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Fishing Report Blog

Rocky River and Lake Erie were each named among the "150 Best Places to fish in America" in Field and Stream magazine.

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Rocky River Fishing Report - December 20, 2012

Posted: 12/20/2012
Posted By: Mike Durkalec

***Monday December 24 morning update: The river is in great shape this morning with moderately strong flow and about a foot of visability.  I hooked 10 steelhead before work today, landing 9 of them, including one over 10 pounds.  All my fish took pink nickel size spawn sacks and most were in tailouts (downstream end of pools before riffles).  The next few days will continue to offer prime fishing conditions.***

The Rocky River is approaching fishable conditions this morning…just in time for more rain.   Weekend fishing conditions will be fully dependent upon how much more rain we receive.  Anglers would be wise to check the trend in river flow before departing for the river, which can be found at the following link (along with water temperature): <river flow gage data>

Prior to the rain earlier this week the steelhead fishing on the Rocky and Chagrin rivers was the best it has been all season.  Lots of steelhead of all sizes (smaller 14-18” skippers up to bruisers exceeding 30”) were caught all along the two rivers by anglers drifting bait, flies, and lures.  Another brown trout and a very late king (Chinook) salmon also turned up in the Rock this week (photos below).  Unfortunately, today’s projected rain will likely put a kink in anglers’ hopes of good fishing in the coming few days, but on a positive note should also serve to draw in even more fresh steelhead from the lake.  If the river flow gets down below 400 cfs at any point over the weekend anglers can expect very good fishing prospects, with most anglers considering a flow between 200-300 cfs to be in the “prime” range for this time of year.  I have caught steelhead (and witnessed others caught) this year at flows as high as 500 cfs, though, and last year hooked a few at muddy flows up to 600 cfs.

When the river is stained and flowing hard, as it is this morning, anglers fishing bait catch the most fish.  A nickel to quarter size spawn sack in brightly colored mesh (hot pink and chartreuse are always good bets) works well in stained water.  Adding brightly colored float beads (small Styrofoam balls) to the spawn sacks can attract more attention in muddy water, as can adding some colorful yarn, a bead, or a Corkie/Spin-N-Glo ahead of your hook, especially in a contrasting color.  Make sure to upsize your float size and other terminal tackle when the water is flowing strong, as well.  Fly fishers often do best in stained water using densely tied, brightly colored egg patterns and streamers with contrasting colors, like a black/orange head or purple/pink head Egg Sucking Leech patterns in larger sizes.  Barriers to fish migration (fords, dams, and waterfalls), current breaks (including near the banks of the stream), tailouts and near funnels in flow are among the most reliable places to find migrating steelhead resting in higher flows.  As the water clears successively downgrade offerings and gear to smaller sizes and begin to look for steelhead in deeper pools, as well as the aforementioned spots.

If fishing the elevated river is not to your liking options for pursuing stocked trout in or lakes and ponds remains very good this week.  A total of 2,000 pounds of rainbow trout were stocked between Wallace, Shadow, Ledge, Judge’s and Ranger lakes early last week.  About half the trout went into Wallace, being the largest of these lakes.  The trout averaged about a pound and a quarter, although they ranged from ¾ up to 4 pounds.  A handful of golden rainbow trout and a few trophy brown trout were also released to add some diversity to the mix.  The fish bite well on thumbnail sized nuggets of brightly colored PowerBait fished near the lake bottom with a small sinker, small jigs tipped with maggots or other bait suspended 2-3 feet below a small bobber (some anglers have been doing especially well jigging the bobber with their rod tip), and small spinners.  Stripping streamer flies would also be a good bet for fly anglers.  Trout in Wallace this week have been biting best in the northern section where the lake narrows.

Be aware that trout limits vary by location.  In the rivers this time of year it is two per angler per/day with a 12” minimum size.  In our lakes and ponds that ODNR also seasonally stocks (Shadow and Hinckley lakes and Ohio & Erie Canal fishing area) it is 5 per angler/day with no size limit.  In all other stocked Metroparks waters (Wallace, Ledge, Ranger, and Judge’s lakes) it is three per angler/day with no size limit.

Anglers are still catching late season largemouth bass and bluegill in Cleveland Metroparks lakes and ponds, many of which have been stocked with pond fish in recent months.  A small jig tipped with maggots will catch any of these species, as well as trout.

