The Brown Trout Research Program in Ohio – Assessing Survival, Growth and Movement

Dr. Joe Conroy, Fisheries Biologist, Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, Inland Fisheries Research Unit, Hebron OH Presented to the Clear Fork Chapter, Trout Unlimited – May 14, 2012.

Conroy works with the ODNR DOW Inland Fisheries Research Unit, which is responsible for all fisheries in Ohio that are not living in or migrating to Lake Erie.

In the mid-1980’s, DOW recognized the lack of cold water fishing opportunities in Ohio, but realized that was mostly because of the lack of ecological potential for a cold water fishery in the state. A research project was initiated from 1990- 1994 to prioritize streams in Ohio that might be suitable for stocking of brown trout. The purpose of the study was to assess streams for the probable success of a “put, grow, and take” brown trout fishery, in which trout would be stocked at 6-8” length and then grow to legal length for angler harvest. The idea was such a fishery, once established, would be continued long- term, so only streams that would support a healthy trout population would be considered for this program.

Using available data, 39 streams across the state were selected for further consideration as possibilities for a brown trout stocking program. Criteria for further consideration were: 1) appropriate habitat and cover, 2) summer temperatures below 75F, 3) presence of native fish that might prey on or be affected by stocked trout, and 4) at least one mile of public stream access. Initially, four streams were found to meet these criteria, but two were subsequently eliminated due to limited public access. One of those eliminated was Apple Creek in Wayne County. Two streams were chosen to begin a brown trout stocking program. One was Clear Creek, in Hocking County, south of Columbus, much of which is located in the Clear Creek Metro Park. The second was the Clear Fork Branch of the Mohican River. Two sections of this stream were selected, one in Richland County, east of Bellville and above Pleasant Hill Reservoir, and the other in Ashland County, below Pleasant Hill Reservoir, most of which flows through the Mohican State Park. In addition to these two new streams, brown trout stocking was continued in the Mad River in Champaign County, south of Urbana, which had been successfully stocked with trout since the 1950s.

These three streams have now been stocked with brown trout raised in ODNR DOW hatcheries since the mid-1990s. Stocking of 25,000 yearling trout, 6-8” in length, currently takes place in mid-October. Fish are stocked at 500 fish per mile of each stream in the program. Annual stocking rates for each stream are: Clear Creek (3,500), Clear Fork above Pleasant Hill reservoir (7,400), , and Mad River (11,500).  Brown trout are no longer stocked below the Pleasant Hill dam.  Rather, 12-14 inch rainbow trout are stocked in the fall in the Clear Fork within the Mohican State Park.

Very little is currently known about the survival, growth, and movement of these fish following stocking. Thus, a 4-year research program was initiated in 2011 with a final report due in September, 2015. Aims of the study are to see how well stocked trout are surviving in the three streams, how fast they are growing to legal harvest size (12”) and beyond, and how far fish are moving from the point of stocking. Fish are recovered by electro-shocking along much of the length of each stream in late August, and data is collected on numbers and size of trout. In addition, all fish are being tagged by insertion of a tiny metal tag into the muscle at various locations on the trout’s body prior to stocking. This allows recovered fish to be identified as to where and when they were put in the stream.

The first summer of data collection was in 2011, which happened to be the hottest July in the past 60 years. That put maximal thermal stress on the trout and revealed the ability of each stream to maintain summer temperatures that will sustain the trout. Brown trout can endure higher temperatures than rainbows, but there are strict thermal limits. The optimal growth temperature range for brown trout is 48-65F. Brown trout are stressed when temperatures exceed 68F. The “incipient lethal temperature” for brown trout is 76F. If stream temperatures exceed 76F, 50% of the population will die within 7 days. Temperatures were measured in each stream with data loggers placed in the stream in areas likely to stay the coolest. In July, temperatures in the Mad River never exceeded 76F, and rarely exceeded 70F. In Clear Creek, temperatures slightly exceeded 76F on 13 days. In Clear Fork above the reservoir, temperatures slightly exceeded 76F on 11 days. However, below the reservoir, temperatures in July exceeded 76F nearly every day (28 days). Unlike the other areas, river flow in this section is controlled by release of water from Pleasant Hill Dam.

Survival of fish in the three rivers was determined by electroshocking in late August. When numbers of fish caught per hour were compared with numbers of July days above 76F for each stream, a clear relationship was found. Highest numbers of fish were counted in the Mad River, with intermediate numbers found in Clear Creek and Clear Fork above the reservoir. However, electroshocking resulted in no trout in the Clear Fork below the reservoir. In the Clear Fork, the highest numbers of trout were recovered near the Gatton Rocks area. Size of fish recovered ranged from 10-23”.

Preliminary data indicate that the growth rates of brown trout vary among the three program streams. In most cases, it appears to take two years for fish to reach12-inches. Movement of fish from the point of stocking has only been monitored thus far in Clear Creek, where tagged fish were released at four locations in October, 2011. Fish were first sampled in February, 2012, prior to any thermal restrictions being established in the stream due to warm weather. At that point, it was found that most fish had only moved a few hundred yards from the point of stocking, either up or downstream. However, a few had moved as far as 5 miles, mostly upstream, showing there is great potential for movement to occur. This may be more significant when summer conditions affect stream temperatures, forcing fish to seek cooler water.

Conroy indicated that he and colleagues will be continuing to collect data from the three streams throughout the seasons of 2012, 2013, and 2014, with the final report due in late 2015. They are making efforts to talk with interested groups, like Trout Unlimited chapters, to keep them updated on what they are finding and obtain feedback on their study. This research is being funded by Federal license fees and sport fishing excise taxes. Audience members asked several questions. In response to a question about fishing pressure in each river, Conroy said there is no good data available on fishing pressure. They are working to obtain some reliable data, but detailed angler and creel surveys are considered too expensive. One audience member said that his experience fishing Clear Fork below the reservoir indicated the presence of large musky there, up as far as the Covered Bridge in Mohican State Park. Little is known about any role these predators may play in trout survival in that section.

Summary prepared by Randy Rowe, Secretary, CFRTU

Macroinvertebrate Survey of Apple Creek

Article by Skip Nault

Spotted Caddis Larva, Hydropsyche species, collected from Apple Creek, photo by Paul Swarmer.

IN JUNE AND LATER IN NOVEMBER of 2012, the Clear Fork River Chapter of Trout Unlimited (CFRTU) conducted a benthic macroinvertebrate survey (BMS) of Apple Creek. Insofar as we know, the only other BMS of Apple Creek was conducted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife 20 years ago when the Division was evaluating the stream for its potential to be included in Ohio’s put-grow-and-take brown trout stocking program. For more on this, see the article on “Apple Creek Trout Fishery in Grosjean Park.” Trout Unlimited has decided to resume these surveys; the reasons for doing so are explained here.

WHAT IS A BENTHIC MACROINVERTEBRATE? Benthic macroinvertebrates are animals that are big enough (macro) to be seen with the naked eye. They lack backbones (invertebrate) and live at least part of their lives on the bottom (benthos) of a body of water. In our studies, the animals we surveyed live in the bottom of streams among sand, gravel and stones, as well as fallen logs, branches, leaves and other decaying vegetable matter, and aquatic plants. Examples of benthic macroinvertebrates are insects (such as mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies), snails, clams, worms and crayfish. They may be just a sixteenth of an inch long, such as midge larvae, or clams and crayfish that can be several inches long.

