Fall Steelhead Fishing Tactics and Hotspots for Erie

Steelhead Fishing Tactics to Conquer Pennsylvania’s Fall Run

Fall marks the start of the annual steelhead runs from Lake Erie into its tributaries in northwestern Pennsylvania. These fish grow to some impressive sizes all summer and return in fall to begin the next cycle of their lives. This movement offers anglers, with the right steelhead fishing tactics, an opportunity to hook and land one of the most exciting sport fish in the state.

Of course you can have the best steelhead fishing tactics but if you are not fishing in the best areas, it won’t do you much good. Steelheads run into numerous tributaries that drain into Lake Erie. Some of these are open to fishing, some are not, and of course there are a few that are absolute hotspots for fall steelhead fishing.

3 Streams That Offer Awesome Fall Steelhead Fishing in Pennsylvania

If you are considering fishing for steelheads in the fall for the first time or simply want to catch more and better steelheads, these three streams provide the best opportunities to do just that. Elk Creek and Crooked Creek in the west and Twenty Mile Creek in the east are the three best fall steelhead fishing locations.

Twenty Mile Creek 

Twenty Mile Creek starts in New York but drains its last four miles through upper northwestern Pennsylvania. This approved trout stream is the largest and most popular of the eastern steelhead fishing locations.


Access is somewhat tricky on Twenty Mile Creek, especially on the upper reachesHowever, there is a public parking area to the west of the Route 5 bridge that provides access to the western bank of the creek to the mouth. Basic steelhead fishing tactics deployed on the large pool just upstream from the mouth and also the riffles that run into this pool will produce quality fish. Also, several good pools can be fished upstream of Route 5 and hold good fish but many areas are private property so respect landowner signs.

Crooked Creek

Crooked Creek is one of the top hotspots on the long list of western streams. It is a medium size stream with good runs of fall steelheadsSimilar to Twenty Mile Creek, Crooked Creek is an approved trout stream and is stocked with trout in the spring on its lower reaches to the mouth. This stream is tough to fish with its brushy banks and finicky water conditions. Crooked Creek is usually the first stream to stain and the last to clear up after heavy rains. The advantage to Crooked Creek and why it is one of the top fall steelhead fishing spots is because it gets a lot less pressure than more well-known waters like Elk Creek. Solid steelhead fishing tactics combined with less fishing pressure makes for a great fall day in Erie.

Fish Crooked Creek between Ables Road to Happy Valley Road. The mouth also offers good fishing but access is limited to walking the lake shore to get there. Again watch out for posted property and nursery waters where fishing is off limits.

Elk Creek 

Twenty Mile Creek and Crooked Creek are good places for fall steelheads although at some point everyone ends up at Elk Creek. Elk Creek offers some of the best steelhead fishing in PennsylvaniaIt is the largest and most popular steelhead tributary for good reason. This approved trout stream gets a heavy stocking of brown trout and some of the best runs of steelheads along Lake Erie.

Elk Creek has a large parking area and facilities at its mouth, which gets crowded when the steelheads are really running. Although, there are plenty of fishing spots accessible from this access point. Fish the mouth and the large slow-moving pool adjacent to this parking area. Another spot to try is up and downstream of the bridge on Elk Park Road. Mixing up your steelhead fishing tactics will help you land more fish on Elk Creek. The pressure it receives is great and a simple change of technique or steelhead fishing lure can trigger a bite. Finally, a benefit to Elk Creek is that when water levels get low and clear, which happens often in the fall, the large pools near the mouth on this creek will still hold fish.

Fall Steelhead Fishing Tactics That Give You the Advantage in Erie 

No matter which tributary you fish for steelheads in during the fall, there are several steelhead fishing techniques you need to know. 

First, consider the weather and water conditions. The fall Pennsylvania steelhead fishing season generally means low and clear waters. Weather is important because it determines what the water conditions will be like. Optimal water temps for fall steelhead fishing is between 50- and 60-degrees. Rain will bring tributary waters up, which will push fish further upstream. However, when the water is low and clear, you want to fish travel zones or large, deep poolsTravel zones, which are slightly deeper than other parts of the stream, get fished less than larger community pools but hold traveling fish when the water-level is low. 

The next steelhead fishing tactic to try in the fall is to move around. Rule of thumb is if you don’t have a bite in the first 30 minutes then move on. The most successful steelhead anglers in the fall are the ones willing to change locations frequently. Depending on weather and water conditions, certain streams and holes may have very few steelheads. You have to be willing to move around in streams like Elk Creek and Crooked Creek but also be willing to move to an entirely different tributary.

One final fall steelhead fishing tactic is to experiment with your lures. It can be frustrating when you are fishing a tributary and the steelheads are there but you can’t get them to bite. Part of the problem is those fish have been seeing a steelhead jig or steelhead bobber rig drift by them time and time again. Instead of fishing the same lure, consider what small changes you can make to your baits to be different and get a bite. For example, change the bobber size, add additional weight to a drift rig, change to a spinner or change to a crazy color. Leader length and type (fluorocarbon vs. monofilament) can also make a huge difference when the steelhead bite is tough. Always carry several spinners and spoons as well because these steelhead fishing lures let you cover more water and provide a different presentation than the standard drift fishing setup most anglers are fishing.

Fall in Erie, Pennsylvania offers some fantastic steelhead fishingStreams like Twenty Mile Creek, Crooked Creek, and Elk Creek are your best steelhead fishing locations this time of year. Fishing can get crowded and tough during the fall. Yet steelhead fishing tactics such as playing the weather and water conditions, moving around, and the willingness to experiment with different lure presentations will help you conquer the fall steelhead run.


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