Lake Erie Steelhead Run Fall 2022 thru Spring 2023

Steelhead anglers appreciate knowing the potential size of the fall run.  To that end, it is possible to establish an estimate of the number of returning mature steelhead, and using stocking numbers calculate the number of steelhead running each Lake Erie tributary this fall and winter.

The best sources for data are reports published by the Lake Erie Coldwater Task Group.  Fisheries experts from NY, MI, PA, OH and Ontario compile a series of data sets and tables from which you can create estimates of what to expect when the fall run begins.

As far as the 2022 run this fall goes, the report referenced above provides data we use to form an understanding of what to expect.

Numbers don’t lie. The run that will begin this fall is determined by the number of smolts stocked in 2020. Those one-year old smolts spend 1 ½ years in Lake Erie and begin returning in the fall of 2022 as mature steelhead.

2019Stocking

The next step is to determine how many of the 2020 smolts survived “stocking trauma,” thrived in Lake Erie and are returning to your favorite tributary this fall? 

First the bad news, 95% did not make it! That is no surprise to the biologists who manage the Lake Erie steelhead program. The main reason why is predation.  Big fish eat little fish, some birds are fish eating machines, and spring anglers accidentally kill some of the stock before they make it to the lake.

The 5% that do survive and return from Lake Erie are fun to catch so here are the numbers for how many steelhead are headed to your favorite spot.    

2019Stocking2

Now you have an educated guess what to expect. Yes, the retrun on investment is disappointing.

Looking ahead, the 2022 steelhead season begins in the summer, as walleye anglers hit a few by accident. 

When the steelhead begin to stage closer to the tributaries in early September, some boat anglers will troll and target early season steelhead.

Shore angling for pre-run steelhead begins in mid-September for anglers fishing the piers and lake shore with spoons.  Night or low-light fishing times are best, but the action is spotty and seldom worth making a special trip.

October, November and early-December are when most angler travel to Lake Erie for steelhead. Water temperature, stream flow rates, air temperatures, and weather conditions are the variables that make or break a trip. During those months when conditions permit, you have the best chance for success.

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Modern technology is making steelhead trip planning easier.  You can watch webcams to see what is happing before you go. You can check flow gauges to get water level and temperature. Weather apps provide more information than the local TV station meteorologist. Finally, the ever present cell phone keeps together a network of anglers from which to get “intel”.  Use it all to succeed.

Most reading this have been there and done that so they are experienced. First-timers a have challenge, but they eventually learn the where, when, and how of steelhead fishing.

More information is available in these posted articles and advice blogs.  They will help you fill in the blanks.

If you have anything to share or need to ask a specific question, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Lately, anecdotal evidence has led many anglers to believe we have experienced a decrease in steelhead catch-rates when compared to previous years.  They have good reasons to sense a troubling pattern.

For instance, on page 37 of the LECTG report, the following statement about stocking numbers for 2020 foretells a future run when less Lake Erie steelhead will be available. . . “Steelhead stocking decreased 40% in New York, decreased 8% in Ohio, decreased 2% in Pennsylvania and was unchanged in Michigan”.  The decreased stocking numbers outlined in this report will populate the 2022 run.  

Given the “put n’ take” nature of the Lake Erie steelhead program, fewer smolts stocked means future fall runs will have less returning steelhead.