WHY SURVEY FOR MACROINVERTEBRATES? The single most important reason is to test for water quality. Some species of aquatic organisms, e.g. mayflies and stoneflies, are highly sensitive to chemical pollutants and only occur in high quality streams. Other species, e.g. blood midges and rat-tailed maggots, are pollution tolerant and indicators of chemically compromised streams often with low oxygen content. In between these extremes, are invertebrates that tolerate slightly to moderately polluted streams.

WHY ARE MACROINVERTEBRATES IMPORTANT? Benthic macroinvertebrates are a critical part of the aquatic food web in Apple Creek. They form a vital link to the food chain connecting the nutrients in aquatic plants, algae, and decaying leaf litter to the fish species in the stream. The condition of the benthic macroinvertebrate community reflects the stability and diversity of the larger aquatic food web.

Another reason to survey for macroinvertebrates, at least for those of us that are fly anglers, is that we can get a much better idea of the selection of flies we should be carrying with us in our fly boxes when we fish Apple Creek.

WHY NOT JUST TEST FOR CHEMICAL POLLUTANTS? Chemical tests of water samples can be very expensive. Moreover, such tests can be misleading, providing information only on the presence of chemicals at the time of sampling. Pollutants may have come and gone by the time a sample is taken. The sudden disappearance of a pollution intolerant invertebrate, however, can indicate an earlier polluting event. Also, compared to chemical testing, macroinvertebrates are easy to collect and can be identified by trained volunteers.

In the survey conducted in June, CFRTU also collected data on water clarity, temperature, oxygen content, pH, presence of nitrates and phosphates as well as bacteria such as E. coli. Future BMS surveys by CFRTU will include tests for physical and chemical parameters such as these.

HOW ARE MACROINVERTEBRATES SAMPLED? Two sampling methods are employed. The first uses a “kick seine,”, a one- meter square, and fine-mesh screen, suspended by two poles and held in the riffle area of a stream where most aquatic organisms are found. The sand, gravel and rocks upstream from the net are disturbed with hands and feet, thus a “kick seine,” dislodging organisms that are captured in the net. The contents of the net are emptied into a large tray for examination

The second method uses a sturdy, long-handled net with a D-shaped opening. The dip net is used to sample the undercuts of banks, leaf packs, sediment and aquatic vegetation. The leading flat end of the net is dipped into the sampling area, and the contents emptied into a tray.

HOW ARE THE SURVEY SAMPLES RATED? The macroinvertebrate samples are subjected to a qualitative rating system, called a Pollution Tolerance Index (PTI). The presence or absence of a particular aquatic group, e.g. a caddisfly, is recorded. In this rating system, number of caddisflies is not considered. Those aquatic invertebrates that are very “intolerant” of poor quality water are given a weighting factor of 4 and this factor is multiplied by the number invertebrates listed in that group. A maximum of 7 invertebrate groups are listed under “very pollution intolerant” by the PTI index. At the other end of the spectrum are the “very pollution tolerant” invertebrates that are given a weighting factor of 1. Other invertebrate groups are given a weighting factor of 2 or 3.

A maximum PTI rating for a collection site on a stream is 58. A rating of 10 or less indicates poor water quality, 11-16 fair water quality, 17-22 good water quality, and 23 or more excellent water quality.

HOW DID APPLE CREEK RATE ON THE PTI SYSTEM? “Remarkably well” is the answer! In June the two stretches of stream sampled rated 37 and 30, well above a score of 23 for an excellent rating. In November these two stretches rated an astounding 42 and 47. Apple Creek by this measure is a very, very healthy, stream. Of the most sensitive, pollution tolerant macroinvertebrates, Apple Creek was a home to stoneflies, mayflies, caddisflies, riffle beetles, water penny beetles and gilled snails. The only member of this pollution intolerant group not sampled was the dobsonfly.

WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE? TU will continue to monitor Apple Creek by sampling benthic macroinvertebrates on a regular schedule. Decisions must be made on the number of times per year to sample the stream and to increase the number of sites sampled. The first indication of point or site specific pollution of Apple Creek likely may come from these surveys. This may also prove true for non-point pollution such as from farming communities in Apple Creek’s headwaters. In any event, this gives community leaders an opportunity to identify and mitigate pollution of what is proving to be a remarkably healthy stream and the home to one of Ohio’s newest and successful trout fisheries.

The CFRTU gives special thanks to Don Boysel and Don Dean of the Mad Men chapter of Trout Unlimited who have given their time and expertise in helping us to conduct these surveys and showing us how to sample and identify benthic macroinvertebrates. It would not have happened without them! Information presented here came, in part, from the handbook “My Healthy Stream” by Williams, Dombeck and Wood and from the 4th edition of the “Volunteer Stream Monitoring Training Manual” published by the Miami (Ohio) Conservancy District” and written by Sarah Hippensteel.

Apple Creek Stocking and Fly Fishing Clinics

Article by Skip Nault

On Saturday morning, October 14, 2017, more than 3 dozen Chapter members and their friends gathered at Grosjean Park in Wooster to stock over 450 rainbow, golden (a rainbow strain) and brown trout in a half mile stretch of Apple Creek. At the same time litter was picked up and removed from the stream and stream banks.

That afternoon, members served as gillies to teach novice and beginning anglers how to fly fish. Twenty-six kids and adults learned how to cast a fly line, fish Apple Creek, and for most, how to hook, play, land and release the trout they caught.  The trout seemed to have a case of “lockjaw,” not readily willing to chase flies cast to them.  However students did learn the basics of rigging a fly rd and casting a fly line, and a few lucky students caught and released their catch.

A second stocking was held November 18.  It had rained heavily the night before and during the stocking, but we managed to get 350 trout into the creek.  The creek was swollen with water and we had to postpone the afternoon clinic until next spring.  The watershed received over 3 inches of rain and the steam rose 4-6 feet above normal flow

We appreciate the financial support provided by a grant from the Ohio Division of Wildlife Aquatic Education program, and as always, cooperation and support from Parks and Recreation of the City of Wooster.

The fish stocked in the stream are now proving wonderful fly fishing opportunities for anglers who are arriving at Grosjean Park in big numbers from all over northeast and central Ohio. We especially appreciate that virtually everyone we have encountered is practicing catch and careful release. Past experience has proven that this practice sustains the fishery over the winter, spring and into the following summer months.

Visit the members pictures page on the site for photos of the stocking and fly fishing clinics.

Steelhead Fishery in Ohio Lake Erie Tributaries Better Than Ever!

Kevin Kayle, Fish Biology Supervisor, Fairport Harbor Fish Unit, ODNR Division of Wildlife, Fairport Harbor OH

Steelhead were first stocked in Lake Erie in the 1880’s from the McCloud River in California. However, these fish were introduced into Sandusky Bay, which was completely unsuitable because it is too shallow and too warm in the summer. Little was known about the needs of steelhead in the Great Lakes at that time and these early stockings failed. The modern era of stocking salmonids in Ohio began in 1975 when Coho, Chinook salmon and rainbow trout were stocked in the Rocky and Chagrin Rivers. Salmon stocking in Michigan had been quite successful, with fish feeding aggressively in Lakes Michigan and Huron on the abundant alewives, a bait fish that had entered the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway. However, salmon were never that successful when stocked in the Lake Erie tributaries and had a poor return. During the 1980’s, Ohio shifted stocking to steelhead. At first the “London strain” was used, a domestic strain raised in the London, Ohio, hatchery. These had adequate returns, but higher success rates and much better returns were obtained when the Michigan “Little Manistee” strain was used. In 1996, all Ohio stocking was shifted to these wild steelhead hatched from eggs taken from fish entering the Little Manistee River from Lake Michigan. Since then, the program has had considerable success.

