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Frye: Outlook good for steelhead season

| Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 7:56 p.m.

Chuck Murray is expecting big things this fall and into winter.

A biologist in the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Lake Erie research unit and an avid steelhead fisherman, himself he's predicting a better-than-average steelhead season.

That would be a change from the recent past.

“I think we kind of hit a low point in 2010. But I also think things are on their way back up,” Murray said. “The runs have been looking real good early, so I'm optimistic.”

Others agree this year's season is off to a relatively good start.

“There were fish in the streams as early as August,” said Shelley Moore of Poor Richard's Bait and Tackle in Erie.

“Guys have been doing pretty good so far, catching a lot of fish.”

“Now that we've got more water in the creeks over the last week or so, it's really starting to look like we could get a good run,” said Elaine Gaczkowski of Folly's End Campground.

“I've seen a lot of fish caught already, and they've been from just legal all the way up to some really nice sizes.”

That rain she spoke of has been the key to getting more fish in the streams.

“That's what initiates those large pulses of fish coming back into the streams. If we get a wet fall, it should be a good season,” Murray said. “There seem to be lots of fish out there.”

That can be attributed to a number of factors.

The commission has been stocking bigger steelhead smolts; they were nearly 7 inches long this year, just about the optimum size and the biggest since 2001, he noted. That's led to better survival rates. At the same time, the sea lamprey population in Lake Erie is down, meaning there's been less wounding of steelhead, and a decline in the lake's walleye population has meant less predation.

The best time for catching them is typically from mid-November through January, he said.

“One of the old-timers I know always told me that the best time to fish was right around bear season, so I always look for that date on the calendar,” he said.

So the only question is, what are you waiting for?

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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