The Ohio Steelhead Season Explained: The 3 Best Seasons

Ohio Steelhead Season starts when the leaves start changing color

The Ohio steelhead season often starts in late September with sporadic early runs of steelhead that enter the river after heavier rains, and the season often ends when the last steelhead leaves the rivers in late April.

Anglers with boats or who ice fish in Ohio can catch steelhead twelve months of the year since the Ohio DNR allows anglers to fish for steelhead in Ohio year-round.

Ohio Rivers And The Ohio Steelhead

Gareth from Alley Grabs with a nice Grand River steelhead
Gareth from Alley Grabs Guide Service with a nice Grand River steelhead

Due to low natural reproduction in Ohio steelhead rivers, every year the Ohio DNR stocks steelhead in various streams flowing into Lake Erie in an area known as Steelhead Alley. 

These steelhead return at different times of the year, and when they enter the river, many consider this the Ohio steelhead season.

The Steelhead Alley area of Ohio consists of five main tributaries, namely the Rocky River, Grand River, Chagrin River, Vermilion River, and Conneaut Creek. Most steelhead are caught in these rivers, with less than 20% coming from other Ohio creeks and streams like the Ashtabula River. 

You can see more about these rivers on our page, Ohio Steelhead Rivers.

Some steelhead will start migrating in the fall months of October and November, but often these fish won’t actually spawn until March or April.

The other half of the steelhead run will occur through the late winter and early spring and some of these steelhead might still be found in the rivers in early May.

Knowing the methods and best baits for Ohio steelhead at different times of the year will mean more fish in your net.

The Official Ohio Steelhead Season

Gareth Thomas with a steelhead caught while Winter Spey fishing
Gareth with a nice Winter Ohio Steelhead

The official steelhead season, as permitted by the state of Ohio, is all year long.

This provides anglers the opportunity to catch quality steelheads measuring up to 30 inches long or more all year round.

Currently, there is no closed season for fishing steelhead in Ohio Rivers so all rivers remain open throughout the year.

However, make sure to stay up to date on the federal regulations from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Spring Run

Gareth from Alley Grabs Guide Service with a nice spring Ohio steelhead.
Gareth from Alley Grabs Guide Service with a nice spring Ohio steelhead.

The spring steelhead season occurs from late winter, which is often around early March through April. During this period, the stream water warms rapidly, melting all the snow in the bush and along the rivers.

Combined with rains, the water level rises, attracting many steelhead into the rivers. 

Many steelhead will remain in the river until late April and the fishing can be great during this time, especially for anglers that know how to properly fish for spring steelhead.

I discuss spring steelhead fishing tactics and provide information that will help you catch more spring steelhead on my page Spring Steelhead Fishing In Ohio.

Fall Run

Ohio fishing guide Gareth with a nice Ohio fall steelhead
Ohio fishing guide Gareth with a nice Ohio fall steelhead

The fall season offers an opportunity to fish for large healthy steelhead as they return from Lake Erie. Fall-run steelhead are often the strongest steelhead of the year and the river conditions are often perfect for them.

The fall season stretches from September to December, depending on the frequency and intensity of the rains.

In most cases, steelheads feed heavily during summer out in Lake Erie, and they become stronger and healthier, and as they enter the rivers they will continue to feed heavily.

This makes fall steelhead fishing very good and many anglers and guides will tell you that fall steelhead fishing is the best.

The big runs of fall steelhead start to show up in late October and continue after rains throughout November, and anglers who know how to fish fall steelhead and how their migration patterns and feeding patterns change as the river get cold will catch the most steelhead. I discuss this on my page Fall Fishing For Ohio Steelhead.

Winter Run

Gareth with a winter steelhead caught in Ohio
Gareth with a winter steelhead caught in Ohio

The winter steelhead season in Ohio begins in December and ends in early March.

The winter period typically has low runs of steelhead, but there are often many steelhead stuck in the rivers from the fall runs.

As long as the river is not frozen solid, there are good opportunities for winter steelhead fishing.

The winter season is a good time to fish because there are fewer anglers and those anglers that know how to fish in the cold can catch a lot of steelhead. 

I discuss the tactics used by guides to catch more winter steelhead and how they stay warm and comfortable on my page Winter Fishing Ohio Steelhead.

Water temps and water levels will also affect how many steelhead will be in the river.

Tight Lines


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