Fall Steelhead Fishing Ohio: Guide Tips And Tactics

Fall steelhead fishing Ohio Can produce nice big silver steelhead like this

Fall steelhead fishing in Ohio can start as early as mid-September if there are cold nights and cold rains to bring in small pods of steelhead. Otherwise, the big runs will start in middle to late October and peak in November.

I will discuss run timing, rivers, best baits and flies, and effective methods used to be more successful.

Fall Steelhead Fishing Ohio

Fishing lures for Ohio steelhead when they just enter the river is a very exciting way to catch steelhead like this.
Fishing lures for Ohio steelhead when they just enter the river is a very exciting way to catch steelhead like this.

Ohio is a perfect place for anglers looking to fish for steelhead during the fall season because many rivers in a small area get good runs of fall steelhead.

Fall steelhead is best in November and December before the river freezes up in January. The major rivers in Ohio receive excellent runs of Steelhead, with anglers sometimes hooking over 50 big steelhead a day.

The fall months mark the beginning of steelhead migration from Lake Erie into its tributaries for spawning purposes, and although most will not spawn until the spring, many steelhead will move in and hold in the river all winter.

Since the steelhead have been feeding heavily in Lake Erie all summer, mature fall steelhead will have grown to some impressive sizes, averaging 4 to 6 pounds with some over fifteen pounds. As such, it is without question that hooking up with one of these fall silver bullets is an unmatched thrill in the world of freshwater fishing.

Another characteristic of Ohio fall steelhead is their level of activity and aggressiveness which often results in hook-breaking fights. Fall steelhead tend to feed heavily once they enter the river, and most will readily hit a well presented bait. This translates to an exciting time for the Lake Erie river anglers.

Fall Steelhead Fishing In Ohio Through The Fall Months

Fall steelhead runs begin in September near the river mouths as the steelhead starts to stage there. Anglers can often catch steelhead by casting steelhead lures or using a method known as plunking for steelhead. Anglers will fish the cooler early morning hours in the lower end of the river or out into the lake.

Early to late September, the steelhead run is low due to the warmer river temperatures as the majority of steelhead are found stacked up at the mouths of the Ohio tributaries waiting for cooler temperatures or a rain event which could bring in small pods of steelhead.

As the fall progresses, the temperature of the water begins to get cooler, and therefore steelhead start migrating upstream and entering in much larger numbers.

Rain is the key at this time. Heavy fall rains begin to hit the summer low Ohio tributaries, raising the water levels, and big steelhead runs are triggered. Often, the bigger rains will see bigger runs of steelhead.

Heavy rains in late October and November are peak times for steelhead.

As the weather gradually gets colder in late November into December, the rivers become cooler. A lot of anglers find it quite difficult to fish for steelhead during this period, either because it is too cold for them and the steelhead or because the steelhead runs seem to come to a halt.

It is still possible to land a good steelhead even throughout the winter month if you follow the advice that I provide on my page Winter Steelhead Fishing: Tips And Tactics Of Expert Guides.

Best Methods For Catching Fall Steelhead

Steelhead spey fly from Gareth
An Ohio steelhead caught Spey fishing by guide Gareth from Alley Grabs Guide Service

There are multiple methods for Ohio fall steelhead fishing. Bear in mind that the fall steelhead season consists of varying water conditions.

It is safe to say that the same methods can work all through the season, but anglers may need to make certain adjustments at different times of the season.

In my years of fall steelhead fishing, I have used a number of fishing methods.

The best methods for fishing fall steelhead are float fishing, fly fishing, lure fishing, spin fishing, and bottom bouncing. Let me briefly discuss a few of them.

Fly fishing For Fall Steelhead In Ohio

An Alley Grabs Guide Service caught steelhead
An Alley Grabs Guide Service Ohio caught steelhead.

There is a reason that 90% of the steelhead guides in Ohio specialize or only do fly fishing. That reason is that fly fishing for Ohio steelhead can be very effective.

