What’s been good for maple syrup producers has been bad for steelheaders.
Blame - and/or credit - the weather, too.
“We’ve had a lot of moisture, which has accounted for good sap with good sugar content,” said Les Ober, officials with the Geauga County Extension Office in Burton Township.
Ober also happens to be a dedicated steelheader but who is now focusing on making maple syrup instead of roll casting a woolly bugger.
“But I haven’t done any steelheading and I think it’s going to be a short year; a short season. It’s the same weather pattern that we saw in 2008,” Ober said.
Ober said also that when conditions do improve it will be sight fishing over redds.
“There will be a lot of that; despite the poor weather I still think there’s a fair bit of spawning being done on the really small tributaries but where we can’t get to them,” Ober said. “The thing is, these Manistee fish are really strong and we’re going to have to look for them in the margins like small feeder streams and even slack flow.”
Similarly, Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologists Phil Hillman and Kevin Kayle both have struck out this spring in finding fisahable waters. And that hasn’t gone over well with either biologist/angler.
“We had a dry fall and a wet winter. I didn’t even catch a fish in the most recent tournament,” Hillman said.
For area bass-fishing tournament pro Richie Glavic the chase for steelhead trout runs between storm events. When the water clears enough to give it a go, Glavic goes and catches fish.
“The one Monday that Mill Creek was fishable my partner and I caught 25 steelhead, but it has been a difficult year,” Glavic said.
That can also be said for former Perry Township resident Paul Liikala who has spent the past few months trying to squeeze some fishing into between thunderstorms and near blizzards.
His best luck has been on Euclid Creek with a couple of so-so ventures to Cowles Creek within Geneva State Park.
Liikala said he either used freshly tied spawn sacks or else strips of colored yard snugged in loops of leader material. The line is tied just beneath the hook’s eye with a chunk of colored yarn placed in the loop. Snug the line and the yard appears as something worthy of being bitten, Liikala says.
However, on Monday Liikala found conditions from the Ashtabula River west to Euclid Creek went from bad to worse, respectively. All caused by Sunday night’s thunderstorms that raised the rivers and streams with murky, silt-stained water.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with the rest of this week,” said a glum Liikala.
Jerry Darkes, noted area steelhead fishing expert, said that if an extended stretch of warm weather does occur “things can happen pretty quick.”
“But if it gets cold again we’ll see the fish back off their redds, which we’re going to see later this week,” Darkes said. “It is difficult to say because certain waters are barely fishable though I suspect that a lot of fish are way, way up the rivers.”
Darkes agrees with Kayle that the 2011 winter-spring fisheries have proven one of the “toughest it’s been for a long, long time.”
“We need those water changes but it’s actually nice if we can have fishable periods in between and we haven’t had too many of those this year,” Darkes said.
Options are available, though. Bob Ashley of Mentor spent last weekend fishing New York's Gennesee River below Rochester. There he caught steelhead up to 15 pounds and brown trout up to 12 pounds.
Ashley used clown-colored Rapala Husky Jerk crankbaits.
"That gave my steelhead fix for about a week," Ashley said of his New York trout-fishing adventure.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn