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Elk Creek is a tributary of Lake Erie located in Northwestern Pennsylvania. It is a quality fishery for lake run steelhead. The creek's best fishing for these strong acrobatic fish is from early fall throughout the winter and into the early spring (generally from October 15 till May 1). It also has an occasional run of Chinook and Coho salmon. These fish can show from mid - September till late October. The creek is also stocked with trout for the regular season.

The creek is Pennsylvania's largest tributary to feed Lake Erie. It is generally a slow to moderate flowing creek with some fast pools, riffles, and runs. The steelhead that enter Elk Creek average smaller (5-8 pounds) then some of Lake Ontario's tributaries. There are steelhead that enter the creek in the 15 plus pound range, just not as many. The overall numbers of fish that enter the creek can be outstanding.

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Much of the fishing on Elk Creek occurs near its mouth (below Route 5) or in its last few miles before entering the lake. Steelhead will stack up inside the mouth of the creek during the early fall when water levels are still low. When water levels reach a higher point after hard rain, the fish will move upstream deeper inside the creek. When water flows are high steelhead will venture upstream all the way above Route 79 (approximately 12 miles) near the creeks headwaters. Anglers will fish the entire creek with the last couple of miles near the lake being most popular. When water flows are high or in the spring when the steelhead are moving upstream to spawn many anglers will fish above route 5 all the way above the town of Sterrettania approximately ten miles upstream from Lake Erie. Some areas are posted and Special Regulations apply.
Hatch Chart
Fishing the creek is done in the same fashion as most of the great lakes fisheries. The most popular method is the floating line, long leader, and split shot. Same technique is used here as in nymph fishing for trout. Another tactic used is lead sacks ("slinkies" on a snap swivel) and a running line. This is the good method if the river is very high. You can also use a heavy sink tip line and a short leader (approximately 5-7 feet). This method can be productive when using spey flies, woolly buggers, and egg sucking leeches during periods of warmer water when the fish are more active. In this method the fly is swung. The colder the water the slower the swing. Mending upstream properly will help you accomplish getting a slower swing.

Access to the creek can be found in many areas. Routes 79 (just below McKean), 98, 90, 20 (just west of Girard), and 5 (just north of Lake City) all cross the creek. Route 5 is a good starting point to learn the creek. From Route 5 venturing up side roads along the creek will find access in many areas. Other side roads also cross the creek as well. Fishing the creek can be good in many areas. It's a matter of finding the fish. The best way to accomplish this is to listen to fishing reports and the weather to find out when runs are possible or where fish have been caught last. Remember that steelhead are a migratory fish and can be all over the creek, limited to some areas, or not in the creek at all. After high water is generally a good time to try your luck. Sometimes even a couple of overcast drizzly days can get steelhead to move into the creek when the water is low. Weather, water conditions, time of year, and even moon phase can all be factors in the movement of migratory fish.

Elk Creek is a quality migratory fishery. Many anglers surge to this river each year to battle its mighty steelhead. Some anglers also come to Elk for its stocked trout during the spring and its warm water fishery during the summer months. Located approximately 2 hours from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, fishing Elk Creek can be well worth the travel. It is also a short (1-2 hour) drive from Northwestern New York (Buffalo) and Northeastern Ohio (Cleveland).