Stocking of steelhead in Lake Erie is done per agreement among the surrounding states (NY, PA, OH and MI) and Ontario. This is overseen by the Great Lakes Fishery Committee which coordinates Fishery Management Goals and Objectives for the state. Of the 1.9 million steelhead smolt stocked annually in Lake Erie tributaries, 58% are from PA hatcheries. Since the late 1990s Ohio has stocked over 400,000 annually from its Castalia hatchery – about 25% of the total stocked in Lake Erie. These are placed in the Vermillion (55,000), the Rocky, Chagrin, and Grand Rivers (90,000 each), and the Conneaut Creek (75,000). About 14% of the total stocked in Lake Erie come from New York, with the remaining 3% from Ontario and Michigan. The numbers stocked annually by each state/province probably will not change significantly in the near future because hatchery programs are at or near full efficiency and there is an adequate forage (bait) fish base to support this stocking and native predators. Until more hard data are obtained on the biology of the fishery, there is reluctance to alter stocking programs. Mixing of fish stocked by various states occurs in Lake Erie, but specifics about stocked fish movements in the open lake are relatively unknown. Recently, techniques have been developed that enable fisheries biologists to determine the hatchery origin of individual fish. A small bone in the inner ear, called the otolith, has a chemical signature that can reveal the fish’s origin. Ohio DNR has evidence that most steelhead in Ohio tributaries in the fall are Ohio fish. However, some come from PA and others from as far away as NY and those stocked in the Huron River of Michigan. Further use of this technique may allow much more to be learned about where fish stocked by various states live in the lake and where they make their spawning runs.

Originally, half the steelhead obtained from MI each year were from eggs with the other half from fingerlings. ODNR recently constructed a totally new steelhead hatching facility in Castalia, Ohio, which became fully operational in 2012. Now all steelhead are raised from fertilized ‘Little Manistee’ eggs obtained from Michigan. Research has shown that the best return comes from juvenile steelhead 7-9 inches long stocked in the spring (12-15 months from hatching) in the last few river miles from the river mouth. This approach has led to a consistent number of fish returning each year, not the wide variability of previous approaches. Long-term, capability may be developed to strip eggs from Ohio steelhead and produce our own eggs, but at present that is not a high priority. Very little natural reproduction of Lake Erie steelhead takes place in tributary streams. There are 24 watersheds in the Lake, and limited natural reproduction takes place annually in only four of these. In New York, natural reproduction may account for up to 25% of the run. In Ohio, a tributary of Conneaut Creek consistently produces some steelhead. Some reproduction takes place in other tributary streams in some years depending on conditions. Natural reproduction is limited throughout the Lake Erie tributary system because streams are highly variable in water quality, warm temperatures and low flow rates during the summer months; also stream bottoms are mostly shale bedrock, with limited gravel beds needed for egg laying and hatching.

Lake Erie is composed of three distinct basins. The Western Basin, located north of western Ohio and containing the Lake Erie islands, is shallow (15-40ft) and well adapted to warm-water fish like walleye and yellow perch. Few steelhead live in these waters. The Central Basin, located off Cleveland and northeast Ohio is a much deeper bowl (50-100ft) and is the primary home of the steelhead stocked in OH tributary streams. The Eastern Basin, a deep bowl located off PA and NY, is separated from the Central Basin by a long, shallow arm that extends from Canada almost to the southern shore. This divides the two and limits the movement of steelhead between basins, although some movement does occur. Most fish stocked by PA and NY live in the Eastern Basin, however little is known about how much mixing of the stocks occur. In Lake Erie, steelhead live in 40-60ft of water in mid-summer, but are found in shallower water during spring and fall when temperatures cool.

Because there is so much forage in Lake Erie for all types of fish, steelhead and walleye do not appear to compete with each other and are coexisting well. Although the Lake Erie charter boat fishing industry has primarily targeted walleye and perch, in the last decade there has been some increased interest in targeting steelhead. This will not likely have significant effect on the steelhead stream fishery because there are plenty of game fish and most charter boats are likely to remain focused on walleye and yellow perch. Interestingly, charter catches of steelhead are providing plenty of carcasses for ODNR researchers to examine and get a better idea of the age profile of steelhead in Lake Erie, their feeding preferences and survival rates. Data from this source has made clear that steelhead in Lake Erie are eating, growing and surviving quite well. It is a very healthy population.

Growth rates for steelhead are about the same in all parts of Lake Erie. The average length of steelhead after one summer in Lake Erie is 16”; after two summers 23”; and three summers 25”. Most fish are in Lake Erie two to three summers before they make a spawning run, but a few survive for four or more summers. The total population of steelhead in Lake Erie at any one time is estimated at 800-900 thousand fish. Charter boat – caught steelhead have shown that the fish are feeding on a wide variety of prey in the lake. The primary energy source for steelhead are other fish. Emerald shiner is the major baitfish in the steelhead diet, but so are smelt, round goby and juvenile yellow perch. Round goby invaded the Great Lakes in the last two decades via ship ballasts. While unfortunate, they are providing a significant food source for larger fish. In terms of numbers of food items, insects also make up a significant proportion of the steelhead diet, including terrestrial moths, beetles and Eurasian lady beetles. Spiny water fleas (another exotic invasive species) are also a diet item. However in terms of biomass, these invertebrates are a distant second to forage fish in the steelhead diet.

There is no reliable estimate regarding what percentage of the steelhead population in Lake Erie runs up tributary streams to spawn each year. Most fish in the tributaries are 24-26” long, but some are male ,one year old fish, called “skippers”, which average 16”. Movement of steelhead from LE into the tributaries is triggered by increased flow rate in the streams and lower water temperatures. As river temperatures cool to the 50s, bait fish move into river mouths and harbors. Steelhead follow these bait fish and stage off the river mouths in October. Although a few enter rivers in October, most movement into the tributaries begins in November and continues all winter, particularly in times of high stream flow.

Regulation of the Ohio steelhead fishery is fairly minimal. Snagging and selling of eggs is prohibited. Harvest is restricted to two fish per day from Lake Erie and the lower tributaries from September 1 through May 15. Fish must be at least 12” in length, primarily to protect recently-stocked fish from harvest. More harvest and size limits have not been necessary because studies have found that most steelhead are released unharmed by Ohio fishers.

