Steelhead Fishing Tips, Tricks, Gear, and Locations in Pennsylvania
Steelhead fishing in Erie, Pennsylvania is a destination for many avid anglers from across the state. With many miles of Lake Erie tributaries to fish it is not uncommon to run into other fisherman chasing the “chrome”—a popular name for the freshly spawning steelhead.
Each year, spring and fall, the steelhead begin their spawning journey. These fish remember the exact tributary that they were stocked in as smolt. They swim to the mouth of the tributary and when the conditions are just right they begin swimming upstream. Most of the fish only travel under the cover of darkness. If a fisherman fished until last light, or a little past, they can often observe fish fighting their way up the current as they continue their journey.
Steelhead Fishing Gear
When targeting steelhead it is important to have the right gear as these fish are very power and can cover water rather quickly. We will start from the bottom up. It is imperative to have a good set of wading boots and waders. Wading boots with metal studs work well on the shale bottom creeks that make up most of the fishable water.
Weather can change in a heartbeat with lake effect precipitation as the biggest culprit. A wading stick can come in very handy when crossing swift current or rising water. People often use either a fold-up wading stick or one that they have a tethered to their wading belt. The wading stick then rests in the water but is always attached to the fisherman for easy access.
Warm clothes are a life saver. Many mornings, especially in late fall and early winter are bitterly cold. The proper cold weather gear will greatly increase the fisherman’s ability to endure the possible cold, wind, rain, snow, ice, etc. Fingerless fleece gloves make tying knots, feeling the fly line or fishing line easier. The finger tips will get cold, especially after handling a fish. Having a set of hand warmers in each pocket will warm them right up.
A set of polarized glasses can make a huge difference especially when sight fishing. Which most of the time, sight fishing is an effective way to locate a group of fish, hungry fish or both.
As for the rod and reel, there are a few ways to fish for these steelhead. The good majority of anglers use a fly rod. While a decent amount also use a spinning rod with either egg sacks, spinners or minnows as bait, fly fisherman use beefier rods to effectively fight these large fish. A solid starting point for fly fishing is to use a 10 foot 7 weight rod with a 7/8 reel. Obviously, these specs may vary depending on each angler’s desires.
Choosing a fly that will trigger a reaction can sometimes be difficult. Egg patterns are a great place to start. Since these fish are spawning there are eggs in the water and a large majority of the fish’s diet are eggs. Sometimes the fish do not like the egg patterns due to being educated by other fisherman. In which case, small nymphs are a great go to. Size 14-16 dark colored nymphs can do the trick.
Low, clear water can make fishing difficult. The fish become skittish and tough to hook. Using a small size tippet like 5x or 6x can help reduce the likelihood of fish seeing the line. Using lighter tippet also results in having to really play the fish when hooked.
Strike indicators, like Thingamabobber’s, help lift the anglers fly to the depth of suspended fish. When the water is clear, steelhead may get spooked by the strike indicator. A stimulator patter can be tied on above the lower flies to act as an indicator. This can greatly reduce the risk of spooking a fish.
Steelhead can be stubborn. Do not get discouraged if the fish does not take the fly right away. It may take quite a while to get a strike. If the fish is not interested, tie on a different pattern and try again. Continue to do so until the fish eats it or spooks.
Locations To Fish Fall Steelhead
There are many great tributaries to fish in Erie. Elk Creek, Crooked Creek, Walnut Creek, 16 and 20 Mile Creek are great streams. Use these tips, get yourself some gear, and get out there and chase some chrome!