The Steelhead Guide
First thing you need to know is Ohio stocks only Manistee steelheads which are a spring run steelhead that is soon to change with the addition of Fall run steelhead in 2017. Surrounding states however stock fall steelhead and browns. Ohio’s steelheaders relies on these states low water contitions and/or fish that are lost (didn't imprint the river they were stocked in) finding their way into our river systems and believe me, plenty of them do.
In Ohio our steelhead season is long. It starts in the fall sometime usually in mid-to-late September, goes through winter and finally ends late spring and sometimes even late May. The weather is the key to when steelhead fishing starts and ends in Ohio's Steelhead Alley. You have to have rain and cool temperatures before it really starts happening and with any numbers of fish. As long as it stays cooler and there are good flows, the fish will remain in the rivers until they are forced out by unfavorable conditions or someone takes them home in the trunk of their car.
So what does weather have to do with it you ask? The fish don't start showing up in the fall until the flow is up and water temperature is cooler. So the best indicator is plenty of rain and cooler days and even cooler nights. When this happens the fish start making their runs. There is a continuous run of small pushes of fish starting in the fall with good numbers of fish in the systems throughout November. As we start in to winter the days and nights get colder and rivers begin to freeze. When they start to freeze over all depends on Mother Nature. Some years most river never freeze over and others years they all could be frozen over starting in December until ice out at the end of March.
As long as the fish can move in the rivers, they continue making their run from Lake Erie in to its tributaries and up stream. By now, the Manistees have started coming in. More and more Manistees start to show up in March and April. Then you get this cross paths where Fall steelhead are returning to Lake Erie and the Manistees are coming in. By the end of April it’s started winding down, the weather is warming up and the majorities of steelhead are spawning or have spawned. You don't want to rule out May. If the weather and temperatures stay cooler there is no reason for them to leave. They will hang out in the river systems longer until the conditions are no longer suitable. If we get a week where the temperatures are in the 80's; they get out or they die as I've seen a few times in my tenure.
Fall fishing is best the further east you go. Winter fishing is best where ever you can find open water or you’re able to bust the ice out of holes. Spring fishing is when the streams get crowded with anglers until they don't see fish on gravel anymore. This is when you need to shift gears and fish the deeper holes and fast runs for drop backs returning to the lake.
There are other fish species that have made or have started making their runs as well. You have the opportunity to catch browns, salmon, walleye, pike and musky (not common), smallmouth, large mouth, suckers, carp, red horse, quill back, cat fish and who knows what else.