I have always loved fishing. Some of my earliest memories involve carrying a rod and bucket of worms to a local stream in search of whatever might bite. But as a young adult I found myself serving abroad in the military and my fishing adventures took a new turn as I became exposed to surf fishing. When I found myself again living in the Keystone State I faced a dilemma – how to fulfill my love of surf fishing in a landlocked state. The answer – surf fishing for steelhead in Lake Erie.
When you think surf fishing I seriously doubt Pennsylvania is in your Top 10 destination. Chances are it’s not in your Top 20 destinations as it is a landlocked state without any direct access to salt water. But that doesn’t mean there are no beaches, surf or fish to be caught. Many anglers overlook the nearly 60 miles of shoreline on Lake Erie the surf fishing opportunities are limited but well worth the trip. A wide variety of fish can be caught in Lake Erie including bass, walleye, perch and trout but one of the most popular species for Erie anglers, and the reason I make at least one trip each fall, is steelhead.
I actually discovered surf fishing for steelhead through a combination of bad luck and necessity. I had been making annual trips to Erie for traditional stream steelhead fishing for several seasons when I found myself the better part of a day from home, a hotel booked for 3 nights and a massive rain storm rolling through. By the next morning all the local streams were blown out and un-fishable but I could not stand the idea of sitting in my room wasting a day so I looked for somewhere, anywhere I could wet a line. That is when I saw it – the deserted stretch of beach near the mouth of one of my favorite stream. Although the stream was running too high and fast for anything other than a boat anchor to stay in place, the beach was clean, crisp and being hit by gentle rolling surf.
I refit my extra long noodle rod with a reel spooled in 6 lb test, tied on a silver & blue spoon and cast away. Before long I felt a little bump, felt my line tighten and then any doubt that I had hooked my first surf steelhead when it turn and took a run for deeper water. It did not take long and I was back in a familiar groove as the line screamed, I gained line and the fish jumped before running again. I eventually landed the fish and spent the rest of the day casting spoons, kast masters and even stickbaits past the surf into massive schools of steelhead.
If you plan on giving surf fishing for steelhead a try you will need a few simple items – waders in case you need to leave the beach, a long rod to gain a little extra distance, light weight line ( I prefer 6lb. test) and a variety of spoons, jerkbaits and similar lure capable of being thrown past the surf line.
Good Luck, Good Fishing!