In the fall of 2008, Ohio Division of Wildlife began a two- year creel survey of the entire Ohio steelhead fishery. Surveyors questioned anglers on the streams about their catch (including released fish), as well as human attitudes including their desire, experiences and what they want for the future. Assessments were made to evaluate the economic value of the fishery to various regions. Data collected in this survey were compared with data last collected in 1984. Results showed that participation in Ohio steelhead fishing had more than doubled, increasing from 124,000 angler hours per year to more than 300,000. Catch rates had also increased from 0.05 fish per hour of fishing time to 0.3 – 0.4 per hour. Total fish caught increased from only 5000 in 1984 to over 100,000 with average length of fish caught ranging from 21.3 – 24.8 inches. A very significant finding was that Ohio fishermen view steelhead primarily as a sport fishery, releasing about 90% of those they catch. This is a major change from 10-20 years ago. The survey confirmed that the steelhead fishery has considerable economic value to northeast Ohio, with steelhead fishers spending about $30 million in the region, mostly on food, gas and lodging and fishing gear. Data showed that people came from about 25 other states and Europe to fish for steelhead in Ohio.

Despite current success of the steelhead fishery, there are some issues of concern. The greatly increased amount of information available online has facilitated a much higher rate of angler success and encouraged fishers to key in on certain areas, resulting in high angler pressure at some sites in streams. Lake Erie water quality issues are also important, but recent algal bloom concerns in the Western Basin are not an issue for steelhead since they live in deeper water in the Central and Eastern Basins. Numbers of cormorant have skyrocketed on Lake Erie in recent years. These fish-eating birds do take some stocked fish and ODNR and other agencies are taking action to manage this species.

Sea Lamprey wounding of steelhead is also on the rise. This situation has worsened in the last 5 years because so many adult lamprey are now in Lake Erie. This is due to many factors, including water pollution control that has led to cleaner water in the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. This has resulted in increased lamprey production in those areas that empty into Lake Erie. At present the Grand River and Conneaut Creek watersheds are treated on a three- to five-year cycle with lampricides to kill larval lamprey before they mature and enter the lake. Treatment of other rivers may be needed.

This article was prepared by Randy Rowe based on a presentation given by Kevin Kayle at the November 10, 2014 meeting of the CFRTU chapter.

Guide Tips and Tricks

 Fly fishing Lake Erie tributaries for steelhead   by Jeff Liskay

UNDERSTANDING STEELHEAD BIOLOGY When steelhead trout enter tributary streams from Lake Erie in the fall and spring, they go through several stages. Bright fish, are those that have just entered a river. Once they settle down, these are the easiest to catch, since they have just left the lake and have not been previously exposed to lures, flies or baited hooks. Early in the season, water temperatures are higher and the first fall run steelhead are often the largest ones caught. Transition fish are those that are darkening and showing red or pink on their sides and gill covers. These generally are holding and not actively feeding. Spawning fish (March-late May) are on gravel beds and not feeding. However, they may make reaction strikes to flies that come close to their beds. Dropback fish are those that have finished spawning. They are very hungry and will actively feed. This is the second easiest time to catch steelhead (March through May). Water temperatures are usually warmest then.

There are three phases of steelhead upstream migration. Moving fish are actively migrating upstream and do not hit when moving. Resting fish have stopped moving to rest – this is your first opportunity to catch them. Steelhead alternate between resting and moving. Holding fish are those that have found a place to remain when the water is too low to continue moving or they are no longer actively migrating upstream. Steelhead generally hold in deep holes, so target those.

WHEN AND WHERE TO GO STEELHEADING Steelhead that are ready to migrate leave Lake Erie and enter tributary streams in the fall. Prior to mid-November, it is best to fish the most easterly Ohio streams, such as Conneaut Creek and Ashtabula River. After December 1, any Ohio tributary stream will have fish, if conditions are appropriate.

Fishing the lakeshore can be an option in early fall (Sept/Oct) or when rivers are full of leaves and become tannic- colored. Fish don’t like those conditions. Early morning is often the best time for shoreline fishing, but fishing can be good all day, particularly when cloudy. Casting from piers or river mouths can be effective. Try to locate corners or openings where baitfish are gathering. You don’t have to go deep, since steelhead will often be chasing baitfish in 1-8 feet of water. Big baitfish streamer patterns (Clousers) are the best flies. Casting parallel to the shore can be effective. If you don’t catch anything in 30 minutes – move to new location.

In Lake Erie tributaries, major holes get the most angling pressure – everyone knows where those are. Targeting secondary holding areas that may harbor only a few fish can be a key to success by getting away from the crowds. Visit streams in summer when water is low to learn where these holding areas are based on bottom structure.

UNDERSTANDING THE RIVERS The best steelhead fishing is usually when water conditions are changing, such as when water is dropping from fast to a slower flow, when water is clearing from muddy to medium visibility, and when very cold water is warming in mid-day.

Water temperature is a key factor in steelhead behavior. Steelheaders should measure water temperature throughout the day to better understand what the fish are doing. Fish are cold- blooded, so their behavior is controlled by water temperature. Steelhead are naturally cold-water fish and their prime temperature is 40F. When water temperatures are colder, steelhead are found in slower moving water, because they don’t have the energy to hold in faster water. When water temperature is in the low 30s, they are in the “frog water”, ie. still water that is not moving at all.

Eyes are a fly fisherman’s best tool! Carefully observe the river you are fishing, noting all conditions.

When approaching the river, stay onshore and fish closer, slower areas first, then cast further and further out. Cover an entire area systematically. However, if you are not catching fish within 30 minutes at one location – MOVE. Move to a new location or even a new river, rather than remaining in one place. The warmer the water, the more frequently you should move if you are not hooking fish – they may not be there!

THE IMPORTANCE OF STRUCTURE Stream structure will dictate where fish will be located. Structure may be physical, such as rocks or logs. River bends give the most structure suitable for steelhead holding, thus parts of the river with the most bends will yield the most places to fish. Long, straight stretches are usually not productive. Many Lake Erie tributaries have big shale cliffs. At both ends of these cliffs, where they meet the woods, are good places to find steelhead. Usually right in front of the cliffs the rivers have scoured out shale bottoms. However, at the ends are transition zones where shale shelves lead into broken shale or gravel. Steelhead tend to line up along where smooth shale abuts broken shale. In some places there are “elevator areas” where stream depth changes abruptly just below rocks or shelves. Steelhead often hold right below these areas before moving through them.

“Invisible” stream structure, such as water currents and seams, is also important to steelhead. River pools have three sections: head, gut, and tailout. Fish will hold in one or two of these three sections, depending on conditions, but not in all three at once. Fish will be in a tailout section when water visibility is 14-30” and water temperatures are in the high 30s to low 40s. When water has dropped to <14” visibility or is mid-30s or colder, fish will not be in tailouts. The head of a pool is often 1½ to 3 feet deep. Steelhead will hold right at the edges there with their noses against the shale dropoff. Thus, at the head of a pool, you must get the fly down fast or will it will float right over them and they’ll never see it. When fish are not moving and stream water has dropped, steelhead will usually be found in the deeper gut of the pools.

Seams are where fast water meets slower water in the river flow. Fish relate to seams, but water temperature is also a factor on where they will be. In water in the upper 30s or warmer, fish will be at the edge of a seam near the faster water. In the mid-30s, fish will be in slower water further from a seam. If water temperature is 33-34F, fish will be in the slowest water where it is hard to get a good drift with your indicator. When fishing this slow water, you may even have to help move the indicator along.

“Funnels” occur where the water makes a large “V” downstream. All fish moving upstream must move through this structure. After moving through the funnel, they tend to rest just upstream. That is a good place to target when water is high and fish are moving.

