I fish the SR off Lake Ontario and while nothing is absolute as to when the fish may run up the tribs to spawn, water levels and temp have a lot to do with it. Generally on the SR the steelhead like to run from mid march to early May. But there are fish in the river all the time. Sudden alternations in water level and temps will set these fish back on their heels for a day or two than things get back to normal.
Last year was a bit of a disappointment but I contribute that to a lack of snow pack and a general winters drought that lead to poor water levels.
I'd say to start looking for things to start in the upcoming weeks. I know things are a little different between the tribs of Erie and Ontario but the fish should start heading up so as long as the water and temps are good for them.
Erie runs have decreased over the past five years or so,but there are still a good number of fish to make for an enjoyable outing.As for the peak of the run, that was probably in Nov. or December. Spring brings fish in, but not like the fall. by opener of pellethead season its about over.
2 million people creeling 3 fish a day from October thru April .. stocking/imprinting fingerlings have been reduced..
Unlike lake salmon these fish return to the lake and back each year.. eventually the numbers are going to decrease over time..
same buzz words in big game hunting in Pa. “ over harvesting “
To the OP, the PA Erie tribs do not get what I would consider to be a strong spring run. Sure a few fresh ones may come in over the next month, but the majority of the fish that will enter the tribs are already there and have been for several months.
Like I told another member that asked a similar question about the spring runs in the lake Erie tribs in the spring and someone said they were hit or miss or only havd old, beat up fish...the thousands upon thousands of fresh, chromed up spring run steelhead I have taken in the tribs during late winter and spring would tend to contradict those statements...I grew up living and fishing on the tribs and have practically had a flyrod in my hand since I was able to leave my father's sight and fish by myself. Last year alone, I caught and released no fewer than 450 late winter/spring run steelhead on the east side streams alone. Again, I live here, have my whole life and I have that luxury over the guys that have to travel to fish the tribs a couple of weekends a year. I grew up with my father's friends...PFBC officers, looking over my shoulder as I caught and released more fish than the guys 20 years my elder. Believe me when I tell you that if the mouths are open, the water in the streams is high enough and water color is right, you'll catch fish if you take the time to look before you put your foot down. PM me if you want to get out one of these days. You wouldn't be the first "out of towner" I took out and put on spring steelies.