The Rocky River fishing conditions remain challenging again this week with the continued low and clear water. There is a chance of rain early and late into the weekend which is much needed to improve fishing conditions. Anglers can check the latest river flow and temperature trend at the following link:<river flow gage data>
The steelhead fishing on the Rocky and Chagrin rivers was very challenging again this week with the continued low and clear water conditions. Most fish in the rivers have been around for awhile and are getting stale, and the rivers really need a significant rain to draw fresh fish in. The fresher fish that have been taken this week have been mostly in the slow and deeper lower (northern) portions of all the rivers, such as the marina area on the Rocky River. Until we receive a good rain expect this tough fishing to continue. On the plus side, a surprise brown trout was caught by a lucky angler in the Rocky this week (photo below).
Despite tough fishing conditions some of the more persistent anglers still hooked into a few steelhead this week. For the most part the best fishing was reported in the deeper holes on the northern few miles of the Rocky and Chagrin rivers. Live minnows continue to be top producer, and small 1/64 and 1/32 oz jigs tipped with a few maggots or waxworms also accounted for their share of fish. Small to medium size Vibrax or Roostertail spinners and Little Cleo spoons have also been hooking a few fish, especially by the marina and northern river. Fly fishers are using a mix of beadhead nymphs and eggs patterns (sizes 12-16) and baitfish imitation streamers. Anglers having the most success are using lighter fluorocarbon leaders (4-6 pound) and smaller split shot and floats/indicators.
For the third week in a row largemouth bass and bluegill were transferred from private ponds that we have worked out arrangements with and were released in Cleveland Metroparks public fishing waters. We target this type of activity in the fall because the process is less stressful on the fish due to cold water temperatures. Most of Cleveland Metroparks fishing lakes and ponds have benefitted from the release of these fish, and from similar activities, over the past few months. With the cold water, though, they are not pushovers to catch and require some patience. Some of the best advice comes from dedicated local bass angler Brian Kich, who has been catching lots of bass in our lakes, most recently over the Thanksgiving weekend. His advice to others is to target structure (he likes to fish downed wood, and gets quite a few snags in the process, but that is where he is finding many of the fish), commit to a very slow retrieve due to the cold water, and be willing to move around to look for fish. He has found that the fish tend to be void in many areas and concentrated in pods when he does find them. I can assure you there are some nice fish out there!
The Lake Erie fishing report can be found at the following link: <ODNR Lake Erie fishing report>.
“Where are all the steelhead?”. Given the slow steelhead fishing over the past two weeks during a time that should be the peak of the fall run I have been hearing this question a lot lately, from novice and experienced anglers alike. The exceptional fishing in the Rocky last fall and decent early season run we had adds further contrast to the situation. Although nobody can say for certain, there are a few factors which are likely working in concert to lead to the slow fishing. First of all, we haven’t had much water lately, and when we did during hurricane Sandy it was likely too much of a good thing at once. During and following the storm, the conditions were brutal with massive flooding and 20 foot waves along the Lake Erie shore likely battering staging steelhead and sending them back to deeper water. ODNR surveys since then have turned up steelhead further out in the lake that were in state of development that would normally be seen in the rivers, evidence that this likely occurred with some of the fish. And now a few weeks later the Rocky River is running at half the flow of the 80 year average (per the USGS flow data), which is not doing anything to entice fresh fish in.
Second, in spring 2011 ODNR had to stock only about 2/3 of the normal numbers of steelhead they do in all our tributaries, and those fish are the bulk of what should be returning now. So right off the bat we are looking at about a 30% decrease in the number of fish we would normally expect. Reference the following ODNR stocking table for more on that:
Furthermore, there are changes going on in Lake Erie, a dynamic system at best, which could be factor. At the top of that list is non-native sea lamprey, a parasitic fish that likes salmon and trout species, are currently at all time high levels in Lake Erie per the most recent Lake Erie Coldwater Task Group report. A number of returning steelhead exhibiting telltale circular quarter to half-dollar size lamprey scars, especially early in the season, are testament to this parasites’ taste for steelhead.
One persistent rumor that is not believed to have any merit is blaming Canadian commercial fishing in Lake Erie for taking a toll. Per Kevin Kayle, the ODNR supervisor who manages the steelhead program, the Canadian commercial fishery is carefully regulated, with effective monitoring mechanisms in place to check commerical catches. They are not allowed to keep or sell steelhead and commercial fishermen work to limit by-catch (non-target species) at great effort because it only makes their job more difficult. Consequently, they become very skilled at setting their nets in a manner to catch target species, like yellow perch or walleye, and avoid non-target species like steelhead. So we can pretty much rule out this rumor.
