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Fishing Report Blog

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Rocky River Fishing Report - January 3, 2013

Posted: 1/3/2013
Posted By: Mike Durkalec

***Wednesday January 9 morning update: The warmer temperatures have improved steelhead fishing in the Rocky and Chagrin rivers the past few days, so anglers should get out while they can before more melt-off and rain muddies the rivers.  Ice on local lakes and ponds was just getting thick enough to allow ice fishing before this thaw, but has deteriorated to the point that it is no longer safe to venture onto.***

The Rocky River is slushy this morning following another very cold night.  Given the weekend weather forecast, the trend in the coming days should be slush and ice in the mornings with conditions progressively improving into the afternoon.   Ice is continuing to form on smaller area lakes and ponds, as well.  Anglers can check the latest flow and temperature trends at the following link: 
<Rocky River flow gage data>

The new year has ushered in a blast of real winter weather, and the river has been especially slushy in the mornings the past fews days accordingly.  Given the weather forecast for the coming days, anglers should expect this trend to likely continue into the weekend.  The slow water by the marina area tends to be among the first places to ice up during frigid weather.  On most of the river yesterday the slush thinned out towards afternoon, though, and the small number of hardy anglers on the water were rewarded with a few willing steelhead.   The steelhead bite has been challenging the past several days as we transition into winter here in Northeast Ohio, and most fish have been concentrated in deeper sections of pools and tailouts.  Despite the relatively tough fishing, a number of lucky anglers have landed very large steelhead over the past week, as evidenced by some of the photos that follow the report.

Most of the steelhead that have been in the river for the past few weeks have at least seen, if not been hooked on, the standard size and color spawn sacks.  At times like this, plenty of fish seem to take an aversion to eggs and I like to say they get “egged out” in the highest traffic holes on the river.  Some tips that can work under such circumstances are to use different colors of spawn sacks the fish haven’t seen as much (blue can be a great change-up color) and/or to use smaller baits.  Another tactic is to move towards other non-egg offerings more as the fish get accustomed to seeing spawn.  Such offerings include small  hair or marabou jigs tipped with a few maggots or a waxworm, live minnows, plastic tube jigs or Trout Worms, various fly patterns and wobbling plugs or spoons worked slowly through a hole.  I actually have had egg imitations (flies and beads) routinely outfish real eggs when the fish see quite a bit of pressure.  You’ll see an example from this past week of the results of moving away from real eggs in the highlight below.

A layer of ice has formed on our smaller lakes and ponds, and a few ice anglers are just beginning to venture out close to shore at places like Wallace, Shadow and Judges lakes.  State DNRs typically recommend that anglers only walk on solid ice at least 4 inches thick.  The cold nights we’ve had is likely pushing us close to that range on some of the smaller waters.   Please be aware that in Cleveland Metroparks, it is the angler’s responsibility to check ice thickness as they proceed slowly from the shoreline.  Also keep in mind that ice does not form consistently, especially in larger lakes or areas where wind or a small drainage entering causes some current.  Once anglers are on the ice, small jigs tipped with maggots suspended below a small ice bobber, live minnows, PowerBait, and jigging spoons (such as Swedish Pimple or Forage Minnow) all work well for winter trout.  The next batch of winter trout will most likely be stocked in late January.

Anglers wishing to learn about the basic equipment and some tips on ice fishing in Cleveland Metroparks may wish to attend our Winteriffic event this Sunday January 6 from noon-5:00pm at the Chalet in Mill Stream Run Reservation in Strongsville.  More on this event, which is free to the public and offers information regarding all kinds of winter outdoor pursuits, can be found at the following link: 
<Winteriffic information>.

Shawn Loomis’ annual steelhead pilgrimage.   Shawn is the person who introduced me to the steelhead of the Rocky River over 25 years ago.  Since that time, he acquired work skills in the Marine Corps that took him and his family away from Ohio.  But Shawn still loves fishing for steelhead, and typically makes an annual trip from North Carolina to fish for them here in Ohio around the New Year.  So, last week I was not totally caught off guard to recieve his relatively last minute message “Hey, I’m coming out to fish” just prior to the weekend and just as the fishing conditions grew more challenging due to our first real winter weather of the season.  The plan was to fish Sunday through Tuesday morning, then drive back home.

