Chagrin River Steelhead Fishing: Maps, Methods, and More

Chagrin River Steelhead Fishing

Due to the proximity to Lake Erie and large runs of steelhead, Chagrin River offers an excellent steelhead fishing experience with a high chance of landing some big steelhead or the possibility of having many days with over ten steelhead landed.

Many anglers and river guides, including myself, enjoy fishing Chagrin River steelhead due to easy access, beautiful scenery, and good-sized runs of steelhead that enter this river from October to late April.

Steelhead fishing the Chagrin River can be easy once you figure out the best methods, best baits, best locations, and how to time the steelhead runs.

Chagrin River Steelhead Fishing, Ohio

The Chagrin River
The Chagrin River steelhead section: Photo by Alley Grabs Guide Service

The Chagrin River is designated as a state Scenic and Wild River. The Chagrin River is a medium-sized river which is located in Northeast Ohio.

The Chagrin River flows through an area known as Steelhead Alley. It has a good population of Little Manistee strain Steelhead.

Only five rivers in Ohio enjoy stockings of Manistee strain of steelhead annually by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and the Chagrin River is one of them. 

The Chagrin River twists and turns through three counties in North East Ohio, which are Geauga County, Lake County, and Portage County, running through Clevelands suburban areas and finally emptying into Lake Erie.

The Chagrin River also consists of two tributaries, the Aurora Branch and the East Branch, and both have runs of steelhead.

The Chagrin River is fairly wide and is considered a medium to large-sized river with average widths around 40 to 50 feet. Its bottom is mostly shale with some rocky sections. This river has great steelhead holding water, consisting of many gravel runs and riffles, and some nice pools..

Thanks to its moderate gradient, steelhead fishing the Chagrin River is wadable, and anglers will find it easy to walk through and along its banks. It’s also easy to read the water and find steelhead holding spots.

Steelhead are able to migrate up the Chagrin River as far as the Chagrin Falls in the town of Chagrin Falls. The falls are a 10-foot drop, and this stops the steelhead from migrating past this point.

The East Branch Steelhead: Chagrin River

The steelhead do migrate into the east branch of the Chagrin River.

The east branch is a cold-water tributary that could produce wild steelhead, but some dams and obstacles make migration to the best water difficult. Under extreme flood conditions, the steelhead may be able to get past the dams to good spawning habitat.

There is very little access to fishing on this tributary stream.

The Aurora Branch Steelhead

The Aurora Branch is another tributary that Chagrin steelhead will migrate into. There are several small dams that the steelhead might be able to get around under high water.

There is very little access for fishing on this tributary.

Chagrin River Steelhead Fishing Methods

The Chagrin River is a typical Great Lakes steelhead river averaging 3 to 6 feet deep with many riffles, runs, and pools. This makes it easy to fish for the steelhead with most river fishing methods such as float fishing, fly fishing, and even casting lures.

Float Fishing For Chagrin River Steelhead

Float fishing with spinning reels or with a Centerpin reel is a very common method of catching steelhead on the Chagrin River, and it’s often one of the most effective ways to catch steelhead.

Float fishing is hard to beat in the bigger deeper pools but anglers can adjust their set-up to target fish in smaller areas as well.

Using spawn bags, beads, flies, and worms is a good way to catch steelhead.

Check out my page Best Steelhead Baits to see the most productive baits, how to use them, and how to make them even more effective.

Anglers who use the float fishing methods and the leader setups that local river guides and I use will do well. I describe these methods and leaders in more detail on my page, Float Fishing For Steelhead.

Float fishing for steelhead on the Chagrin River has provided many anglers with days of over 50 fish landed.

Fly Fishing For Chagrin River Steelhead

Another very effective and popular method for fishing Chagrin River Steelhead is fly fishing.

When looking up Chagrin River steelhead guides, the majority of them prefer fly fishing.

Fly fishing is also my preferred method for targeting steelhead on the Chagrin River.

When fly fishing on the Chagrin River on the bigger pools and deeper spots, I use traditional indicator nymphing, which is the most common method of fly fishing for steelhead.

I also use a method known as Euro Nymphing for steelhead, which is often my most effective method for catching steelhead in the shallower riffles, runs, and pocket water.

Alley Grabs clients with a nice Chagrin River Steelhead
Two Happy Alley Grabs Guide Service clients with a nice Chagrin River steelhead.

The Chagrin River is suitable for a fly fishing method known as Spey fishing.

Head guide and owner Gareth from Alley Grabs Guide Service specializes in Spey fishing for steelhead on the Chagrin River and some other larger Ohio Rivers.

Gareth has been perfecting and teaching these Spey fishing methods to his clients with great success, and he has had days of multiple steelhead hook-ups.

Local guides have some great tested and proven steelhead flies that are very effective on this river and on other Great Lakes rivers. When nymphing, guide Gareth recommends natural colored egg patterns, white Clouser minnows, and yellow and black stonefly nymphs.

