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New Steelhead Water in Erie, PA

The Gilmore Farm area of Elk Creek offers over a mile of new water to explore

New Steelhead Water in Erie, PA

Steelhead migrate annually from Lake Erie in the fall to winter in the streams and spawn, then return to the lake in the spring. This Elk Creek female, caught early November 2020 by the author, recently entered the tributary and is still chrome from the lake. As they stay in the tributaries, their colors will deepen to the rich olives and reds of a rainbow trout. Photo Credit: Dennis Pastucha

Thousands of anglers venture each fall, winter and spring to Erie, Pennsylvania to pursue Great Lakes steelhead. Anglers descending on these world-class tributaries have many to choose from, yet are confronted with limited access. Elk Creek is regarded as one of the best, and most scenic tributaries with it’s emerald waters, plunge pools, steep ravine cliff faces, and trophy steelhead. Recently, a new section of Elk Creek, known as the Gilmore Farm in Girard Township, Erie County, has opened to the public and anglers offering over a mile of new water and new challenges to the hardy steelheader looking to get off the beaten path.

The Lake Erie Region Conservancy (LERC) with assistance from the Pennsylvania Sea Grant acquired this property through grants totaling over $900,000 from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and the Community Conservation Partnership Program run by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR). The collaboration between the PFBC and DCNR is a great example of the ongoing protection of the Elk Creek watershed for the public to enjoy.

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Egg patterns are often the most productive flies but a dead drifted nymph through riffles and rocky areas containing structure can induce fast strikes from scanning fish. This Elk Creek steelhead chased the author’s swimming squirrel tail nymph for five to seven feet through a shallow riffle before aggressively inhaling the nymph. Photo Credit: Dennis Pastucha

According to the PFBC, a parking access area on Beckman Rd. near I-90 accommodates up to 25 vehicles. Plans are in place to add gravel to the lot in the coming weeks. From the parking access area a well-defined trail leads upstream. The trail isn’t short, nor easy and can be steep, be prepared for difficult terrain and a long day on the water. This newly acquired area offers 6,325 feet of pristine water, 179.8 acres of forested floodplains, wetlands, farm fields, and a 100 foot gorge for the adventurous angler or hiker.

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Euro-nymphing is an effective technique for the pocket water of Elk Creek. This female steelhead was caught euro nymphing by angler Max Crumlich of Cumberland County, PA downstream from the new Gilmore access area. He spotted the fish in front of a boulder on a soft seam near the far bank, positioned himself slightly downstream from the fish to get a proper drift and with a two nymph euro rig containing a bright sighter targeted this fish. She took a hare’s ear nymph with a pink tungsten bead tied on a 60 degree jig hook. Photo Credit: Connor Harkins

For more information regarding this acquisition and access, contact the PFBC (fishandboat.com), or visit the LERC site (lakeerieregionconservancy.org) for a map of the Gilmore Farm area.


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