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Lake Erie Steehead Fishing Charters


Other Names: Oncorhynchus mykiss

Physical Description:

Steelhead have a bluish-gray back and upper sides and bright, silvery lower sides, with a crisp separation between the two colors. The upper halves of their bodies are heavily speckled with small black spots. Their tail fin is completely covered with spots and may be squared or slightly forked. The interior of the steelhead’s mouth is white. The body is more elongate than other types of rainbow trout, and they are fast, strong swimmers.


Steelhead are native to the Pacific Ocean, but travel to inland streams and rivers spanning from southern California to southern Alaska during spawning runs. During this migration the steelhead may be found as far as inland as Idaho and Montana. They have also been successfully introduced to the Great Lakes region and its tributaries, as well as other freshwater lakes and rivers.

Feeding Habits:

Adult steelhead feed on squid, euphasid, amphipods and fish. While young, steelhead feed on insects, copepods, amphipods and other crustaceans, as well as other small fish.

Sporting Qualities:

Steelhead are one of the most prized sport fish of inland anglers because of their tasty meat, large size, and strong fighting abilities. They are notably acrobatic and have been observed leaping five feet out of the water when hooked. Although steelhead are caught in the ocean, most are taken in the river systems in which they return to spawn.

Steelhead present a challenge to both find and land. Conditions on rivers change rapidly and a productive fishing spot one day for steelhead may be barren the next. They are, however, often found in the same parts of the river year after year. Thus, for the unfamiliar angler, it is recommended that a guide be hired or consult with local residents that are familiar with a given river.

If that is not an option, remember that steelhead like fast, deep-running water, so cast in white-water areas and the deep holes of the stream. Areas on the edges of fast water or where the water is broken by a rock, log, or another object may also prove fruitful.

Also try the heads or tails of pools. If the fish are on or near their spawning bed, they will generally be found in shallow water with a gravel bottom, but could still be in deeper spots nearby.

Another factor to consider is the season. Steelhead seek out faster water or shady areas during summer, while they tend to be in the slower stretches if the water temperature is below 40 degrees.

In rivers, they bait well on salmon or steelhead eggs, shrimp, crayfish tails and night crawlers, but also take lures, such as spoons, spinners and jigs, bobbers and flies. Flies that are colorful often work best.


Steelhead are anadromous, living in both fresh water and salt water. In fresh water, they prefer temperatures below 70 F and can tolerate temperatures anywhere from 32 to 80 F. They require clean spawning rivers and prefer the faster running parts of those streams.