Having pheasant tail nymphs, Woolly Buggers, egg patterns, and some worm patterns is also a good idea. Local guides also do well with white Zonker patterns nymphed or stripped in.

Alley Grabs Spey flies for the Chagrin River
Some effective Alley Grabs Spey flies used for guiding on the Chagrin River.

Spey fishing flies with lots of natural movement, like the Hoh Bo Spey Fly, and Intruder Fly in black, white, and olive, can be good options.

You can see my most effective steelhead flies on my page 19 Most Effective Steelhead Flies.

If fly fishing for steelhead is your thing and you want to improve, I discuss all the best guide methods for fly fishing on my page Fly Fishing For Steelhead: Great Lakes Style.

Spin Fishing On The Chagrin River

Spin fishing On the Chagrin River is another method that many anglers use, and it can be very effective. Spin fishing methods include casting lures, float fishing, bottom bouncing, or drift fishing.

I like to use the bottom bouncing method in shallow riffles, runs, and pockets, but it can also be used in bigger, deeper pools. I discuss some advanced methods for bottom bouncing on my page Bottom Bouncing For Steelhead.

Steelhead Fishing With Lures

The Chagrin River is a great river for anglers who like to cast lures for steelhead. I have done well with spinners, spoons, and crankbaits in various sizes and colors.

I change my colors and sizes depending on the river conditions, and I change my presentation methods also depending on conditions. I discuss effective guide methods and a few secret lures that are very effective for steelhead on my page, Best Lures For Steelhead.

Best Time For Catching Steelhead On The Chagrin River

Like any Steelhead Alley river, the Chagrin River often enjoys runs of steelhead for as much as eight months of the year.

The steelhead runs on the Chagrin River can start in late September as small sporadic runs and continue to get bigger in October and November and then again in March and April. Some years, the steelhead can even be found in the river in early May and early February.

There are certain times within this period when Chagrin River steelhead fishing is at its peak. One of the major factors responsible for this is the run-off rates triggered by big rains and snowmelt.

Good anglers and guides know that the rains bring in the steelhead, and as soon as the river starts to clear the steelhead fishing can be excellent. Using the right baits based on water clarity is also very important to know.

On that note, let us look at the three basic chagrin river steelhead runs in Ohio.

Chagrin Steelhead Fishing in Fall

One of my favorite times for steelhead is the fall season, beginning from September and into December.

The Chagrin River in the fall
The Chagrin River in the fall: photo by Alley Grabs Guide Service

This fall season marks the start of steelhead spawning migration, and thanks to their strength and aggression during this season, it makes fishing fast and fun.

If you understand the conditions of the river and adapt appropriately, steelhead fishing the Chagrin River in the fall can be a one-of-a-kind experience.

Many guides prefer the fall steelhead over the spring steelhead.

For more on how to fish for steelhead during the fall season, how the various weather and river conditions affect the steelhead through the fall season, and how to adjust your methods and spots accordingly, check out my page on Fall Fishing for Steelheads.

On this page, I discuss the tactics and the changes in baits and methods I use to keep my clients onto a lot of steelhead as the fall conditions change.

Chagrin Steelhead Fishing In Winter

The winter season also consists of some of the best fishing opportunities for anglers fishing for Chagrin River steelhead.

Winter steelhead fishing on the Chagrin River starts from early December to the end of February and is generally associated with icy and plunging temperatures, which can negatively affect both the Chagrin River steelhead and the anglers.

Steelhead are generally inactive and don’t bite when the water gets cold. Understanding how to catch them in ice-cold water will help improve your odds. I love guiding through the winter and have some of the best days during this time using special winter steelhead fishing methods.

Although this season is characterized by icy water temperatures, there are still times when the river experiences a stable temperature, and this allows anglers to take advantage of some fantastic steelhead fishing.

Whether or not an angler will be successful boils down to how much they understand about the relationship between water temperatures and the steelhead, and then how to adapt to these conditions.

I have taken the time to put up a guide on how to be successful when winter steelhead fishing, which includes my tips on how to stay warm when fishing in the winter, what baits and bait sizes will get winter steelhead to bit, and where you should fish during ice-cold conditions, and you can check it out on my page Winter Steelhead Fishing.

Chagrin Steelhead Fishing in Spring

The water eventually warms up as the spring approaches. This warming trend usually begins in early March. This causes the ice and snow that came with the winter to melt. As this happens, the river experiences a rise that brings in generous steelhead runs.

During the spring season, steelhead that were holding in the river and in Lake Erie over the winter begin to charge up this spacious river as the river water levels increase and warm. This makes it another perfect time to land some big aggressive steelhead and many anglers love to fish for spring steelhead on the Chagrin River.

The consequence of this can be very exciting to anglers steelhead fishing the Chagrin River and it can bring some crowds to the river.

I split the spring steelhead run into three stages. Understanding each stage is important if you want to maximize your success on the river.

