Bridge replacement at Harpersfield to disrupt steelheaders

Harpersfield Covered Bridge Gone
The replacement of the iconic Harpersfield Covered Bridge will slow – but not entirely stop – fishing the Grand River at this popular steelhead hole. (Photo by Jeffrey L. Frischkorn)

The fabled Grand River steelhead fishing hole at Ashtabula County Metroparks’ Harpersfield Dam in Harpersfield Township is undergoing a massive work project that will unquestionably disrupt angling.

It is part of the 53-acre Harpersfield Dam Park, owned by the Ashtabula County Metroparks System.

Obviously then, once construction work stopped for the weekend the trout had no problem venturing as far upstream to the face of the dam as they could.

Being replaced is the iconic 228-foot wooden one-lane cover bridge that crosses the Grand River. Until its removal, the bridge was the third longest covered bridge in Ohio. This replacement project is costing $6 million, with $5 million in federal funding.

Such work means, however, that lots of heavy equipment and more than a little shuffling and disturbing of the stream bed and shoreline is underway.

As steelhead – along with smallmouth bass, rock bass and even walleye anglers know – the adjacent 326-foot Harpersfield Dam also underwent a total replacement, which similarly disrupted fishing. This multi-million-dollar project began in 2016 and took nearly four years to complete.

Without stretching a point too much, it’s fair to say that steelhead fishing will likely be a hit-or-miss proposition for at least one-quarter mile downstream from the dam bridge.

Even so, the work won’t entirely stop the angling. On a recent Saturday afternoon, only two anglers were seen fishing below the dam and about where the bridge once crossed the stream.

One of those anglers was using a centerpin spinning system and on the third cast – using a minnow beneath a balsa-wood float, landed a steelhead of about six or seven pounds.

In all, the bridge-replacement project is expected to take 18 months to complete, and plans call for some type of two-lane covered bridge rising from the Grand River’s stream bed.

However, by replacing the dam, the invasive and destructive sea lamprey was thus denied about 600 stream miles of potential spawning habitat.

Note, too, that plans are in the works to construct a round-about on Route 534 near the bridge project. This effort could disrupt traffic even more.

Categories: Blog Content, Ohio – Jeffrey Frischkorn

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