Erie Steelhead Alley: Road Trip

A few weeks ago Walt Young, a good friend of mine, and myself decided to take a trip to fish in Erie. Neither of us had been to Erie for a couple of years and were well over due for hard fought battles, heavy weight rods, and fresh steelhead. Steelhead are known for putting up lengthly struggles compared to Trout, this is mostly because they reach the same sexual maturity at a much larger size than Trout do. In the spur of the moment, Walt and myself gathered our things and hit the road towards Erie. We had no idea how long we were going to stay in Erie, unsure of where we wanted to spend our time fishing, and not a clue where we were going to stay each night. This seemed very fitting for our friendship and sure helps in having an adventure.

Fortunately, we were able to find a room at the Riveria Motel which was 50 dollars a night, directly across the street from 2 bars, and had a “Welcome Fisherman” sign out front. This seemed as though fate was on our side, at least for the moment. Unfortunately, it did nothing but rain the first two days that we were there and we had very little time to fish due to streams being unfishable from high water. This was not a big deal, we spent the majority of our time those two days either touring the Presque Isle State Park, visiting a local bar, or in the Presque Isle Casino. Not quite the fishing trip we had intended, but according to me this vacation is getting out to a great start. All that we needed to do was catch a couple fish the last day of our trip and we go home very happy men.

On the last evening of our trip I was monitoring the stream gauges using my phone with an app called “Fishhead” (If you do not have this app, it makes checking stream gauges a breeze and you absolutely need to purchase it.). Walnut creek appeared to be dropping very rapidly, which is very typical of the Erie tributaries, and it looked as though we were going to be able to fish the next morning. The Erie tributaries are small streams that drain small areas, relatively. This is the reason that these streams have the tendency to rise and fall very quickly. To give you more of an idea, Walnut Creek peaked at nearly 500 cubic feet per second at lunch time and by the next morning at 7 am it was back down to only 150 cubic feet per second.

Successfully put a fish in the net working off color water near the mouth of Walnut Creek.

The high water had receded which created perfect fishing conditions the last morning of our trip. The water was still a tannish or greenish color depending on which section of the stream you were fishing. High water and zero fishing pressure from all the rain left the fresh fish (often referred to as “chromers”) that came in the stream untouched for two days. The peach colored egg bite was on and we were into fish almost the entire day on both Walnut Creek and Elk Creek. Fortunate to have a good friend who is a writer and photographer, I was able to be the “model” for some great pictures that Walt took. If any of you are from the Altoona area, Walt wrote his column in the Altoona Mirror last week on our steelhead trip and included a picture of the fish I caught on Elk Creek.

A nice fish coming to hand on Elk Creek.
A nice fish coming to hand on Elk Creek.

It is always nice to be able to spend time getting away on fishing trips with good friends. This “mini” trip to Erie with Walt will be one that I will remember for a long time. Erie is always one of my favorite places to go fishing during the winter months. The steelhead fishing can still be very good and you will see a lot less angling pressure during this time of the year. I try to make it a habit of getting to Erie at least once a year for some steelhead fishing. After checking out the Presque Isle State Park, I think my next trip to Erie will be in the spring pursuing bass in the bays. If you have never fished for steelhead in Erie, or had the privilege of viewing the Presque Isle State Park (which has more visitors per year than Yellowstone National Park) these are two things that you need to put on your bucket list.

Thanks to Walt Young for taking all of the pictures from this trip, below are a few more awesome shots from him.

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