Ohio's 2010 Bass Forecast

Buckeye State bass anglers have plenty of good things to look forward to this year. Here's what our state fisheries managers have to report. (March 2010)

Between Lake Erie and the Ohio River, the Buckeye State's abundance of inland reservoirs, canal lakes, streams and farm ponds, Buckeye State bass anglers should enjoy another banner year in 2010.

According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife's inland fisheries expert, Scott Hale, the upswing in productivity observed across most of Ohio's bass waters last season will continue through 2010.

"We don't plan any major changes to our bass-fishing regulations in 2010," said Hale. "Things are going well across most of the state, and we'll be looking into what we can do to continue a positive trend with regard our bass fishing."

While the state's big-water bookends -- the Ohio River and Lake Erie -- offer some of the most productive opportunities for catching black bass, there is plenty of potential.

There are some 96 tributary reservoirs in the state, offering more than 85,000 acres of water for bass fishermen. Canal lakes larger than 25 acres provide an additional 22,000 surface acres of water available to bass fishermen, and the state's 38 upground reservoirs, offer individual opportunities that Hale termed as "exceptional" at times.

Hale said habitat and fishing pressure are the primary obstacles that biologists must address to make Buckeye State bass fishing even better.

"The number one issue facing any fish that produces naturally in reservoirs, like our bass, is habitat," Hale explained. "In Ohio's reservoirs, as well as in the waters of Lake Erie and the Ohio River, sedimentation is the main issue affecting habitat.

"Another major issue facing Ohio's bass populations is fishing pressure," Hale added. "We have tremendous fishing pressure in this state, especially on our bass populations. One in every four fishing trips in this state targets bass, giving you an idea of what we face. That's why our stocking programs for other fish species such as saugeyes, catfish, walleyes or hybrids, are so important: They take some of the pressure off our bass populations."

MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
"We're in the process of stepping back with the data we've collected and see where size limits had their intended effect. We've got to determine where to remove them when they have shown little effect and where to introduce them where needed."

Hale noted that the agency is taking a very broad look at the success of bag limits at this time with regard to bass fishing in inland waters and Lake Erie. He added that assessing the success of bag limits in the Ohio River is more difficult because of the reciprocal agreements with neighboring states.

The quality of the bass fishery in Ohio's tributary reservoirs can vary from system to system and season to season, according to Hale, who said that bass fishing was very good in several inland reservoirs in 2009, and that trend should continue.

"The bass fishing can be exceptional or highly variable, depending on how the water levels fluctuate," he said. "For example, the reproductive success in Caesar Creek Reservoir is lower when we have greater variability of water levels in spring. That's the case in most of our tributary reservoirs."

From canal lakes and upgrounds to tributary reservoirs, here's a sampling of some of the best fishing destinations recommended by Hale for Ohio bass anglers in 2010.

CENTRAL OHIO
"The bass fishing at Hoover and Alum Creek reservoirs north of Columbus was very good last season," said Hale, "and there's no reason to expect that to change in 2010.

"The fishing for bass and muskies at Alum (Creek Reservoir) was especially strong, thanks to a good spring without too much fluctuation of water levels, and reasonable weather last summer.

"Both Hoover and Alum have good populations of both largemouths and smallmouths in them," he continued. "And despite quite a bit of water fluctuation at Hoover, it continues to be a good bass lake with decent year-classes of fish lately."

Hale added that Hoover Reservoir may have an advantage for bass fishermen over other heavily pressured central Ohio lakes because of a 10-horsepower limit on boat motors there.

"Hoover doesn't get the pressure from the high-powered bass boats like other lakes, including Alum Creek," he said. "That can't hurt."

Hoover Reservoir is near Central College along Sunbury Road northeast of Columbus. Alum Creek Reservoir is east of U.S. Route 23 south of Delaware, north and south of Cheshire Road and U.S. Route 36.

Knox Lake near Fredericktown off state Route 95 is a perennial favorite among central Ohio bass anglers, according to Hale.

"Knox Lake demonstrates what an 18-inch minimum size limit can do for a lake's bass fishery. The only other Ohio waters supporting such a long minimum length limit are at Tycoon Lake and ponds at St. Joseph and Killdeer Plains wildlife areas," according to the fisheries spokesman.

Maps and more information on all three central Ohio lakes recommended by Hale are available at the ODOW's District One Wildlife offices at 1500 Dublin Road in Columbus, call (614) 644-3925 or at www.wildohio.com.

NORTHWEST OHIO
"There are lots of good bass-fishing destinations in District Two," said Hale, "as well as some not so good. For example, the bass fishing at Pleasant Hill Lake always seems to be good.

"It has good populations of largemouths and some bonus smallmouths," said Hale of the lake, which is west of Loudonville along state Route 95 in Ashland and Richland counties.

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy (MWCD) lake offers a fair amount of cover and generally good habitat for bass, according to Hale, and better bass-fishing opportunities early and late in the season when the popular lake's considerable number of pleasure boaters are less likely to be out during the summer season.

For maps and more information on Pleasant Hill Lake, call (419) 938-7884, or visit www.mwcdlakes. com/pleasant.