On Sunday morning, we got out on my 12’ johnboat by the marina and fished most of the day to hook 7 steelhead between us, landing about half of them.  This is what I consider a tough day of steelhead fishing for this time of year, especially considering how good the fishing had been down there all the previous week.  Of course, all the regulars fishing that area said it had been much better down there the day before.   I was especially pleased, though, that Shawn hooked into a few quality fresh steelies.

I had to work New Years Eve, but arranged for Shawn to fish the river with a friend visiting from Columbus that day.  I advised Shawn that having some change-up baits different from spawn sacks would be a good idea, and he made sure to have some jigs and a pack of maggots.  As it turned out, he landed three nice steelies that day and Scott, who he was fishing with, got the feared "goose egg".  Two of Shawn's three fish bit on the jig and maggot combo.  After hearing that news I responded, “Way to show him how an old school steelheader does it”.

We had a few hours to fish New Years day and, as it turns out, I became a victim of my own advice.  I stubornly fished eggs exclusively and only landed one steelhead while Shawn landed two…one on the jig and maggot combo and the other on a spawn sack with several maggots also on the hook.  Ordinarily I would say “Who the heck does that?”, regarding the spawn and maggot combo, but it’s hard to be critical when something works.  There is definitely a lesson to be learned in there somehwhere.  I’ve never been happier to see someone catch more then me.  In hindsight, the fishing could have been better (it was much better a week earlier), but it also could have been much worse.  Shawn expressed that he considered his visit a success well worth the trip as he packed his car to head home 8 hours to the south.  I have included a few photos of Shawn’s fish below.  See you again next year, buddy.

Issue reported with fishing blog RSS updates.    Several regular followers of the blog have recently reported issues with receiving RSS updates in their newsfeed since the transition to the new website.  Our web folks are aware of the issue and expect to have a solution shortly.  Blog readers who use this service may simply need to re-subscribe to the RSS updates, but I will have more on this in the near future.  The website transition was a smooth process overall, but there are always likely to be some minor glitches when a major change like this takes place.  In the meantime, thank you for your patience and you can still access the report directly through the URL link or a web search (which, of course, you realize if you are reading this!).

If you have a photo that you would like to contribute to the fishing report, or if you have any further questions regarding fishing in the Cleveland Metroparks, you may contact Aquatic Biologist Mike Durkalec at (440) 331-8017 or

Happy New Year,


Jesse submits this week "I went out briefly three times this past week and my best day was on New Years Eve, when I landed 3 of 3. I started the day with spawn sacks and didn't get anything until I changed to a jig and caught 3 within an hour.  I went out yesterday in the slush and was rewarded with a little one. Kind of hard fishing in the slush. I want to congratulate my buddy Gary on his first steelhead (top photo). He and my friend Rick went out Sunday, the one day I was unable to go. After several trips and a few lost fish Gary landed his first steelhead" (photos and report courtesy of Jesse Sohl).

Bob is another angler who has made the transition from spawn sacks to jigs this week and has been rewarded with success.  He further reports from the river yesterday "I'm proud to tell you that my daughter Rachel got her first steelie today on the centerpin!  Today was our last opportunity for a little while to get out since Rachel goes back to school and I go back to work from vacation. I took her to one of my favorite tailouts and it was pretty slushy. After about 15 minutes, she yelled out that she got one. It put up a pretty good fight for how cold it was and she said her arm was getting sore, but she managed to land it. She handled the pin pretty well for her just getting into it. I don't have a picture of it because shortly after we got it out of the water, it slipped out of my hand and got away. Rachel wasn't upset because she felt bad for it because of how cold it was outside. Rachel really likes the pin, so I guess I'm going to have to buy another one, ha ha!"  (photos and report courtesy of Bob Brunner).

Joyce had a wonderful day fishing the Rock with her sons Christopher and Daniel this week.  Christopher landed his first (top photo) and second (a big one!) steelhead ever, and  Daniel and Joyce also caught a few.  Joyce was a very proud mother! (photos courtesy of Joyce Smith).

