The one thing all outdoor enthusiasts know for certain about the fall season is that we don’t know squat. Zip. Zero. Nothing.
This year autumn changes have been exactly the same as always just in a couple of ways.
One is on the calendar with pre-published dates for expected stuff like scary holidays, and the dreaded semi-annual time change. Another is the steady loss of daylight.
But the among the unpredictable and unwelcome are things such as those we’ve recently suffered; seemingly constant rain, heavy winds, trees that continue to hold most of their leaves weeks after limbs ought to be bare, and waterways that are mud-filled and overflowing making most of them unfishable.
Take bow hunting for deer for instance. The season dates are the same as always but the challenging autumn weather conditions this year have challenged archers for sure.
Strong winds and soaker rains are not our friends. On the fishing front, one of the best fall deals in town is the off-season river fishery for steelhead trout.
On a “normal” fall day, Ohio’s north coast rivers would be hosting countless steelhead anglers as they chase wintering trout in the chilled currents waters of the Erie tribs.
But all those recent nasty weather events have left almost all tributaries unfishable. Several calm and dry days might return the rivers to a fishable condition. Only the weather man knows.
Bad weather or good, the steelhead is a great and well-known Ohio wildlife story.
Steelhead are actually stocked trout that begin their adult life in several Ohio Lake Erie tributaries where they are released each spring as yearlings or smolts.
Each year, wildlife officials stock thousands of smolts in the cold waters of six northeast Ohio tributaries. The smolts average 6-8 inches and have been reared in the Castalia Hatchery from desirable Little Manistee strain eggs obtained through trades with Michigan as well as other proven trout strains from Wisconsin.
In total, about 450,000 smolts are stocked every year split between the Vermillion, Rocky, Chagrin, Grand, and Ashtabula rivers and Conneaut Creek.
The basic of the steelhead program is that smolts are at the age of development that allows them to imprint the individual identity of the river they are stocked in.
The smolts head downriver to the big lake where they spend their summers. Steelhead return to the streams of their home streams where they stay for the winter.
And so do the anglers who brave the cold weather by casting for one of Ohio’s top game fish. In a perfect world, every steelhead would return to the stream of their release — and a huge number do.
But in the real world, flawed as it is, many steelhead end up wintering in other places including smaller creeks, harbor areas, and near warm water discharges.
Indeed, steelhead offer exciting off-season angling action, well worth pursuing.
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