CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Ohio can be a February winter wonderland, a great place to enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and snowball fights, not to mention ice fishing.
During what will undoubtedly be tagged as one of the warmest winters on record, following a balmy 2015-2016 winter that ranked fourth on the list, there are still a wealth of winter fishing options. Cleveland area anglers don't have far to go to find open water and trophy fish that will cooperate.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife has created a steelhead trout bonanza, silver bullets roaring up rivers and streams from Lake Erie in winter and spring. There has been a fresh run of steelhead of late, according to Cleveland Metroparks fisheries expert Mike Durkalec. The big trout have been slipping into the Rocky and Chagrin rivers for weeks, fish still hanging around from the mouths of the rivers to their upstream tributaries.
The same holds true for little Euclid Creek and the Cuyahoga River. The Grand and Ashtabula rivers and Conneaut and Arcola creeks are excellent angling choices east of the Cleveland area.
Rain and snow kick up river levels around northern Ohio, but the waters always settle down. Catches are usually good on nickel- and dime-sized spawn bags and small lead-head jigs tipped with maggots and waxworms. Fly fishermen are casting egg and nymph patterns and small streamers.
The balmy weather foiled the popular ice fishing for stocked trout at the Cleveland Metroparks lakes. Despite the lack of ice, about 3,000 trout were released for winter anglers, and they're biting for shoreline casters on jigs or bare hooks tipped with minnows, nightcrawlers, maggots, waxworms and the ever-popular Berkley PowerBait.
Wallace Lake is the hot spot, followed by Shadow, Ledge, Judge's and Ranger lakes in the Cleveland Metroparks.
Just for fun, a group of local steelheaders host the 4th annual Barbie Rod Steelhead Derby on March 25 on the Rocky River. Anglers must use the kiddie-style fishing gear, not an easy trick with brawny trout. There are prizes for the largest steelhead trout, as well as raffles and a cookout upstream from the Rocky River Launch Ramp. Check the event web site: barbiefishingderby.weebly.com. There is a Facebook page.
March is a busy time for the Trout Club of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The Fly Fishing Film Tour returns to the museum on March 4 at 5:30 p.m., a $20 show open to the public. The film is glamorous tribute to fly fishing around the world, and kicks off with a social hour and fly fishing exhibits. The Trout Club's 29th annual banquet is March 10. For tickets call the museum box office, 216-231-1177, or Chagrin River Outfitters in Chagrin Falls.
Fly tying is in the spotlight at Merwin's Wharf on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. Open Vise Nights will spotlight local fly tying experts March 8 in the Lock 44 meeting room from 5-9 p.m.
Chagrin River Outfitters has fly fishing classes, including the classroom and on-water Steelheading 101 on March 18 and March 25 from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Cost is $150. Bring waders. The Chagrin shop has Fly Tying 101 on March 4 and March 11 from 8 a.m.-noon; Fly Tying 102 on March 12 and March 18 from 8 a.m.-noon; and the Art of Tying Dry Flies on March 26 from 8 a.m.-noon. The classes are $60.
The annual Castapalooza on April 8 on the Grand River at Hidden Valley Park in Madison brings fly fishing and fly tying experts from the Great Lakes and Northeast Ohio region for free presentations from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
If you're looking for fishing tackle, browse the Holy Mackerel Fishing Tackle Flea Market on April 6-9 at New Russia Township Hall, 46300 Butternut Ridge Rd., Oberlin.
D'Arcy Egan, the long-time Plain Dealer outdoors writer who retired in 2015, will occasionally write columns to appear in The Plain Dealer and on cleveland.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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