While everyone has a few crazy fishing tales to tell, steelhead fishing in the tributaries of Lake Erie in the fall seems to really draw an interesting crowd. So much so, that these anglers wind up a sort of combat, fishing shoulder to shoulder. ANGLR Expert, Nolan Minor had a few fun tales to tell when we chatted with him the other day. He was getting ready to head up to the Great Lake with his buddies and was reminiscing on some of their experiences up there.
Steelhead Fishing: A Whole Different Experience
I like Steelhead fishing in the tributaries of Erie, even though sometimes it’s sort of like going to Walmart. The fish are still there, but the environment is a little different from what you would find elsewhere. The creeks are smaller, and you’re sort of surrounded by colorful, yet rough characters. We chalk all of that up to being a part of the experience. Not only do we get to catch a bunch of awesome fish, but we get in some quality people watching during the process.
In Erie, fishing for steelhead is what they call “combat fishing.” There are so many people out there fishing. It’s not uncommon to be fishing a pool with 25 other people around you, making it pretty close quarters. It’s never pretty, and there are usually guys shoulder to shoulder, but everyone is usually pretty cool about it. When someone hooks a fish, people are pretty respectful and bring their lines in to let the person land their fish before going back to what they were doing. Some people are less talkative than others, but it’s usually a pretty good time.
My buddy has a video he took of this ‘character’ while we were fishing under a bridge. He had hooked a fish and took off running. He wasn’t only following the fish, but he was being kind of a nut. His boots were full of water, so he was squeaking as he went running through this crowd of people under the bridge. We still refer to him as “Squeaky Boots.”
I usually like to observe what people are doing for a few minutes to see what casts they’re making to make sure I don’t interfere before I step in. On another trip up there, we had found a pool with about 30 fish under an overhanging tree. No one was fishing right under that tree, so I slid in there. I had about six different fish come and chase my bait on the first cast, which told me those fish hadn’t seen a bait in a while.
I hooked one and lost one, then I caught one. I called my buddy over and he caught one. Two older men fishing up stream from us decided to leave and were obviously furious with us, expressing their concerns verbally. They told us that we were fishing too closely, and that we didn’t ask to come fish near them. I tried not to really engage with them. Really, what it was about was that those guys weren’t catching anything and us young guys walked in and started catching fish right away. It hurt their feelings and their pride, so they felt like they had to say something. Everyone around us commented the same sentiments after they left. That’s really the only verbal confrontation that I’ve ever seen on the creek, which is amazing, considering all the combat fishing that’s going on.
Things like that happen at least once every trip up there. In addition to the fish themselves, things like that are part of what make the trip.
Nolan’s Very First Steelhead
When I caught my first steel, we were fishing at the “tubes;” two large culverts that tunnel underneath a set of train tracks. There are usually a bunch of steelhead under there because it’s cool, dark, and protected. There were some pretty large logs in the water under the tunnels and I could see some fish hanging around them. We had already spent three hours looking for fish and I hadn’t caught one yet ‘till we came upon this pool.
Well, I hooked this fish, but was using 6 pound test line, so there wasn’t really much I could do to steer it away from snags. It decided it was going to head into these downed trees and ran around one branch before taking off in the opposite direction. The fish wound up 30” from the tree, but my line was going around the tree. Then it got caught up on something, so I couldn’t pull him back around the tree. I’m shocked my line didn’t break off because it became so stuck in there.
The fish must have decided that he wasn’t hooked anymore, so he just swam over to the tree and was sort of just hanging out. At first we thought he wasn’t hooked anymore, but then I could still see my hook with the line hanging out of his mouth with my bait.
We had to take a different rod and snag the line to get it closer to us. We managed to get him about halfway to us, but the line got hung up again so we couldn’t get him any closer. We had to take a third line to snag the second line to pull him close enough to us to net him. By that point we had a crowd around us watching these shenanigans, but we got that fish! He was average size, which is around 21-22 inches; about a three pound fish.
That was my first steelhead, and it’s kind of a fitting way to have caught one in Erie, PA. There’s nothing bright and flashy. You just have to do what you have to do.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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