A great time for NE Ohio

When I was 10, I grew to love reading thanks to two big interests – the Cleveland Indians and fishing.

I couldn’t wait for The Vindicator to arrive on summer afternoons. The sports pages covered the Indians, and I read every word about each game. Before the days when every game is on TV, a sure-fire way to stay in the know was to read Cleveland Press Indians beat writer Bob Sudyk’s account, served to Vindy readers by way of the UPI wire.

The monthly arrival of my Outdoor Life magazine, meanwhile, was a stop-everything day. I flipped through the pages to find features about exotic fishing expeditions. Tales about Pacific Northwest river salmon and steelhead fishing fanned an ember deep in my soul and the fire is still burning today.

I could only imagine the thrill of hooking a big fish on a beautiful river, just as I could only dream of the day when my Indians would be world champs.

Well, wahoo! The dreams from my youth are coming true. Tuesday, our Indians take the field in the World Series. And steelhead trout are teeming in the rivers east and west of Cleveland.

Both are great stories. Today we talk trout.

The rain that soaked Northeast Ohio on Thursday and Friday has Lake Erie’s streams running high and mighty, which is great news for those who love steelhead fishing.

Big trout that have been feasting on Erie’s bounty throughout the spring and summer are charging the harbors and river mouths. When the high and dingy rivers settle in a day or so, anglers will find steelhead stacked in pools in streams like Conneaut, Ashtabula, Chagrin and the Grand.

Phil Hillman, Ohio Division of Wildlife District Three fish management supervisor, keeps a keen eye focused on Ohio steelhead. They are part of his job. Plus, he loves to catch them.

“The fish usually are ready to move into the streams in September and October, but the lack of rain this year has keep most of them out around the beaches and harbor,” Hillman said. “That’s great for those who fish in boats, but those who are on foot now, with the rain Thursday and Friday, will soon have lots of fish within reach.”

Veteran steelhead anglers know the volume of runoff from the past couple of days will have the fish moving into the rivers, but they will be difficult to fish until the currents subside and the waters return to clear or slightly stained.

Just as the Indians are well-managed by Terry Francona, Ohio steelhead are benefiting from wise decisions. Fisheries managers have designed and implemented a productive stocking and management program. Fish are stocked in Lake Erie tributaries soon after they hatch and migrate out to the big water to spend a couple of years chowing down.

Hillman said Ohio steelhead prey heavily on emerald shiners and alewives. They also eat a heavy share of white perch, round gobies and other small fish, and even zebra mussels.

He and his son love to wade the streams for steelhead. He also has kayaked stretches and enjoyed excellent fishing.

While a growing number of Erie steelhead fishers fly fish for the big ones, Hillman recommends that those who are making their first attempts try casting spoons, spinners or crankbaits. He also said it’s hard to beat emerald shiners.

His personal best was a 14-pound steelhead, a fish that was at least 4 years old and obviously well-fed. His son has taken a fish that was slightly heavier.

Steelhead are under harvest restrictions, so anglers are advised to be sure they are within size and bag limits if they are taking fish home to eat.

Lake Erie steelhead trout fishing is a home run by all measures, and the next several weeks are almost certain to serve up terrific action.