WATER FLOW RATE AND CLARITY River flow rate and clarity are critical factors for success. When Lake Erie tributaries are high and muddy, they tend to clear from the source to the mouth. However, the Grand River clears from the mouth upsteam to Harpersfield Dam, because sediment is held above the dam and is continually released. When rivers fall quickly (early in season), they will remain muddy for a time, even when low. When they fall slowly, as they do in the winter, they are usually clear when lower, because silt has had time to settle out. For steelheading, the perfect flow for all Lake Erie tributaries is 200-250cfs. A section of stream that has a flow about the same as a person’s normal walking speed, is a good place to fish for steelhead. The best water clarity for successful steelheading is 18-24” of visibility. That is when you can barely see your boots in knee-deep water. In high water with fairly low clarity (<12” visibility), fish are in “walking speed” water. They can’t hold in water faster than that, so don’t fish there! At <8” of visibility, steelhead are very difficult to catch because they can’t see the flies.

FLY PATTERNS FOR STEELHEAD The top three steelhead fly patterns for nymphing are caddis fly, black stonefly, and egg patterns. Steelhead are sight feeders, so they must be able to see the fly to take it. Size and color are the most important factors, not necessarily a specific fly pattern. Thus you need three sizes of flies. In high water with low clarity, larger fly patterns (size 4-6) are needed so fish can see them. In medium clarity water, flies of size 10-12 are appropriate, and in very clear water, size 14-16 flies may be required. The best colors generally are olive, white and black. It is appropriate to have some synthetic materials incorporated into all patterns to improve their attractiveness. Use of the popular UV materials may improve visibility where water clarity is limiting. With egg patterns, something that gives a “halo” image, like a veiled egg (nuclear egg), may improve attractiveness. Plastic beads often will outfish tied egg patterns because of their neutral buoyancy. The speaker carries 20 nymph patterns in three sizes and has them in boxes of large (6-10), medium (12-14), and small (16- 18) flies. Steelhead can be caught on dry flies, but only in really clear water where fish can see the flies on surface. Early (Sept/Oct) and late season (April/May) are the best times to try dry flies.

When the water is warmer, steelhead may chase flies during the drift, so some movement of fly materials may be more appealing. Streamer and baitfish imitations can work well. A bead placed on the leader in front of a streamer pattern can give an “egg-sucking” baitfish impression. When fishing an egg pattern as the first fly and a baitfish imitation below, a dead drift through the main run will present the egg pattern most appropriately. Then, at the end of drift, if the rig is held to swing across the current, the streamer will rise in the water column and show movement. Sometimes fish will follow the streamer along during the drift and then hit it as it drifts across at the end. Don’t strip in line, just let the streamer wave in the current


RIGGING THE LINE The leader should be at least the length of the rod and should have 14-18” of tippet in front of top fly. Split shot can be placed 2 feet in front of the top fly in clearer water. If the water is colder, faster, or muddier, split shot should be placed closer to top fly (8-12”). This will keep the flies closer to bottom where fish, that may not be willing to move, can see it more readily. In cold water, fish will barely move, so flies need to be put right on their noses.

Three sizes of strike indicator are useful. If water clarity is low (visibility <12”), a big indicator can be used without fear of spooking the fish. In clearer water, a smaller indicator is required to avoid spooking fish. When fishing with an indicator, one needs to watch it constantly to see that it is “ticking” along fairly readily, showing contact of the rig with the bottom. In faster water, the split shot should be ticking along the bottom. In slower water, generally only the bottom fly will be ticking the bottom. The position of the indicator on the leader above the top fly must be adjusted constantly to control the speed of the drift by interacting with bottom structure. The appropriate placement will continually change as water depth varies between different drifts and even through various parts of a single drift.

These notes were prepared by Randy Rowe based on Jeff Liskay’s presentation at the December 8, 2014 chapter meeting.

Trout in the Classroom

In 2017 the chapter sponsored 6 schools, as well as the Pleasant Hill Lake welcome center in participating in the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program. The Pleasant Hill Lake welcome center and Mount Vernon High School both received brown trout eggs. GlenOak High School, Dalton Middle School, Orrville High School, Malvern High School, and Hiland Middle School all received rainbow trout eggs. The Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) provided fertile trout eggs to the schools.

This was the first year the Pleasant Hill Lake welcome center participated in the program and they went all out. The assistant park manager, Chuck Statler, not only was responsible for raising the trout, but he set up a live webcam for people to view the trout. At the time of the release they had 6 trout ready to release with the smallest being 3.5” and the largest being 4.75”. We really appreciated the effort and enthusiasm Chuck brought to the program. Unfortunately, he is no longer working with the park and we were informed that they will not be able to participate in 2018.

This was the second year participating for Malvern High School and they ended up having much better success than the first year. Unfortunately, the first year they participated everything was going well and then one day when teacher, Mrs. Natalie Kee, came into the classroom she noticed all of the fish had died. This year that was not the case. They had 40 trout survive to release into Apple Creek on May 15th. That is a 40% survival rate, which is very good. Mrs. Kee has shown considerable interest in the TIC program and is excited to participate again in 2018.

This was the third year GlenOak has participated in the program and they have done a great job. Student Gavin Nupp has really shown a lot of interest in the program and regularly attends the chapter meetings. At one of our meetings he shared a video they put together and it does a fantastic job of showing the trout throughout the growth process. It also makes it clear that the GlenOak students really enjoy the program and it’s not just one or two kids doing all the work. GlenOak’s STEM Physical Science Teacher has done a great job with the program and this year they had around 40 rainbow trout that were released in Apple Creek on May 16th. GlenOak will also be participating again in 2018.

This was Dalton Middle School’s third year participating in the program. Teacher, Mrs. Laura Grimm, also does a great job of keeping her students engaged in the program. She finds ways to incorporate the TIC program into her normal lesson plans, which offers the students a more interactive and enjoyable way to learn. She also has mastered the art of raising trout. This year out of approximately 100 rainbow trout eggs that they received her and her students were able to successfully raise around 85 trout! These fish were released in Apple Creek on May 2nd. It will be interesting to see if they can top that number, as Dalton Middle School will be participating again in 2018.

Orrville High School have become veteran participants of the program, as last year marked their sixth year of participation in TIC. They also had a very successful year successfully raising 62 trout. Most of the trout ranged between 6-10 cm. Orrville High School Physical and Geo-Sciences teacher, Mr. Jim Duxbury, informed us that they successfully released all of the fish in Apple Creek on April 24th. They had 12 students attend the release, which is a great turnout and shows the strong interest that students have in the program. In addition to the students, there also was news coverage from “The Daily Record”. Jim informed me that not only will they be participating in the program again in 2018, but the students loved it so much that in the interim between school years they are using the tank to raise around 50 small fish rescued from some local puddles created after a heavy rain event.

This was the second year in participation for Hiland Middle School. Teacher, Aaron Rossetti, informed me that the results were a little better this year than last. He mentioned that towards the end of the year he did partial water changes in the tank daily and he believes it really helped with trout survival. They successfully raised 12 trout, which were released into Apple Creek on June 17th. At the end of the program Mr. Rossetti mentioned that he missed the trout from the time he released them and they definitely will be participating again in 2018.