First Steelhead.   I still clearly remember the details of the first steelhead I ever caught, which was at Lagoon Dam on the East Branch of the Rocky River in Cleveland Metroparks back in the mid-1980s.  I was targeting steelhead with a high school buddy and although neither of us knew much about catching them he was the designated “expert” since he had caught one or two previously.  We somehow got the idea in our heads that we should be using a floating jighead tipped with a minnow weighted down and drifted with a big, fiberglass yellow downrigger rod (we had read that steelhead anglers used long flexible rods, and this is the closest thing we could find).  I recall that I had caught a carp earlier that day on this peculiar rig, a big disappointment when it came to the surface to reveal it wasn’t one of the big trout we were seeking.  When I later hooked a second fish my heart raced as I pleaded under my breath “Please don’t be a carp!  Please don’t be a sucker!” and, sure enough, my wish was granted when a 24” spawned out female steelie revealed itself by rolling on the surface and served to ignite my lifelong love affair with this fish.  I am sure those of you who have caught a steelhead vividly remember your first one just as clearly, whether it was a month ago or twenty year ago.

I am pleased to report that a good number of anglers this past week were fortunate enough to form their own memorable first steelhead experience.  You can see some of those happy anglers in the photos below.  I had the pleasure of assisting two anglers catch their first ones last Friday morning when I was on the water before going to work, and I must say that was much more rewarding than the fish I hooked myself that day.  Several anglers in the photos below noted they were thankful for those who helped them along the way.  So this holiday season I encourage you to take a moment to reflect back on the experience of catching your first steelhead and how that made you feel, and if you feel like spreading that happiness take a moment on the stream to assist a “newbie” in need.  And for those of you who haven’t hooked (or landed) your first steelhead yet but are still trying, let some of the photos below be your inspiration and have hope it could happen any time you are on the water this holiday season.

More than just a new look for the fishing report.   At first glance, it may appear the fishing report simply received a facelift this week.  But it is much more than that.  The report has been transitioned from a blog service directly to the completely redesigned Cleveland Metroparks website.  In addition to the report, there is a wealth of information about the Park District and the services we offer now accessible at your fingertips.  I encourage you to take a moment after reading the fishing report to navigate around the new site to check out the various resources made available for your convenience.  You can check out the new general fishing information page, compete with interactive map, <here>.  

If you have a photo that you would like to contribute to the fishing report, or if you have any further questions regarding fishing in the Cleveland Metroparks, you may contact Aquatic Biologist Mike Durkalec at (440) 331-8017 or .

Happy Holidays,



Congratulations to Andy from Cincinnati on catching his first steelhead in the Rocky River recently.  I ran into him fishing with a friend last Friday morning before work, and after I hooked four in succession from one spot I called him over to put him in the spot and gave him some of my bait and a bit of coaching.  He listened well and had a steelhead hooked within a few drifts, but it came unbuttoned.  About 5 minutes later he hooked up again, and did everything right to land his first steelie (photo above).  After parting ways I found out that he landed another one that day, too, and can't wait for his next trip up north.

While working with Andy, this fellow (Dane) witnessed us hooking fish and came over and inquired "Do you have any advice for a new steelheader?".  I checked his bait, and he had purchased some quality spawn sacks, so he was good there.  His rig was a standard 6 foot spinning rod with a Carlisle float and some split shot.  I advised him to continuously adjust his float depth in about six inch increments until he either hooked a fish or the bottom and directed him to a great hole just downstream of us that we had not fished yet.  So Dane wandered off downstream and within 10 minutes came back with this chrome 24" buck writhing in his landing net with hook still in mouth...his first steelie!  Nice job, Dane, I'm sure it will be the first of many for you. 

Despite the car in the background it turns out this guy is not being arrested on poaching charges by our Rangers.  A few days after I met Dane (prior photo), Brian sent in this photo of his first steelie and identified himself as one of Dane's buddies and asked that their photos be included in the report together.  Brian caught (and released after the photo) the 21 inch, 4 pound fish on a chartreuse Rooster Tail spinner tipped with a rubber Trout Worm of the same color.  This is Brian's second season of steelhead fishing and it took him 10 trips to land his first one (photo courtesy of Brian Gaski).

Congratulations to Pete on catching his first steelie this week, as of two he landed on the Rock near Detroit Road.  He noted in his email "
I want to thank all the steelheaders who helped me land my first two steelhead ever.  Everyone was very helpful and even lent hooks and spawn sacks in order to assist me.  I am now hooked for life.  Also, I wanted to thank you for the wonderful fishing report -- it was spot on. If you include this picture in the fishing report, please send a general thank you to the Rocky River steelhead community".  (photo courtesy of Pete Soldato).

Many of us know Scotty from Facebook and have been following his well documented exploits trying get time off work (he works with his father) and finding money for gear and to purchase gas to to make trips to the river for steelhead.  After several tries, I am pleased to report that Scotty finally got his first steelie this past weekend!  We all let out a collective "Yay Scotty!" at the news.  He lost a larger one the same day, as well, and vows to be back on the river again soon (photo courtesy of Scotty Denham). 