One of those guides is our in-house guide/expert, Gareth Thomas from Alley Grabs Guide Service, who recommends natural fly patterns that imitate the natural food sources of fall steelhead.

Fly fishing in for Ohio steelhead consists of Nymphing with or without indicators, as well as streamer fishing, and Spey fishing.

When it comes to Spey fishing, check out my article, Great Lakes Spey Fishing: Methods and Tactics Used By Guide.

If you prefer to nymph fish, check out Nymph Fishing For Steelhead: The 3 Most Effective Methods.

See Also: Streamer Fishing For Steelhead

Spin Fishing For Fall Steelhead In Ohio

Spin fishing applies to float fishing or bottom bouncing and is a popular year-round steelhead fishing method in Ohio. Similar to centerpin fishing, spin fishing requires the use of spin reels and long rods.

I will discuss float fishing below, but the method of bottom bouncing is very effective on many Ohio steams, especially in the smaller spots, pocks, and faster runs. If you are not familiar with bottom bouncing click the link.

Spin fishing for steelhead can be done with either bait or with lures. Casting lures for steelhead can be very effective on the aggressive fall steelhead. I will discuss lure fishing more below.

The state and quality of your spinning reel goes a long way to determining the success of your steelhead fishing since fall steelhead can be somewhat aggressive and some of the hardest fighting steelhead of the year. This means that your spinning reels must be up to the task. 

The best spin reels for steelhead do not need to be the most expensive, they just need to hold enough line and have a good smooth drag system that can handle big steelhead and sometimes lots of steelhead.

Because I’m a fishing guide and I provide clients and students in classes, I sometimes have over 20 spinning reels at a time. I have tested a lot of brands and I have my favorite reels that work great for hard-pulling steelhead.

Centerpin Fishing for Fall Steelhead in Ohio

Centerpin fishing is a similar technique to float fishing and it is arguably the most effective method for catching steelhead in rivers.

The difference is in the use of a centerpin reel instead of a spinning reel. I have fished a lot of Ohio rivers with a centerpin reel and this has been one of my most effective ways to land these fall silver bullets in large amounts.

A Centerpin’s advantage is that it allows you to better present your bait. A better and more natural presentation obviously means more steelhead in your net.

Float Fishing for Fall Steelhead

Float fishing is a common steelhead fishing method and can be used for catching fall steelhead. Float fishing can be done with a spinning reel or a Centerpin reel.

Float fishing refers to attaching a float to the fishing line, then suspending a bait and drifting it down the river. When done right and with the right bait, float fishing can be extremely effective for landing a good number of steelhead in fall.

Bear in mind that for this fall steelhead fishing method to be effective, there should be a balance between hook size, bait size, and leader length. The leader setup is very important.

Best Baits and Lures for Ohio’s Fall Steelhead

To increase your chances of success stream anglers will need to be mindful of the baits and lures used. No one bait can be referred to as the best since conditions change daily and the steelhead will sometimes prefer a different bait.

Many anglers often make the mistake of using only roe. As a river guide, if I did this, I would have 50% fewer fish in the net every fall. The guides that work for me and my guide friends all have multiple baits and lures with us, and we will often rotate through our bait selection to figure out what is best that day.

If you are not doing this, you are missing fish!

I have used a good number of baits such as roe, beads, and worms but there are more.

I discuss a number of my most effective steelhead baits, how I rig them, when and where I use them all on my page Best Baits for Steelhead.

If you prefer fishing with lures, I recommend spinners, spoons, and crankbaits fished from the top of the pool down and swung through the pool at the level of the steelhead.

The key is to get your lure 1 to 3 feet over the steelhead. I like silver, gold, black and orange. Lure should be 3 to 5 inches long.

Like baits, you should experiment with different types of lures in terms of their size, shape, weight, and colors. This way, you can discover what works best for you.

For great information on fishing steelhead in Ohio, don’t forget to check out my post

Tight Lines,


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