A sleeper lake for bass in northwest Ohio, said Hale, is Upper Sandusky Reservoir No. 2 in Wyandot County. The lake is on the southeast edge of the city of Upper Sandusky about one-half mile south of U.S. Route 30 off state Route 182. It is one of the rare upgrounds with very good bass

fishing, according to Hale.

"There are a surprising number of bass over 12 inches length there that will provide excellent fishing for decent-sized largemouth bass in 2010," he said.

Maps and more information on Pleasant Hill Lake and Upper Sandusky Reservoir No. 2 are available from the District Two offices of the ODOW in Lima, (419) 424-5000 or at www.wildohio.com.

NORTHEAST OHIO
"The Portage Lakes chain is always hot for bass," said Hale of the canal feeder system of lakes that are a few miles south of Akron. They are bordered by state Route 224 on the north, county Road 50 on the east, state Route 93 on the west, and county Road 224 on the south.

The Portage Lakes are actually a series of five waterways: Turkeyfoot Lake, West, East and North Reservoirs and Long Lake. Combined, they offer 1,681 acres of prime bass water with some 37.84 miles of shoreline.

The chain is named after the old Indian portage path that connected the Cuyahoga River flowing north to Lake Erie and the Tuscarawas River, which (through the Muskingum) flows south to the Ohio River.

Portage Lakes State Park is at one of the highest points of the state on a major watershed divide in Ohio, where some water from these lakes reaches Lake Erie and some flows to the Ohio River. Thanks to abundant cover and habitat, largemouths and smallmouths thrive in the system.

"That's the case despite lots of development around the lakes," said Hale. "They have good depth for canal lakes and limited water level fluctuation, and year in and year out they seem to sustain very good bass fisheries."

For maps and more information on the Portage Lakes area, visit www. dnr.state.oh.us/parks/portage or www. wildohio.com, or call the ODOW's District Three offices at (330) 644-2293.

SOUTHEAST OHIO
Biologist Hale's top pick for bass fishermen in District Four is Burr Oak Lake, which the biologist said was "hot for bass fishing" in 2009, adding that "there's no reason to believe that action will not continue into 2010 and beyond."

A wealth of cover, both natural and manmade fish-concentration devices, provide bass with the habitat they require, according to Hale, and a minimal amount of water fluctuation makes for good reproductive success most years.

Burr Oak Lake was formed by a dam built across the valley of the east branch of Sunday Creek, a tributary of the Hocking River. The dam creating the 664-acre lake is about three miles north of Glouster on state Route 13.

From the dam, the lake extends southward for about 1.5 miles into Homer Township and north for about four miles into Union Township in Morgan County.

Four public launch ramps provide access to Burr Oak Lake, where regulations enacted in late 2008 allow boats with motors exceeding a horsepower rating of 10 horsepower access to the lake if they proceed at idle speed or at a speed that does not create a wake. Boats with motors of 10 horsepower or less can continue to operate as usual.

For a lake map and more information about Burr Oak Lake, call the Burr Oak Lake State Park office at (740) 767-3797, or go online to www.wildohio.com and follow the links to Burr Oak Lake.

The Belleville Lock and Dam off state Route 124 in Reedsville in northeast Meigs County backs up some 1,750 surface acres of Ohio River waters to create the Belleville Pool, which offers some of the state's best opportunities for catching both largemouth and spotted bass, according to Hale.

Public boat launch ramps along the riverfront offer easy access for anglers, who can find fantastic fishing along the main river stem and at the mouths of tributaries entering the Ohio, where data from bass tournaments show some of the highest catch rates in the state.

For an area map, launch ramp locations and more information about the Belleville Pool, call the District Four office of the ODOW at (740) 589-9930 or visit www.wildohio.com and follow the links to Public Fishing Waters of Southeastern Ohio.

SOUTHWEST OHIO
"Acton Lake has been a good bass lake for quite a while," said Hale of the 590-acre lake within Hueston Woods State Park. "The fish have really responded to the 15-inch minimum length we placed there recently. And, despite a fair amount of fishing pressure, there are plenty of bass over 15 inches -- and much larger -- in those waters."

The fisheries expert noted that Acton Lake has a high density of gizzard shad, the predominant food fish for bass in the lake.

"That usually makes for tough fishing, but that's just not the case at Acton," noted Hale. "It's a real producer for bass anglers in southwestern Ohio."

Acton Lake straddles Preble and Butler counties on the southwestern edge of Ohio, approximately seven miles north of Oxford, 40 miles northwest of Cincinnati, and 35 miles southwest of Dayton, accessible by state routes 177, 732 and 725 and U.S. Route 27. The nearest district office is the Wildlife District Five station at 1076 Old Springfield Pike in Xenia at (937) 372-9261, where anglers can get a fishing map and more information about Acton Lake.

For information on state park facilities, call the Hueston Woods State Park office at (513) 523-6347 or follow the links at www.ohiodnr.com.

"Our plan is not to change anything in 2010," Hale concluded. "The assessment process requires a considerable amount of time to make sure when we do make adjustments we make them right rather than fast," explained Hale of the state's bass management plans for this year. "Don't expect to see any big changes this season, but we plan to make sure we are on the right track in the years ahead."

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