A first steelhead congrats is also in order to Steve this week.  Steve has been at it for a few seasons with the fly rod and has hooked, but not landed, a few steelies during that time.  Steve's persistence paid off and he finally got one with his chosen gear this week.  That sure is a pretty hen! (photo courtesy of Steve Smith).

You may remember Andrey from the report two weeks ago, when he got his first steelie (a skipper) following three years of effort.  Well, things are happening quickly for him now, and among the ones he's caught since was this upgraded model, a chrome hen just over 28" and 9 pounds (photo courtesy of Andrey Gutsulyak).

Today is Sisqo's birthday, and despite the muddy water and strong flow the river had a gift for him...two chrome steelies he caught this morning.  Way to perservere under tough conditions, Sisqo, and Happy Birthday! (photo courtesy of Sisqo By).

From the trophy steelhead files this week comes this chrome beast that stretched 33"+.  The big hen bit the eggs James was drifting on Sunday.  Wow, I want one like that! (photo courtesy of James Krasula).

Ryan and his buddy Matthew had a great week on the Rock, capped with some big chromers and a surprise brown trout for Ryan (photos courtesy of Ryan Meadows).

Andy, my "eyes and ears on the eastside", has been catching the trout very well in Shadow Lake this week.  He notes that chartreuse garlic scented PowerBait is what the fish have been having a hankering for.  Anglers should note varying trout limits by location as posted in the report above (photos courtesy of Dana Lesniak).

Brad caught (and released) a bunch of bass, bluegill, crappie, and trout in Wallace Lake on Saturday working the downed timber with a 1/32 oz jig tipped with soft plastic minnow.  A few of his fish are displayed above (photos courtesy of Brad Yates).



Mike caught this fine Rocky River steelie on Saturday where the East and West branches of the Rocky converge (photo courtesy of Mike Gromeski).

Buddies Jesse, Rick, and Gary hit the Rock at first light Saturday morning and were rewarded with steelhead success.  Jesse (first and third photos) landed two and Rick landed three, capped by the 29" beauty in the last photo.  They both wanted to thank Gary, who didn't hook any that morning, but served dilligently as their net man and photographer (we've all been in those shoes before, right?).  Jesse also emailed me today to report that he caught a nice steelie in the muddy river this morning (photos courtesy of Gary).

Mark landed the big steelie pushing 32" in the top photo and his buddy Rob landed the very late king salmon just under 34" (blurry photo) in the Rock this week (photos courtesy of Mark Cox).

Rich, from Columbus, landed this beautiful chrome hen on a pink sucker spawn pattern while fly fishing the Rock last Friday morning.

Mike has been catching some quality late season largemouth bass in Wallace Lake lately (photos courtesy of Mike Kovalski).

Bob had a great weekend on the Rocky this week catching several nice steelies.  He found success on dime size chartreuse spawn sacks as well as a 1/64 oz brown and black hackle jig he ties himself (photo courtesy of Bob Brunner).

Brion has been catching some really nice steelies this week, as evidenced above (photos courtesy of Brion McCutcheon).

And of course no report would be complete without a few from Brion's brother Dan.  Above are a few from Dan's catch this week.  He also reports that he hooked two, losing a bigger one and landing a skipper, in the high and muddy river this morning (photos courtesy of Dan McCutcheon).

Here is a 30"+ buck steelie I caught and released last Friday morning on a peach and yellow globug pattern.  I have found it humorous that folks I have known for years don't even recognize me on the river with the goatee I'm now sporting.  I tell them I'm fishing undercover.

Buddies Travis, Randy, and Kevin (in that order in the first three photos) have been wreaking havoc on the steelies of the northern Rocky River this week.  They've primarily caught them on spawn sacks and jigs.  Travis, who just started steelhead fishing last year and took up the centerpin this week, has proved to be a quick learner (photos courtesy of Travis Males).

Note: The fishing report is updated monthly in June, July, and August and weekly every other month

2017 Cleveland Metroparks Registered Fishing Guides (name, company, contact)

17-001 Mario Chance, Chagrin River Outfitters,, (330) 984-3086

17-002 Justin Pribanic, Chagrin River Outfitters,, (724) 799-5011

17-003 Joseph Beno, On The Swing,, (440) 667-2278

17-004 Jeffery Liskay, Silver Fury Guide Service & Schools,, (440) 781-7536

17-005 Monte Casey, The Steelhead Guide,

More information on Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Guide Permit requirements, including the permit application, you may check the following link: <Fishing Guide Permit Program>

Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund

Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund helps provide a rewarding fishing experience to Northeast Ohio anglers through the stocking of rainbow trout, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and other sport fish. The Fund also supports children's fishing derbies and creation and restoration of essential habitat in the ponds, lakes, and rivers within Cleveland Metroparks.

For more information or to make a gift to Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund, including a web donation option, please visit: <Fishing Fund Donations Online>


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