the call. Thus coyote calls are always the second most debated item amongst hunters. Mouth calls versus electronic calls, opinions between electronic calls, and even debates of the sounds played out of the calls…it is all debated over! Of course, ongoing debates are extremely useful to pinpoint what coyote calls and sounds work the best depending on the situation, location, and time of year. Forums, social groups, and even YouTube are all great places to start researching what calls are best and what sound files work best for different times of year.
The most popular option is an electronic coyote call. Even a budget-friendly model like the FoxPro FoxJack 4 Decoy gives you basic calls to start out with and plenty of volume. However, you might quickly learn that you need an electronic call with more features. When it comes to electronic calls, the debate of the best calls for coyotes” always comes down to 3 factors.
  • Volume Some electronic coyote calls just don’t have enough punch to reach coyotes on the other side of a hill, or held up in a den. Reaching coyotes at a distance is crucial to increase your success rate per set. Volume also refers to the ability of a call to get loud but still hold the sound quality.
  • Functionality When it comes to functionality an electronic call for coyotes needs to be able to be quickly deployed, easy to use, and have a decent remote-to-call range. Remotes that only transmit signals 80% of the time will be extremely frustrating and may limit your calling success. With a sub-par remote you might have trouble with volume adjustment or switching the sound at a critical point of the hunt such as a howl to light vole once a coyote is spotted.
  • Sound Availability The best purchase option for an electronic call is usually one that includes a large capacity for additional calls. Having a call with a 200, 300, or even 1,000 call capacity gives a hunter the ability to not only throw out different sounds towards coyotes but many other species as well (bobcat, crow, fox, etc.).
While a cheaper call option might seem like a smarter choice, a slightly more expensive model with a larger call capacity will inevitably pay for itself. A call like the FoxPro XWave Electronic Predator Call is essentially one of the best coyote calls on the market. With outstanding sound volume, sound quality, call functionality, remote functionality, and with a 1,000 sound capacity, the XWave is hard to beat!
FoxPro XWave Electronic Predator Call, Predator Call, Electric Predator Call
While most electronic calls are purchased with a stock call library, sounds can and should be added. There are many different sources to buy and download sounds from. Once purchased, the sounds can be uploaded into the call then updated with the remote. Some of the most popular sources for coyote sounds are:
A mix of sounds is always best, however knowing which sounds are realistic for the time of year is a good strategy to start a hunt with. Coyote’s operate on three instincts…to feed, to fight, and to breed. Knowing which sound will trigger a response or coax a coyote into your setup is vital. Being conscious of what is happening during each part of the season will allow you to know which sound to use.
  • Early Season: (September November) Prey and pup distress sounds are most successful as they trigger responses from family groups that are used to hunting plentiful prey or defending their intact family groups and territories.
  • Mid-Season: (November January) Prey sounds are very successful midway through the season as food sources are scarce and inexperienced coyotes (pups looking for territory) are out roaming the landscape. Coyote howls and barks are becoming more successful as new territories are beginning to be set up or fought over.
  • Late Season: (January March) By late January coyotes are thinking about reproduction. By using more coyote vocalizations and female vocalizations, you’re able to simulate a realistic scenario for a coyote to commit to. Also pairing some coyote and coyote distress sounds, in between the vocalization calls could form some territorial and curiosity triggers this late into the season.

Coyote Decoys

Coyote decoys are not always needed, especially if you want to create a lighter hunting setup, but you may be missing out on a big opportunity. Most coyote hunting sets revolve around some type of opening or field, not a tight cramped space that a coyote would consider cover. Therefore, coyotes can often get held up at the timberline. If you add a level of realism like a thrashing ball of fur, a coyote can be convinced a lot easier that something is happening in the area that justifies the risk of coming out into a field.
FoxPro FoxJack4, Predator Call, Electric Predator Call, Coyote Call, Electronic Coyote Decoy
Fortunately, most prey decoys, a stake with moving and thrashing hair/fur, are light and easy to pack. Bigger coyote decoys can be successful during some parts of the season but are typically heavier and more cumbersome to pack. You can buy electronic coyote calls that come with a predator decoy such as the FoxPro FoxJack 4 Decoy to make the call and decoy purchase simple.

Other Needed Gear

Beyond the call and the weapon/weapon accessories, there is gear that helps create an ideal hunt.

Shooting Stick

In most setups, coyotes have the uncanny ability to notice even the slightest movement from the hunter. Besides that, they often come from the direction where you least expect them, meaning you have only a few moments to take the shot. Coyote hunters, especially beginners, will quickly notice the need for a stable rest for the gun. A shooting stick allows a hunter to keep the rifle up, shouldered, and ready to shoot. This allows for faster target acquisition and less movement for the coyote to pick up on.
For most hunters, a simple shooting stick like the Bog Pod Devil Tail suffices for most setups. On the other hand some western landscape hunters prefer an aluminum rail-mounted bipod like the Champion Standard Adjustable Aluminum Bipod. While the Bog Pod favors quick sets and standing/sitting positions, the Champion bipod favors uneven terrain and prone/sitting positions.

Predator Hunting Pack

While some coyote hunts are short walks from vehicle access, some properties and scenarios call for more gear. A great predator hunting pack is needed to store your coyote call, ammo, headlamps, flashlights, rangefinder, drags, and extra clothing.

A great predator hunting pack needs to work with you for the hunt, not against you. Coyote hunting creates the need for a pack to be extremely functional, but lightweight and simple. The best packs can hold the minimum amount of gear to keep you from over packing, but they come with additional features like sitting pads, backrests, or a gun holster. For this reason, most day packs work great for coyote hunting but investing in a pack that offers more features is worth the investment.

Coyote Hunting Lights

Most states allow for coyote hunting at night(check your state’s regulations for exact rules). While night vision and thermal scopes have become an extremely popular optic for coyote hunting, a simple predator light is the cheaper option. Most budget-friendly predator lights can generate a green or red light that will pick up coyotes at 200 yards or more. Obviously the more expensive the light, the brighter that light is at longer distances.


In the last decade or so, coyote and predator hunting has grown in popularity. Whether you‘re a beginner or seasoned coyote hunter, having the right gear in the field is a must.
Out of all the coyote hunting gear suggestions above, the biggest consideration comes when deciding what caliber, optics, calls, and sound files you will use.
While this blog certainly outlines some great suggestions, trial and error is the best way to figure out exactly what coyote hunting gear you should invest in!
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