Gio hooked four fish on Sunday, and two of them were large fish.  He estimated the trophy buck in the top photo to be in the 15 pound class, and I would not disagree.  He released all his fish.  Great job, Gio! (photos courtesy of Giovanni Quintana).

Ray caught this Rocky River steelie on jig and maggot and reports there is plenty of room and fish in the river this week (photo courtesy of Ray Wodgik).

Jason caught this 27" buck steelie just south of the marina on an ice jig tipped with spawn sack and a waxworm (photo courtesy of Jason).

Jeff Sutliff landed two fine steelhead on the northern Rocky using a home tied jig tipped with waxworm on Saturday.  The fish pictured is 7.3 lbs (photo courtesy of John Fay).

Matthew reports "I have finally been successful this season with a slew of steelhead in on December 27-28.  I need to thank an angler named Mike for his pointers on the river the past two days, his picture of me, and sharing his fishing hole. Thanks Mike!  All my fish were taken on my 5wt fly rod with egg patterns I have been tying at home. Thank you to everyone who makes this such a great place to fish." (photos courtesy of Matthew Fehrmann).

Justin landed his first steelhead ever on New Years Day swinging a fly in the Rock.  He has a nice story detailing the event in his 
<blog> (photo courtesy of Justin Rosander).

Emmanuel, John and Howard had a fantastic day on the northern Rocky on Friday, landing several steelies including some trophy size fish (photos courtesy of Emmanuel Roman).

Matt, visiting from Minnesota, caught this fine buck on an egg pattern while fly fishing the Rocky River recently (photo courtesy of Dave).

Jeff caught this 32" hen steelie estimated at 12 pounds in the Rock on Sunday morning.  He noted the bite shut down for him after 8:30 am (photo courtesy of Jeff Abbott).

Corey caught this fresh hen steelie fly fishign the Chagrin River this week (photo courtesy of Corey Bockhoff).

Lavell stikes again this week with this fine Rocky River chromer caught by Rockcliff Springs access (photo courtesy of Lanell Mckinney).

Nate continues to do well using the fly pattern his young son Malachi dreamed up.  What a pretty hen! (photo courtesy of Nate Adams).

Dan ushered in the end of the year with some fresh Rocky River steelies.  He had a good day late last week using small chartreuse spawn sacks.  I wonder if his resolution will be to fish the Rocky River more this year, considering he only fished it about 5 days a week in 2012!?  I'm just jealous! (photos courtesy of Dan McCutcheon).

Travis, Randy and Kevin had another good week on the northern Rock. They have been doing well with white tube jigs (photos courtesy of Travis Males).

Justin also caught a bunch of quality Rocky River steelies this week (photos courtesy of Justin Marconi).

Shawn Loomis, from North Carolina, caught some nice Rocky River steelies between Sunday and Tuesday morning, as detailed in the report highlight. 

Note: The fishing report is updated monthly in June, July, and August and weekly every other month

2016 Cleveland Metroparks Registered Fishing Guides (name, company, contact)

16-001 Patrick Campbell, Fisher of Men Outfitters, LTD,

16-002 Monte Casey, The Steelhead Guide,

16-003 Don Mathews, Steelhead School,

16-004 Jeffery Liskay, Silver Fury Guide Service & Schools,, (440) 781-7536

16-005 Patrick Robinson, Steelhead Alley Outfitters,

16-006 Gareth Thomas, Steelhead Alley Outfitters,, (216) 235-5056

16-007 Nathan Miller, Steelhead Alley Outfitters,, (440) 796-6105

16-008 Jim Lampros,,, (216) 513-6011

More information on Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Guide Permit requirements, including the permit application, you may check the following link: <Fishing Guide Permit Program>

Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund

Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund helps provide a rewarding fishing experience to Northeast Ohio anglers through the stocking of rainbow trout, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and other sport fish. The Fund also supports children's fishing derbies and creation and restoration of essential habitat in the ponds, lakes, and rivers within Cleveland Metroparks.

For more information or to make a gift to Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund, including a web donation option, please visit: <Fishing Fund Donations Online>


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