On the plus side, less fish in the lake, overall, does mean that the ones that remain have less competition for resources and will grow more quickly. A relative abundance of steelhead over 30 inches the past two years would seem to indicate this is the case and quite a few anglers I have talked to say they would happily trade less fish for bigger fish. I, personally, believe all these factors are playing a role to some degree, but I also believe that another good rain that really blows out our streams will leave behind a gift of holiday silver for us to enjoy. But time will certainly be the final judge of that.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
Congratulatons to Scott, who was skunked a few days in a row on the Rock and was rewarded for his persistence with this beautiful hen brown trout. He notes the fish was well over 20 inches long (photo courtesy of Scott Radke).
Donnie notes "my favorite color is chrome!". He caught these Rocky River chromers on Pulse Jigs tipped with maggots over the Thanksgiving weekend (photos courtesy of Donnie Obycki).
Tom (pictured) and his buddy Mark fished the Rocky hard on a recent trip, changing locations several times, but each were rewarded with a steelhead for their efforts (photo courtesy of Tom Nock).
Jesse hooked a few nice steelhead on jigs on Thanksgiving morning, and had a heartbreaker when the largest steelhead he has ever had on the line popped off the hook about five feet from shore (photos courtesy of Jesse).
Frank Ragone displays a channel catfish and white sucker caught in Wallace Lake recently. Frank, a proud Italian, has little patience for those who do not pronounce his last name correctly. It is properly said as "Raaaa-goooooe-naaaaaae" in a strong Italian accent. Consider yourself warned! (photos courtesy of Mark Fascione).
Aaron started out with a bang on Sunday morning despite the cold, hooked this fine hen on his first cast on a leech pattern trailing an egg bead (photo courtesy of Aaron Hulswitt).
Jeremy, an environmental consultant, entertained two of his bosses and a business client on a steelhead trip to the Chagrin recently. Jeremy wisely notes "the client came out on top with 2 steelhead landed, which is always good." I wonder if they let him catch the most on purpose to solidify a contract!? It has been noted that many business deals are sealed on the golf course or trout stream, both of which happen regularly throughout Cleveland Metroparks (photos courtesy of Jeremy Gerger).
Nate has enjoyed pursuing steelhead on smaller area tributaries with his 2 weight flyrod, and has noted that his most effective fly has been a pattern dreamed up and tied by his young son, Malachi. The fly can be seen in the mouth of of the hen steelie in the last photo (photos courtesy of Nate Adams).
Bob struck Rocky River steel on Sunday on his centerpin rig. He proudly reports that his son and one of his daughters are also getting into centerpin float fishing for steelhead (photo courtesy of Bob Brunner).
Jim has been fishing for steelhead for two years now and is learning quickly. Last year he caught two steelies total the whole season, and this year he has landed 6 already, including the three steelies pictured above. He has been catching them on marabou jigs tipped with maggots and Little Cleo spoons. He also landed his first steelhead on the fly rod this season. Way to go, Jim! (photos courtesy of Jim Chapek).
Travis had a great day on the northern Rocky on Monday, landing 6 of the 8 steelhead he hooked. I guess fishing in not slow for everybody! It just wasn't in the cards that day for his buddy Sisqo, who missed a few hits, but was still a good sport and served as photographer for Travis. I told Sisqo next time it is his buddy's turn to be photographer! (photos courtesy of Sisqo By).
For the third week in a row staff and volunteers have assisted me in collecting a bunch of valuable sportfish (largemouth bass and bluegil) from private lakes through special arrangement to be released in Cleveland Metroparks public fishing waters. The fish pictured above were taken yesterday, the first time the boat had to serve double duty as an ice breaker first, then an electrofishing vessel!
Every now and then I put a few of my own fishing photos in the report, and thought readers might enjoy seeing the ones above. Did you read in the report above how less steelhead in the lake right now means the returning fish will grow larger due to less competition? Well, these fish are not an example of that! They are native, ocean run steelhead in excess of 20 pounds I caught and released on a recent trip to British Columbia, Canada, an area known for having the best genetics for large steelhead in the world.
Note: The fishing report is updated monthly in June, July, and August and weekly every other month