For more on the best spring steelhead methods and tips on steelhead fishing at this time of year, you can check out my page on Spring Fishing For Steelhead.

Stream Flows On The Chagrin Dictate The Runs

The Chagrin River is best fished when the streamflow is between 150-350 cfs (cubic feet per second). It’s also best to fish when the river is dropping and clearing. Following a rain event, it will take the Chagrin River an average of 3-4 days to get back to a normal level.

Very low clear water will be difficult, and water flows that are too high will spread the steelhead out and make for some tough fishing.

This is why I use the river flow gauges that you can access online. For information on the river conditions and data on real-time streamflow, you’ll want to check the USGS Chagrin River flow gauge.

Best Access Points

Thanks to the networks of parks along the Chagrin River that are controlled by the Cleveland Metroparks system, public access to the Chagrin River is widely available.

The Ohio DNR map is your go-to resource for designated fishing areas and public access points.

Lower River: Borac’s Landing Boat Ramp – Access off of Riverside Blvd. Fish the breakwall side, which is deepest, or launch a boat here and go downriver.

Lower River: Woodland Park – West Side river with parking off of Woodland Dr. (slow water – fish push to the west side of the river which is deepest. This is a good spot for lures, plunking, and float fishing. Walk up the river for the shallow river with pools.

Lower River and First Rapids Area: Riverwood Loop trial on the lower east side of the river is where the river shallows and speeds up. You will find typical trout pools, riffles, and runs. Parking is off Rural Road on the east side.

Chagrin River Park: This is a good access area on the lower river. Parking is on the East side of the river. This is a shallower section, so when the river is low expect to walk a bit to the deeper pools.

Chagrin River Park Area steelhead Fishing Map

Other access spots are:

  • Eastlake Seawall
  • Gilson Park – There is lots of shallow water, so it is best fished when the water levels are up.
  • Todd Field – Some good bigger pools upriver and downriver of the baseball fields.
  • Mitchell Field
  • Daniels Park – Good spots at the weir and just below the east branch Chagrin River.
  • North Chagrin Reservation.

Stocking and Steelhead Runs on The Chagrin River

It has been said that the Chagrin River is one of the beloved natural resources of Northeast Ohio and with the great steelhead fishing it shows.

The Chagrin Rivers enjoys stockings of Manistee strain of steelhead annually, which results in moderate high-quality runs of steelhead.

With the right methods, anglers have a very good chance of success when Steelhead fishing the Chagrin River.

With large numbers of steelhead and enough public access points, it’s possible for visitors or people living in the area to easily plan a do-it-yourself trip.

You may find some fishing reports on the Ohio DNR Reports Page.

Tight Lines


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  1. The Chargrin sounds just awesome…we here in the Pacific Northwest need a time machine, it seems you folks in Ohio have the fishing we had decades ago!

    What is your daily fee per person (you had me at swinging the long rod), and any availability thus ,(or next, 2023) fall season?

    Thanks for your time.
    Bill Herzog

    1. Hey Bill,

      A smart biologist explained to me that steelhead and salmon runs tend to cycle, you’ll have some great years and then some crappy ones and I have seen this first hand. I hope in your case there’s an upcycle on the west coast and the steelhead picks up again. Around the great lakes and in Ohio there is a lot of stocking which really helps. Unfortunately, I’m not available for guiding this year, so if you want a trip out on an Ohio tributary, especially if swinging flies is your thing, you should contact Gareth at Alley Grabs Guiding

      Good Luck,


    1. Hey Terry,

      Most steelhead will only make it as far as the Chagrin Falls in the town of Chagrin Falls. However, under extreme floods, there is the potential for some steelhead to make it over the falls and I have heard reports of some steelhead above the fall. I would focus my efforts below the falls for the best numbers.

      Good Luck.

  2. Have a chance to fish the Chagrin for the first time this October 16th. Any advice on where to find the best chance to find some Steelhead? Thanks!

    1. It really depends on rain, water levels, and if there are fish in. If it hasn’t rained for weeks and the water is low, either fish the mouth, or go up the river and hope to find some holding fish that might have run with last weeks rains. They will be in the bigger holes.

      If you get rain a day or two before your trip. stick to the lower half.

      Good luck.


  3. Graham,

    My sons and I primarily fish the V, and were planning to fish Wednesday but the V and Rocky dont have much water in it. Would you recommend the Chagrin or Grand to explore for our first time fishing one of them rivers. Any access points that offer the most public access and wadability per your suggestion would be appreciated. I have a 16 and 14 year old and we will be pinning, indy rigging and some fly fishing tactics. Thanks for any insights.

  4. Your article is very informative. I’ve lived in the region forever and never fished for steelhead, so I’m going to try it this spring on the Chagrin. I’ve heard its been really HOT. I’m not a fly fisher, may try lures and spawn bags. I’ll start with the N Chagrin Reservation and work my way north. Any advice for a new steely guy?