Tuesday, October 28, 2014
"Had a banner day last week up in Erie -- probably got into over 50 hook-ups," said Christian Shane, a North Allegheny teacher who runs the McKnight Elementary School Trout in the Classrooms project.
"Lots of fresh fish moving into the upstream areas," said Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited member Bob Heil Jr. of Dormont. "Most were fresh run fish. Lots of fish, lots of fun to be had."
When the streams are dark with steelhead, even anglers who don't know what they're doing can walk away with heavy stringers. But a better understanding of best-practice steelhead tactics under a variety of conditions will almost always lead to superior results.
A medium or medium-heavy action spinning rod will work, but Ric Gauriloff, owner of Trout Run Bait and Tackle, prefers a 9-foot to 10-foot ultralight noodle rod strung with 6-pound test.
"It's the lighter touch -- the fish don't feel it when they pick up the bait," he said. "Some prefer Fluorocarbon line, but it don't matter much especially when the creeks are off color like they are now."
A big chromer will straighten a lightweight trout hook. Go with 2x or 3x wide gap No. 14 egg hooks. Gauriloff rigs up with a couple of split shot and a strike indicator.
"Most guys are fishing too shallow," he said. "I see it all the time. We put the indicators 3 or 4 feet above the baits. This time of year, don't worry about dragging bottom -- the fish are still pretty active. If you're not getting snagged sometimes, you're not deep enough."
Gauriloff hooks live minnows through the lips. When rigging egg sacks, some anglers pop an egg and push the hook through the netting, but Gauriloff slips the hook under the knot at the top of the sack. For single eggs, the firmer the better, he said, and when fishing skein he breaks off a fingernail-size hunk and passes the single hook through the membrane (treble hooks are better at holding skein together).
Spoons and spinners work best, but even flatfish and floating-diving crankbaits can lure creek running steelhead under the right conditions. The trick is to understand the conditions.
"Steelhead are opportunistic, meaning they'll sit in the slower water adjacent to faster water," said Tom Keer, outdoors writer and spokesman for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation's Take Me Fishing campaign. "Look for them behind rocks and boulders, below deadfall like trees, in deeper waters of a riffle-run combination, below feeder streams and in recesses in the bank or stream bed."
Match lure size and color to stream conditions -- smaller with darker blades for low water, larger with brighter blades when the water is high.
"Use an across-and-down approach by casting [across] and swinging your lure downstream," said Keer. "Depth is important. ... The steelhead will hold below the velocity change, where the faster water separates from the slower water. ... Slow retrieves are preferable to fast retrieves. Make sure your spoon gets deep."
Books have been written about tempt Great Lakes steelhead with flies, and fly anglers from around the world fly into Tom Ridge Field to fish Steelhead Alley. Some like simple single-egg patterns and Wooly Buggers while others opt for advanced tube flies and Deciever-style imitations. In most cases, fly depth and adaptability of the angler are imperative.
"When I'm swinging flies, I'll throw a big downstream mend into the line," said Orvis and L.L. Bean fly fishing instructor Bill Nagel of Bridgeville. "That allows the fly to sink before the current catches it, and even then it still has a profile perpendicular to the shore so the fish can see it."
For flies to be effective, he said, anglers need to be flexible.
"If you're bound and determined to fish the stream in one way, you're not going to be successful," said Nagel. "Change the size, the color and the pattern, and be willing to move to another stream until you find what's working."
at 9:26 PM