For Mount Vernon High School this was the fourth year participating in the program. Unfortunately, this year did not go as well as in years past. Teacher, Mrs. Bonnie Schutte, mentioned that in December she believes the city of Mount Vernon may have changed the source of their water. Right after this happened all of the fish they had raised up to that point were lost. Mrs. Schutte said that they will be taking a year off and will not be participating in 2018, but hopefully they can start back up again the following year.

All in all it was another very successful year for the TIC program. The chapter plans to sponsor the five schools mentioned in the article next year in addition to possibly adding a new school for 2018. The initial setup for a TIC project costs ca. $1,200 including the tank, pumps, filters and the most expensive, the chiller needed keep the water at 55F.  We provide these schools with opportunities to apply for grants to support the program.  We look forward to another great TIC program for the 2017-18 school year.

Submitted by Anthony Salupo, CFRTU coordinator for the Trout in the Classroom program, November, 2017.


Fly fishing the Upper Clear Fork River for Brown Trout

“Fly Fishing the upper Clear Fork River for brown trout: where, when and how.” By Dave Radomski, presented at the 5/11/15 CFRTU chapter meeting.

Dave noted that he is not an entomologist, and does not know the names of all the insects he finds on the Clear Fork River, however his flies are tied to resemble insects he sees there. His presentation covered the area of the upper Clear Fork River from several hundred yards upstream from the blue bridge in Belleville to just downstream from where the river passes by the ski area in Butler. He never fishes downstream as far as the flat water where the white bass come up to spawn. He usually walks downstream to fish.

Along that Belleville-Butler corridor he estimates that there are some 50 spots that he fishes. Depending on water conditions, not all spots are fishable during the year. He notes that the course of the stream changes each year with flooding rains. Some areas that held fish one year disappear but new ones are created the next. It is a dynamic system. Some big boulders and big trees are stable elements and maintain holding areas for the browns.

Dave projected a series of Google earth maps showing the course of the river starting upstream from Belleville to downstream of Butler as noted above. Along the route of the river, he positioned yellow pushpins to indicate some of the best fishing spots. He noted the characteristics of a number of his favorite runs and holes.

If there is a tree growing along side of the river, and its roots extend into the water creating a pocket or a run, there is at least one fish there, sometimes a big one. The same is true for logs and other structure in the stream that helps create a hole or run and can provide shelter. For each spot, Dave puts in two or three good presentations, and that is when he often hooks up. If after a dozen or so casts, and perhaps after changing flies does not produce a fish, he moves on.

When to fish? When the USGS gauge on the Clear Fork River located in Bellville (https://waterdata:usgs.gv/usa/nwis/uv?03131982) reads 150 cubic feet per second or less, is a good time to fish.

Year round, when water temps are ca. 50-65 F with a little stain and good flow of water, is the best time to fish. Fishing can be especially good if a weather front is coming in, even with light rain.

Early spring is the toughest time to fish the Clear Fork because of frequently changing water conditions. It is best to fish when there has been a period of stability. A black stone-fly (dry) in #14, to #18 works best during a hatch. A black wooly bugger (make it buggy) or minnow pattern (Mickey Fin) is also a good bet. Watch for a midge hatch; #20-#22 dry fly or emerger- pattern can work wonders.

Mid- to late spring is the best time to fish the upper Clear Fork. Water temps in the 45-60F range area are prime. For smaller fish, Dave uses 5X through 7X tippets. However, the big fish will break off light tippets more often or not. For bigger fish and when using a streamer, he uses 4X tippet. For these fish he uses #8 hooks for streamers such as a zonker. When nymphing, Dave does not use a strike indicator or split shot. For fishing deeper pools, Dave weights his flies with tungsten bead heads.

In late spring expect bigger fish and use streamer patterns. He uses a bushy wooly bugger in an olive color. Also throughout the mayfly hatches he tries to match color and size, and puts special emphasis on the tails of dry flies, making them from moose hairs (twice body length) so they will stand out. He believes trout key in on the tails. He always carries several sizes (esp. #16, #18) and colors.

During summer months, forget streamers. Late August is the time to look for the light Cahill hatch. Again, try to match the hatch. Also fish big nymphs. There is plenty of dry fly action in the fall. During winter, as long as stretches are not iced over, the fish will bite. But slow it down, the water is cold and fish will move slowly to flies unlike with warmer weather when you cannot strip a fly too fast for a brown to catch up.

Dave will fish when water temperature is up to 71F, after that he stays home. He often fishes twice per day. Good times to fish are at sun-up until 11 am. Then, later in the day, from 4 p.m. until near dark, is another good time to fish. Middle of the day is not so good.

In Dave’s experience, 80% of the fish he catches are 8-10 inchers, 10% are 11-13 inchers, 5% are 14-16 inches and the remaining 5% are 17 inches or bigger.

Very few areas are posted. If you are fishing the stream in un-posted areas, usually no one will bother you. It is where you park your car that can matter. Do not block a driveway or roadway and if you park on someone’s private land (farm, etc.) ask for permission. If you fish along the gold prospectors stretch downstream from Wade & Gatton Nursery, do not block a car or RV, chat it up with the prospectors, they do not mind if you are there.

Dave gave his telephone number (419-544-0946) and told members to call for information regarding river conditions and fishing prospects..

Notes prepared by Randy Rowe, 5/16/15.

Importance of Temperature in Locating Steelhead in Lake Erie Tributary Streams

Fly fishing for steelhead in a Lake Erie Tributary.

Adapted by Randy Rowe from an article by John Nagy (  March 29, 2018

Being aware of water temperature can be very helpful in locating and targeting steelhead in Lake Erie tributary streams. This information can be obtained by carrying a stream thermometer at all times to record the temperature. Also, the USGS ( provides internet real-time water temperature readings for some Ohio streams (Rocky, Conneaut). Steelhead holding locations in the stream will vary daily, or even within a day, as water temperatures change. Steelhead naturally seek current breaks in which they can comfortably hold and rest, and the locations of these resting areas will vary with water temperature. Because steelhead are cold-blooded, their metabolism decreases as water temperatures fall, and they lose their ability to hold in faster currents.

In the fall, starting in late August, steelhead stage along the Lake Erie shoreline. Good numbers congregate by mid-September when shoreline temperatures dip to 68 degrees F. Visit for Lake Erie surface temperature map. Targeting early fall steelhead along the shoreline (when the lake is flat) and at the mouths of tributary streams can result in some fantastic fishing. These lakeshore fish, the legendary fall “chrome bullets”, can be taken by stripping streamers and wooly buggers with sink tip lines and shooting heads.

Steelhead begin running into the tributaries in large numbers when cool fall rains bring substantial tributary run-off and night time air temperatures drop. Stream temperatures in September and October, cooling to the 45-50 degree F range, maintain the metabolism of fall steelhead, allowing them to hold in faster water like the heads, lips, and tail-outs of pools, fast runs and chutes, and fast pocket water. At these temperatures, steelhead will take flies aggressively. They will move out their way to take a dead-drifted egg pattern, nymph or small streamer and actively chase a swung wooly bugger or streamer. Energized fall steelhead can move great distances up a tributary under good flow conditions, though low water tends to slow upstream movement. In October-November, when stream temperatures cool to the 38-45 degree F range, steelhead avoid holding in very fast water, and will be found in the middle sections of pools, moderate runs, and slower pocket water flows.
In December-February, when temperatures are often 32-37 degrees F, steelhead will be more lethargic. They will rest in areas along shale ledges in deep, slow moving pools, as well as slower runs, pool back-eddies, and the classic winter holding location of the upper pool tail-out of a deep sloping pool with very slow current. Under these ice water conditions, the “bite-zone” shrinks around a steelhead as they rarely move much for a fly. When they do bite, the takes are often soft and hard to detect. The fly fisher literally has to put the fly on the noses of these lethargic fish. To increase hook-ups, one should try multiple presentations, subtle adjustments of tippet size and split shot, and numerous fly changes, including sizes down to #16’s for egg and nymph patterns.

