Steelhead Fishing Etiquette

By Andy Whitcomb

Nov 16, 2015

The presence of steelhead trout in or around Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie tributaries now has anglers out in droves.

The presence of steelhead trout in or around Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie tributaries now has anglers out in droves. The size of the run so far this year seems to be well below expected and there are times when it appears there are more anglers than fish. Here are a few fishing etiquette rules so everyone can “get along” under such high pressure conditions.

  1. Fish “Off” times. Avoid weekends, if possible. Monitor hunting seasons. “Opening Day” of a particular hunting season can lessen the fishing pressure in some areas. And learn to embrace bad weather. A little cold, light spitting rain and sleet probably will not affect steelhead fishing activity but will keep the fair weather anglers inside.

  2. Arrive early. If someone is already in “your spot,” and there is only room for one, get there earlier next time. Look at this as an opportunity to explore some new holes or tributaries.

  3. Match the technique. If there is a popular stretch of water with synchronized fly anglers drifting and casting at similar rates to avoid tangling, don’t think you can zing a small spoon through that hole with your spinning outfit.

  4. Stay wide. When you must pass an angler in the stream, try to swing wide on shore. If someone walks through your hole and disturbs the fish, don’t give up. Surprisingly, it might even help sulking fish return to feeding behavior in a few minutes.

  5. Be patient. On most of my steelhead fishing trips, I notice an old fellow or two sitting on a log, waiting and watching the crowds fish. When an angler leaves, they rarely fill the open spot because the chances are great that the angler(s) left because the fish just aren’t biting. Yet. These crafty anglers know there are windows when the steelhead trout “turn on” or a fresh pack runs up the stream and that too many wader boots in the stream can affect the mood of the fish. When they notice any remaining, stubborn anglers hooking up, then they leave the relative comfort of the log, enter the icy stream, and join in the fun.

If you would like to check for places to go steelhead fishing, try our interactive map!

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.