2023 Fall Steelhead Report and News by John Nagy


Steelhead Alley Nymph Assortment
As of  March 12th, 2024 the Lake Erie water temperature (degrees F) off Toledo was 44 degrees, off Cleveland was 38 degrees, off Erie was 40 degrees and off Buffalo was 39 degrees.*

*Please go to the USGS real-time temperature data in the right menu bar for water temperatures for select Lake Erie tributaries.

As the days or “photo-periods” become shorter and the Lake Erie lake shore begins to nudge down to 68 degrees F, in early to mid September, steelhead (including some brown trout) will begin staging along the Lake Erie lake shore and tributary mouths as a “pre-spawn” movement.

Early cool fall rains and tributary run-off (54 degrees F or less) will initiate the first steelhead “runs” of the season into the lower part of Lake Erie's tributary streams. The smaller size tributaries (which cool quicker in late summer/early fall) will result in some of the earliest steelhead action in “steelhead alley” region of OH, PA and NY.

2022 Lake Erie Steelhead Stockings*

2023 steelhead stocking data not available yet*

Lake Erie steelhead (smolt) stocking numbers for 2022 include: PA (1,079,958/58%), OH (470,912/26%), NY (189,835/10%), Michigan (64,670/4%) and ON (43,225/2%)). This total of steelhead stocking for 2022 was slightly above the long-term average. Since 1993, annual stocking numbers have consistently been in the 1.7-2.0 million fish range for the Lake.

The 2022 stocking strains of steelhead by the Lake Erie fishery agencies are 97% “naturalized” Great Lakes strains (with West Coast origin). They are as follows: PA (Lake Erie strain collected from Trout Run nursery waters), NY (Washington Strain collected from Lake Ontario's Salmon River in NY), OH (combination of L. Manistee River strain/Lake Michigan, Ganaraska River strain/Lake Ontario and Chambers Creek strain) and MI (L. Manistee River strain/Lake Michigan). Note: The most recent fin clips for steelhead done by a Lake Erie Fishery Agency were done by MI in 2020 and 2019 (right adipose fin clip). Prior to that 2016 (by NY) was the most recent year.

2022 Lake Erie Brown Trout Stockings*

2023 brown trout stocking data not available yet*

The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PF&BC) stocked approximately 75,082 yearling and adult brown trout in its Lake Erie waters in 2022 (the only fishery agency stocking brown trout into Lake Erie presently). This is 38% increase form 2021 and 14% below the long term (1990-2021) average annual stocking of 87,412 Brown Trout.

These fish are in support of a put-grow-take brown trout program that was initiated in 2009. This program supports both an inland PF&BC brown trout fishery for tributary spring trout anglers and a Lake Erie lake-run brown trout fishery based in the Lake (with the potential of trophy lake-run brown trout “running” into the lake shore/tributaries on a fall spawning run).