In late winter and early spring, when days are longer and stream temperatures consistently rise into the ideal spawning temperature range of 40-58 degrees F, steelhead will move onto spawning gravel. Pre-spawn steelhead, will react to stream temperatures suddenly dropping or increasing above or below this spawning range by holding in areas adjacent to spawning beds in nearby runs, pools, pocket water and bank under-cuts. After spawning, the voracious eating “drop-back” steelhead will remain in the streams until temperatures reach the upper 60 degree F range, at which point they head to the Lake Erie shoreline. It is best not to fish for drop-back’s when water temperatures are above the high 60’s, since playing fish under these conditions can stress them to the point of mortality. 

Of course, steam temperatures do not remain constant throughout the day on Lake Erie tributaries. During the course of a day, water temperatures are typically coldest in the morning, making steelhead less aggressive and more prone to take a dead-drifted fly in moderate to slower flows. When temperatures warm into the afternoon, steelhead move into faster runs and pools where they may be more actively feeding. Late fall steelhead usually remain fairly active and aggressive, but unusual cold snaps that drop tributary temperatures 4 or 5 degrees F or more can put a damper on an aggressive steelhead bite. In these circumstances, fly fishers should look for steelhead in more fall or winter type locations and slow down the presentation. In winter, mid-day to early afternoon is typically when the warmest temperatures will exist.  Even though water temperatures only increase a few degrees from the water temperatures of morning, steelhead may bite consistently, making afternoon the best time to fish.  Being continually aware of stream temperatures, and the subsequent effects on steelhead activity and behavior, will lead to more success in hooking these great sport fish.


Partial summary of Division of Wildlife Brown Trout Program, 2017

Trout Program Overview: Hatchery Production Kevin Kayle (Fish Hatchery Program Administrator)

Update 1/28/21 from Kevin Kayle.

Brown Trout are no longer stocked in the lower Clear Fork River, rather put and take sized rainbow trout (11-13″) have been stocked the past 3 years (1,170 in 2020).  Yearling brown trout (6-8″) are still stocked in the upper Clear Fork (7,500 in the fall of 2020).

Kevin Kayle (KK) started the presentation by giving a history of Ohio trout program, focused on rainbow trout and brown trout. Three hatcheries are involved in trout stocking in Ohio; Castalia, London, and Kincaid State Fish Hatcheries (SFH). Rainbow trout are raised at all three hatcheries and brown trout only at London. The Division of Wildlife (DOW) has made significant investments at all three of these hatcheries to improve our trout production capabilities. Capital improvements at these hatcheries include $2,500,000 at the Kincaid SFH (completed in 2009), $7,000,000 at Castalia SFH (completed in 2012) and $1,500,000 at London SFH (completed in 2015). The DOW no longer hold brood stock for eggs. Rainbow trout eggs come from Troutlodge in Washington. Eggs are delivered to London in January and Castalia in March. Brown trout are delivered to the London SFH in November from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Saratoga National Fish Hatchery (in Wyoming). After eggs are given an Iodine bath to kill any disease organisms, the eggs are placed in Heath trays, at approximately 10,000 eggs per tray. Yolk sac fry hatch from eggs and sustain themselves with the yolk for first few weeks. After day 14, they need food; food size increases as fish grow.

Fish are initially fed a prepared fish diet at 4‐6% body weight per day, which is progressively reduced to 1‐2% body weight per day. Rainbow trout eggs are received in January and are stocked as catchable‐ sized  fish 13‐16 months later, in April or May. Brown trout eggs are received in November and those fish are stocked as (yearling) fish the following October, after approximately 11 months in the hatchery. Rainbow trout were first stocked in the 1940’s. A total of 155 locations were stocked through the years as adults, catchables, yearlings and fingerlings. Brown trout stocking began in the 1950s. Through the years, brown trout have been stocked at 30 different locations as adults, yearlings, and fingerlings. Both species were stocked by trial and error. In the 1970s ‐1990s streams were evaluated before trout were stocked. Criteria for evaluations were ecosystem, existing fish species, water quality, growth, survival, and harvest. It was also recommended at this time that rainbows be used for a Put-and- Take fisheries and browns be used to create Put-Grow-and-Take fisheries with separate regulations for each species. In the 1990s Castalia SFH was acquired by the state and the number of coldwater fish species that could be produced increased greatly. A stream evaluation study was conducted with criteria being water temperature, habitat quality, ecosystem, public access, proximity to the public, ecosystem and existing fish. From that study, 3 streams fit the criteria, the Mad River, Clear Fork and Clear Creek. The Mad River had been stocked since 1974. Stocking of brown trout was started in the Clear Fork in 1995 and in Clear Creek in 1997.

Brown Trout Program Overview: Management Richard Zweifel (Acting Inland Fisheries Program Administrator). There are three tools used to manage trout in Ohio: stocking, assessments and research, and regulations. Rainbow and brown trout are non‐native to Ohio and stocking is only way to provide fisheries. Catchable rainbow trout are a Put and Take fishery; 116,000 fish are stocked into 66 small lakes every year to create short‐term fishing opportunities. Brown trout is a Put, Grow, and Take fishery; 25,000 fish are stocked at 500 fish / river mile in 3 streams. Assessments include collections of both fish population and angler information. No assessments are done on catchable rainbow trout fisheries, because we don’t expect those fish to be in the system long. A research study was recently completed on brown trout to assess survival, growth, and movement. Ethan Simmons (ES) presented some results from this study later in the meeting. There are three ways to collect information on angler opinions and preferences, creel surveys, online surveys, and angler summits. A creel survey was just completed on the Mad River in 2016. This survey provided information on angler use, catch and harvest, and angler demographics, opinions, and preferences. Tim Parker (TP) presented the results of this study in the next segment of the meeting. An online survey of trout anglers was also conducted in fall of 2015. These results were also presented later in the meeting. The regulations used to manage put‐take rainbow trout fisheries and put‐grow‐ take brown trout differ.  For the catchable put and take rainbow trout‐ there is no size limit and a 5 fish per day daily bag limit. Because no survival is expected, these trout are stocked to provide opportunities for anglers to catch and harvest fish; we want anglers to harvest these fish. The put‐ grow‐take management approach for brown trout differs from the catchable rainbow trout program. The 2 fish per day, 12 inch minimum size limit regulations are intended to prevent overharvest, especially of small fish before they have an opportunity to grow to sizes that are desirable to anglers. The goal is to create a brown trout population comprised of a broad range of sizes, including some larger fish. We are dedicated to continuing to maintain a quality trout program. The Ohio trout program has come a long way in 60 years through research, assessment, stocking, regulations, and angler inputs.

