Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Potential state record steelhead tips Erie scales

Tallmadge, Ohio – It was a red-letter day for Tallmadge angler
Jason Brooks, who will likely capture a coveted spot in the Ohio
state record fish book.

While fishing about 15 miles from Lorain’s Avon Point on June
25, Brooks reeled in what could be the new state record steelhead
trout. The fish weighed 21 pounds, 3 ounces and measured 38
inches.

The current recognized state record steelhead trout weighs 20.97
pounds and measures 361/2 inches. It was caught Oct. 2, 1996, by
Mike Shane of New Middleton while fishing off Conneaut.

Brooks was fishing with his partner, Joe Boewe of Parma, aboard
the former’s 22-foot Grady White boat, docked docked in
Vermilion.

The anglers were actually targeting steelhead that morning,
fishing in 68 feet of water. They were trolling Stinger spoons
behind Dipsy Divers set at “1” and played 103 feet back, Brooks
said.

“I’m an offshore walleye man but for about three weeks I’ll
target steelhead as long as they’re at a reasonable distance,”
Brooks said.

The potential state record trout fell for a Stinger spoon in a
“cat-dog” finish, Brooks said also.

Brooks said the fish jumped three times and power-dived in much
the same fashion as a walleye.

When brought aboard, the fish was hung on a 20-pound fisherman’s
scale but that tool broke as the hook bottomed out.

Concerned, Brooks called ahead to Erie Outfitters in Sheffield
Lake and was advised to head to a boat launch where a member of the
sporting goods store would take the angler and his catch to a
business with a certified scale large enough to weigh the fish.

Its species was verified by Phil Hillman, fisheries manager for
the DNR Division of Wildlife’s District Three (Northeast Ohio)
Office in Akron.

It was Hillman who has inspected the past three record
steelhead, noting that two of them have come from the Avon
area.

Area anglers are both excited and envious of the Brooks catch,
including those who fish the streams during the steelhead’s
spawning runs.

“I am a little surprised that it took 14 years to break the old
record. The talk in the coffee shop is that with the good Lake Erie
forage we should be seeing more 20-plus pound steelhead and we’re
just not,” said Les Ober, an area trout angler.

“I did know that it would happen eventually but not take 14
years,”_he said.

Ober said also that he is a little perplexed that stream anglers
are not finding these 20-pounders, either. Perhaps that is because
such fish are not running far upstream in order to spawn but
staying in the various streams’ lower sections.

“It’s not like the big Western rivers that see big fish. Maybe
our rivers are too shallow and the big fish don’t go far up them,
or if they do they’re quick about it and go back into the lake,”
Ober said.

Hillman has a slightly different twist, noting that big fish get
that way because they are, well, piggish gluttons, feasting on Lake
Erie’s abundant forage.

“Such fish don’t come back to spawn every year. They just stay
out in the lake – possibly around hot water discharges during the
winter – eating and putting on weight instead of migrating into a
stream. The same is true for the really big king salmon,” Hillman
said.

Thus, Hillman says, the chances remain strong that another
record-breaking steelhead is out there.

“I don’t think it will take another 14 years, either,” Hillman
said.

Brooks said he intends to file the required documentation with
the Outdoor Writers of Ohio, which certifies state record fish in
the state.

“As soon as I get the paperwork we’ll start the process,” said
Tom Cross, chairman of the OWO State Record Fish Committee.

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