Source: Ohio DNR, EPA Waters, Geauga Park District, Google Earth
Opportunities to fish for wild trout within the State of Ohio are pretty limited.
The only documented (but very limited) wild trout populations are shown here in the Northeast corner of the state indicated by cyan circles. These are 10 isolated populations of wild brook trout on the edge of the Allegheny Plateau which raises elevations above 1,100 feet, where there used to be a robust population of native, wild brook trout. Originally, these were both stream-resident and “coasters”, fish that would migrate seasonally in and out of Lake Erie. Now only these 10 scattered populations survive in two watersheds, all resident in tiny headwaters streams (click on Ohio Brookies in the Ohio Resources menu for more information). To our knowlege, none are open for fishing.
Wild brown or rainbow trout are nearly as scarce as wild brookies. All of the other streams shown on this page are managed as primarily stocked fisheries.
The Mad River in west-central Ohio is the only true coldwater trout stream of any size in the state. Brown trout spawn around Halloween, go through the mating rituals of ganging up in prespawn, digging redds and laying eggs. However, at least in the Mad River main-stem, silt and sediment both tend to smother and kill-off the eggs before they hatch. There may be some headwater tributaries where reproduction is more successful, but this is not enough to sustain the fishery in the face of heavy angler pressure. The Mad is rated Coldwater Habitat in its headwaters (shown blue), down to the junction with Kings Creek. Below that it is a coolwater stream (purple) and then warmwater (magenta). One presumes that any tributataries are possible sites for natural reproduction, especially above Kings Creek.
Two other Ohio “trout” streams which may support limited reproduction are the Clear Fork Branch of the Mohican River and Clear Creek (both mapped purple). These are also really “coolwater” streams, and will not reliably sustain trout through the summer year after year. These are stocked every year in the fall, as “put, grow, take” brown trout fisheries. Brown trout are the most heat tolerant of the “big 3” trout species and stocked browns are generally expected to holdover for several years in these streams. Again, there is the potential that some headwaters streams might support trout reproduction, but none are documented in any public data source that we’ve found.
Finally, there are the steelhead: trout which migrate into Lake Erie during the hot summer months, and return to Ohio Rivers from fall through spring (shown as cyan lines). Strictly speaking these aren’t wild trout at all, as the vast majority of returning steelhead were originally stocked as 6″-8″ yearlings, though all have survived a year or more in the wild. Steelhead run up a number of streams along the Lake Erie shore line, and may represent the best trout fishing opportunity in the state (see “Ohio Steelhead” in the Ohio Resources Menu in the sidebar).