Questions: What is the feeling of holding capacity at Mad River per mile? Rich Zweifel (RZ): Recent research shows that the current stocking rate at 500 fish/mile may be pushing the limit of these systems. Growth rates of brown trout are not as good as expected. Can numbers improve with improved habitat, lunker structures, etc.? Marty Lundquist (ML) and ES: There are a lot of fish in system now. That might have some effect in localized areas, but likely wouldn’t improve the population of the entire river very much. Slow growth indicates that there are a lot of fish in system. What is capacity of upper Clear Fork? Ed Lewis (EL): In the upper CF, fish are moving into the colder areas where they have good groundwater. Good groundwater is where you have fish. It is at capacity. For Mad River there is habitat in water, plenty of structure in water at 200 cfs cuts and rootballs there. Stocking 500 fish/mile because of habitat and food in stream at assessment, seems to be plenty of food. I think the river can handle more fish. I think there is plenty of food, they do assessments, every rock has food attached to it. Where are we getting evidence that there are too many fish in Mad River? RZ: Many fish leave system after we stock fish in October. When we sample in February many older fish are gone and have been replaced by the recently stocked fish. The growth rates are slower than expected. Where do we sample? ES: Winter and summer assessments. Sample transects 0.3 miles long. River stratified into 0.1 mile transects; transects to sample are randomly picked and each 0.1 mile transect above and below picked transect also sampled for one sample.  Why not sample bridge to bridge? ES: Random sampling allows us to sample all habitat types within the river with less effort. We do not have enough manpower to sample the entire river. If stocking 500/mile is pushing capacity why do some areas have no fish and others do?  We don’t have fish in all habitats. RZ: The fish go where they can make a living. If a stretch of river is not good for fish, there will be no fish there. Fish move a lot, distribute themselves where they can live and have the best chance of surviving. Habitat, temperature, and prey conditions dictate where fish will spend their time in a particular stream.

Brown Trout Research Ethan Simmons (Fisheries Biologist, District 1 Office) From 1997 – 2010 the Division of Wildlife stocked over 500,000 brown trout with little assessment. In 2011 a four year project was started to look at survival, growth, and movement in the Mad River, Clear Fork and Clear Creek systems. The project was intended to gather information on survival, growth, and movement of stocked brown trout and to determine if current management approach was appropriate for all three program streams. Fifty percent of brown trout will die if exposed to water temperatures of 76F for 7 days. We assessed the thermal conditions of our 3 trout streams by placing temperature loggers in each that collected temperature every 30 minutes all year. The number of trout in each system was assessed using electrofishing. Brown trout survival in Clear Creek was variable but generally low. During hot summers, fish likely died from warm water but in cool summers, some fish survived. In the upper Clear Fork survival was more consistent, with fish able to find enough cool water refuges to survive. The lower Clear Fork had 2 years where no fish were sampled during summer surveys. The Mad River had the highest abundance of fish, and no days when water temperature was above the lethal limit for trout. Overall the Mad River and Upper Clear Fork can support the put‐grow‐ take management approach for brown trout. The Lower Clear Fork and Clear Creek do not support trout during hot summers. During mild summers these systems can support trout but there are not enough cool water refuges to support many fish. Brown trout in the Mad River ranged in size from 4 ‐ 25 inches with an average length of 10 inches. Thirty nine percent of the trout were above the 12 inch minimum length limit for harvest. Only 1% of age 2 fish were longer than 12 inches, so most trout need to be in the river for 2 years to reach 12 inches. In Clear Creek no trout were ever sampled over 12 inches. In the upper Clear Fork, 8‐29% of trout were over 12 inches. In the lower Clear Fork 1‐11% of trout were above 12 inches. Water temperature determines trout survival and, therefore, the size distribution of trout in these systems. We conducted this research to determine future of brown trout management at these locations. The put, grow, and take approach works in Mad River and upper Clear Fork, but is not an effective approach at Clear Creek or the lower Clear Fork.

Questions Are a few tributaries stocked? ES: Mac‐O‐Chee gets 1,000 trout stocked in it. Other tributaries not stocked anymore due to low water. All stockings have been moved to the mainstem of the Mad River. Are fish being replaced or moved out? ES: Percent of age 2 fish declines after stocking. Sampling 3+ miles of stream every year. In Mad River, fish survive in summer and fall. Stock fish in October and 3 months later stocked fish replace larger age 2 fish. Maybe stocking too many fish and overwhelming the system. Ten to twelve inch fish are being replaced by 8 inch fish. Comment‐ Age 3 fish more abundant than age 2 fish so age 2 fish may not be as catchable. Brown Trout Angler Opinions, Attitudes and Preferences Richard Zweifel An online survey was made available to collect angler opinions on steelhead, catchable rainbows, and brown trout. This information can be difficult to collect from anglers that fish for other trout species. With the Mad River creel, only the opinion of a small cross section of brown trout anglers could be collected. The logistics of interviewing anglers during a creel survey are difficult, trout anglers spread throughout the stream, and there is generally low fishing pressure. A creel survey is best to collect information about effort, catch and harvest but only limited opinion and preferences data can be  collected. The online survey allowed us to get information from a much broader section of anglers statewide. Anglers were able to take the survey 24 hours a day, seven day a week. It was relatively easy for anglers; the survey takes 46 seconds to 16 minutes to complete depending on how many species an angler fished for. Easy for us to collect and summarize the data. We surveyed all 3 groups of trout anglers, steelhead, catchable rainbow trout, and brown trout anglers, and collected information on use and participation, and opinions and preferences for each group. Only Brown Trout angler information was presented at the meeting. The online Survey was open from September through October 2015. Respondents could take the survey for one species or all species. Twenty six percent (240 anglers) took the Brown Trout survey. Of the 240 anglers, 96% were male and 55% less than 50 years old. Most anglers fished only one stream. Where did they fish? Number of Anglers Clear Creek 29 Upper Clear Fork 22 Lower Clear Fork 39 Mad River 99 Multiple streams 30.  Average number of days spent fishing for brown trout? Clear Creek, Upper Clear Fork, Lower Clear Fork, Mad River, Multiple Streams 5‐16 days, 6‐28 days, 2‐11 days, 5‐20 days, 3‐18 days Harvest not considered wide spread. Ninety percent never harvest a trout. Upper Clear Fork anglers were the most satisfied and Mad River anglers were the least satisfied. Percent of Anglers Satisfied with Size of Trout Being Caught Percent approving the 2 trout per day bag limit ranged from 77 to 90%. Anglers that fish the lower Clear Fork and Clear Creek believe trout should continue to be stocked there even if water temperatures are lethal to trout some years. Upper Clear Fork and Mad River anglers thought it was ok to discontinue stocking trout in lower Clear Fork and Clear Creek. We got the opinions of 240 brown trout anglers and were able to collect stream‐specific data. In addition, the opinions of trout anglers that do not belong to a trout club were heard. Only trout club members are invited to summits because the Division has no contact information for non‐club members. Stream Not Satisfied, Neutral, Satisfied: Clear Creek 18 57 25, Upper Clear Fork 35 45 40, Lower Clear Fork 19 53 28, Mad River 17 57 26.

This summary does not include discussion specific to the Mad River brown trout fishery or the rainbow trout stocked in lakes.