Early season problems and opportunities . . . .
In the past, water hydraulics through Lake Erie tributaries carved deep runs in the stream bed before entering Lake Erie. Now high lake levels slows the water flow on lower sections of the tributaries and turns the near-lake water into slow moving “swamps”.
"Dredging" change to the area near the Walnut Creek Stop Sign hole created a deeper hole from the log diverters to the beginning of the stone wall along the access road. This positive, man-made change is designed to help the natural process. Unfortunately, water above remains ankle deep. Dredging in the stream and the channel to the lake keep the “doors” open for steelhead to enter and boats to come and go.
The Walnut Creek Marina requires dredging to keep an open channel into Lake Erie; unfortunately, Elk Creek also suffers from slow flow, but does not benefit from PFBC dredging.
Elk Creek relies on natural forces to open the channel into Lake Erie. So far, “mother nature” has failed steelhead anglers. Sand and rocks usually create a dam that choked the tributary flow to a trickle. Even illegal attempts to dig through the sandbar only provides a short-lived flow that lacks much hydraulic force and it is quickly closed by wind/wave action.
Another early season problem is “silt clouding” that turns the stream color to milky brown. This issue only affects Elk Creek because wading in lower Walnut Creek were most of the silt is found is not permitted.
Elk Creek anglers fishing above the access launch, crossing to fish the east side of the stream, or moving up and down the east side stir the fine silt and create the milky cloud that affect the stream north to the Mud Hole - the last hole where the ridge line meets the flats near the lake mouth.
When the flow is nearly zero, the water remains clear below the Mud Hole, but wave action can create another silt cloud that enter at the lake and bleeds upstream.
Another issue early season anglers face is heavy fishing pressure caused by forcing everyone to fish close to the lake. The upstream fishing locations are nearly dry and fishless.
A silver lining to the silty cloud and crowded fishing water does exist.
When winds permit, early season lake fishing is great. The fish are staging at the tributary doorway waiting to enter. You can “spoon-feed” the fish and enjoy playing each hookup in the open lake. You can plop down in a bag chair, fish floater sacs on the bottom, take a nap, or annoy your neighbor or buddy with stimulating conversation.
In September and early October, Trout Run becomes the “go to” spot to catch Lake Erie steelhead. Of course, the wind must be right and you will be engaged in “combat angling” so take a chill pill before you slip into your waders. Everything you hate about crowded steelhead angling will be on full-display at Trout Run.
When rain comes and it is just enough to temporarily open Elk Creek or send a come and enter message to Walnut Creek staging steelhead, the tributaries get a “false run” or “pulse” of fish. These fish stack from the Falls to the lake on Walnut and from Route 5 to the Flats below the Mud Hole on Elk. Each night more steelhead arrive and each day the fishing pressure builds.
Steelhead that stage along the lakeshore and enter lower sections of the tributaries will be there every day or until they get caught and take a cooler ride south on I-79. This means you will not need to find the steelhead or decide where to fish. You only need to fish north of Route 5 and use your best early season presentation.