In the shadows of downtown Cleveland there are fish, big fish. It may not be the most idyllic setting for a steelhead fishery but the steelhead that run up the Rocky River from Lake Erie every fall really don't care. Nor should you if you want to hook-up with some chrome.
The Rocky River is one of five Lake Erie tributaries stocked with Manistee strain steelhead. If you are wondering where to find these magical fish, the Ohio DNR has a pretty good map showing designated steelhead trout fishing areas and public access points along the Rocky River.
Rocky River ODNR Steelhead Trout Fishing Map
Fun Fact: Rocky River was named one of the “150 Best Places to fish in America” in the June 2007 issue of Field and Stream magazine.
Best Rocky River Fishing Spots
The Ohio DNR map is great and all but if I'm going to drive 7 hours to fish a river I've never seen, I want to know where I'm going, exactly where I am going. So I created this Google map of Rocky River fishing spots including the 13 Ohio DNR designated steelhead trout fishing areas and public access points.
Included are the Emerald Necklace, Rock Cliff Spring, Madison Pool, Horse Ford, Morley Ford, Lorain Rd Bridge, Blue Bank Pools, Mastic Woods, South Mastic Picnic Areas, Brookpark Overpass, Cedar Point Area and the Lagoon Dam steelhead fishing areas.
Rocky River Steelhead Trout Fishing Map
Rocky River Steelhead Fishery
The Rocky River runs through the western Cleveland metro area and is one of five Lake Erie tributaries stocked annually by the ODNR with Little Manistee strain steelhead. The steelhead migrate into Lake Erie during the warm summer months and return back to the river each year in the Fall.
The Rocky River is a meandering river with low to moderate gradient with numerous abandoned river fords that provide ideal steelhead holding water. The river is a mostly shallow (and easily-walkable), mid-sized stream with a varying bottom of shale, rock, silt and mud. The Cleveland Metroparks owns the majority of the river and its surrounding area, and provides unrestricted access to anglers.
Steelhead Alley Outfitters gives us a glimpse of what fly fishing for big steelhead in small Lake Erie tributaries is all about.
When is the Best Time to Fish Rocky River for Steelhead
The main season for the steelhead is September through May. Although rare, steelhead have been caught in the summer months as well, with the exception of July.
Rocky River Flow Chart
The USGS Rocky River flow gauge near Berea, OH provides real-time stream flow data. The chart below shows the stream flow (in cfs) for the past seven days. The Rocky River fishes best when the stream flow is between 150-250 cfs. The average run-off time for Rocky River is 2-3 days.
Ideal Flow (cfs)
Average Run-Off Time
When the Rocky River flow gage reads 300 cfs and is falling, conditions are prime for fishing and it's time to grab your rod and ditch work.
Rocky River Fishing Report
Of course before you run out the door you'll want to check the latest Rocky River fishing report. Mike Durkalec (Ohio DNR) publishes the Cleveland Metroparks fishing report which is an excellent source for the latest conditions on Rocky River.
Best Flies for Rocky River
Effective flies for catching steelhead in Rocky River include basic egg, nymph and streamer patterns. A handful of fly patterns, including some that mimic two of Steelhead Alley’s most fed-upon baitfish – the Emerald Shiner and Gizzard Shad, are all you really need to get started.
If you like to swing flies, RiverBum offers a great selection of classic steelhead flies that will catch fish anywhere. Set includes 30 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and durable fly box.
If you prefer to dead drift flies, BASSDASH offers a great selection of some of the most effective egg flies and attractor patterns. Set includes 57 flies (see list below) and high-grade double-sided fly box.
You can make steelhead fishing as complicated as you like or keep it pretty simple.
If you're fly fishing, a single-handed, 9-ft, 6- or 7-wt rod and large arbor reel with a good drag and floating line will suffice. This setup is great for fishing streamers and tandem nymph rigs as well. If you are into swinging flies, an 11-ft switch rod or 12-ft double-hand spey rod makes life a lot easier.
Heading out to do some steelhead or salmon fishing and need an affordable fly rod, reel and line to get started?
Look no further than the Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Outfit. An 8 Wt. setup that is perfect as a first big-game outfit or backup travel rod.