Trout fishing opportunity worth the price of admission

If you have not had the opportunity to fly fish for big trout in the fabled Cold Creek at the state steelhead hatchery in Erie County, it is worth spending $3 for the chance.

If you have had the opportunity, you do not need encouragement to apply again, for a half-mile section of the creek, which erupts from an underground river via “blue holes,” can provide a morning of great, easy fun for an angler and his or her party.

I was invited there several years ago by a ladyfriend whose name had been drawn in the annual fishing lottery for the hatchery. She and the rest of her party knew little about fly fishing, but she knew someone who did – at least someone who knew more than they did. Me. So I showed up at the assigned date and time with enough flyrod outfits and terminal tackle for all hands.

The hatchery typically releases older breeder trout to the stretch of Cold Creek, and they are eager to gulp down flies, even ones less than expertly presented. Which makes the lottery fishing a great experience for beginners, among others. I was able to give my charges a short lesson in basic flycasting and coached each into catching trout. All hands had a ball for a couple of hours.

This year’s edition of the program will be open on selected dates from May 2 through Nov. 30. To be eligible for the random drawing, submit an application form and a nonrefundable $3 application fee between March 1 and March 31.

Applications may be completed online at wildohio.gov or by calling 800-WILDLIFE to obtain an application form. Only one application is allowed per person. The adult fishing season will run May 2–Nov. 30, and a youth season will run June 13–Aug. 12. Applicants of the youth lottery must be under the age of 16 when they apply.

Around 90 adult and 90 youth permits will be issued. Selected anglers will be allowed to bring two adults and three youths under the age of 16 (no more than six people total) to their assigned session. A computer-generated random drawing is set for early April, with results to be posted on the division’s website at wildohio.gov. Successful youth applicants will be notified by mail of their fishing dates. 

Special fishing rules will be in effect, including a ban on catch-and-release fishing; keep what you catch. That is the idea, inasmuch as the hatchery needs space for newly reared breeder trout. The daily creel limit will be five trout per angler.

Anglers will be required to check in upon arrival and check out on leaving. Fishing sessions will run 7 a.m. to noon for adults, and two sessions per day, 7 to11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m for youth-only days. Anglers age 16 and older must possess a valid 2016 Ohio fishing license. 

An Ohio resident annual fishing license is $19, or a one-day license is $11. The latter may be returned later to a license agent for credit toward an annual license.

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