Ohio's Finest Spring Crappie Lakes

Ohio's Finest Spring Crappie Lakes

Easy access to some of the best crappie fishing in Ohio is assured on these biologist-recommended waters. Fish brushy cover tight to shore, and bring plenty of minnows!

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Spring is crappie time in almost any angler's book. Ohio has some excellent waters to pursue crappie on, and this spring anglers can find good fishing in every corner of the state.

"It looks like this will be a good year," said Elmer Heyob Jr., a Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist in District One.

"Crappie populations are at good levels, and there are some good-size fish out there. The flooding last spring came at just the right time for spawning crappies."

Fishermen should know that crappie lakes are cyclical, with some years being better than others, according to Heyob, and this year the prospects for Ohio's crappies are looking good. Some of our lakes have good populations, some have large fish, and some have both.

Here's a look at where to go in 2005 for some of the best crappie angling the Buckeye state has to offer.

DELAWARE RESERVOIR

"We had great crappie fishing just about everywhere in District One last year," said Heyob. "If you talk crappies, you've got to mention Delaware Reservoir, just because its black and white crappies are so huge. It offers good numbers of both species as well as good fishing year after year."

As far as the Ohio Division of Wildlife is concerned, Delaware Reservoir just might be the best crappie lake in the state.

"Anglers catch plenty of 10-inch fish in Delaware," said Heyob. "When we run our survey nets in Delaware it's not uncommon to see 12- and 14-inch crappies. We had one that made 15 inches, which means fish up to 2 pounds."

"Most anglers don't target these big crappies, but they're there in numbers. My theory, though it hasn't been proven, is that when there's flooding it covers grass and brush along the shoreline and provides good breeding areas. There's lots of low-lying land in the region, and when it flooded last spring, it came at just the right time for crappies," said Heyob.

Delaware Reservoir covers 1,300 acres of water north of Delaware between state routes 23 and 42 in Delaware, Marion and Morrow counties.

There is a 9-inch minimum-size limit in place with no limit on the number of fish that can be taken.

For additional information and a map, contact the ODOW's District One office at (614) 644-3925.

ALUM CREEK

Alum Creek Reservoir is another central Ohio hotspot and comes highly recommended by Heyob.

"At Alum Creek we had some 10- to 12-inchers reported last year," he said.

Alum Creek covers 3,387 acres and has 46 miles of jagged, shallow shoreline. Depths extend to 60 feet at the dam on the south end of the lake. The shallow bays are the best bets for spring crappie in long, narrow Alum Creek, especially docks and wood cover. As the bigger fish begin to move deeper, anglers should check the points and dropoffs.

Alum Creek has a history of producing plenty of big crappies, possibly owing to the large number of muskies in the lake. Muskies prey on small crappies and help keep the smaller fish from stunting the overall crappie population.

The lake is located in Delaware County about seven miles north of Columbus. The lake is accessed off Interstate Route 71 from the east by state routes 36 and 37. State routes 36, 37 and 521 provide access from state Route 23 on the west side of the reservoir.

A 9-inch minimum-size limit is in place with no possession limit.

For a lake map and more information, call ODOW's District One office at (614) 644-3925.

HOOVER RESERVOIR

"Hoover, Alum Creek and Delaware are on fire," said Heyob. "Anglers should hit the prespawn breeding fish when they're gathered deep. I use a small jig under a slip-bobber around riprap and docks."

Hoover Reservoir is in a highly populated area just 10 miles northeast of downtown Columbus in Delaware and Franklin counties. There is plenty of shoreline access for bank-fishing, which can be productive, as well as boating access.

There are several year-classes of crappie available throughout the lake and fishing prospects for them look good for 2005.

When crappies are holding in deep water in early spring, check the old creek channel that winds up through the lake, or the many bays. The upper and middle lake basins around shoreline cover are productive spots as well.

The reservoir covers 2,818 acres of water and has nearly 50 miles of shoreline. The Hoover Reservoir is operated by the city of Columbus as a water supply and recreation area.

Access is from Interstate Route 270 via Sunbury Road.

For more information and a map, contact the ODOW's District One office at (614) 644-3925, or call the

Columbus Watershed Management Group at (614) 645-1721.

PLEASANT HILL RESERVOIR

Though District Two doesn't have a lot of great crappie waters, there are some that are well worth fishing, according to fisheries biologist Ed Lewis.

Pleasant Hill Reservoir in Richland and Ashland counties is one of Lewis' top picks. "We've seen decent black and white crappies in Pleasant Hill, in the 10- to 12-inch range," he said.


"When we run our survey nets in Delaware, it's not uncommon to see 12- and 14-inch crappies. We had one that made 15 inches, which means fish up to 2 pounds." -- Elmer Heyob, ODOW
 

Though not many of the reservoir's crappies top 12 inches, there are a few.

According to Lewis, biologists still don't know what makes a good lake system for crappies. What they do know is that young crappies consume zooplankton until they switch to minnows.

Pleasant Hill is always full of zooplankton, so young crappies have an excellent chance of survival and good growth rates. Early-spring crappies will be found close to

shore near spawning areas in shallow water. The end of Pleasant Hill past the boat ramp where the lake is wide should be a good spring holding area, as well as the lake's many embayments. Look for fish behind rocks and fallen timber along the shoreline.

Once the spawn is over, the largest crappies will move into deeper water. If you can find deep structure, you should be able to locate post-spawn crappies.

Pleasant Hills covers 781 acres of water and is accessible from the north off state Route 95 on Covent Road. The western part of the lake is shallow while the south section near the dam is the deepest at 35 feet.

There are no minimum-length or possession-limit restrictions on crappies.

The Mohican State Park lodge borders the lake for anglers wanting luxury accommodations.

For more information, contact the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000.

FINDLAY RESERVOIR

"Findlay Reservoir No. 2 has some decent crappies in it," said Lewis, who noted that the largest Findlay reservoir ranks second for crappies in northwestern Ohio.

Findlay Reservoir No. 2 is an upground reservoir with unique habitat conditions. Temperatures, depths and the amount of vegetation are affected by the walls of the lake, which are actually above ground level.

Lewis recommends targeting crappies in whatever structure that can be found. Until about nine years ago, the lake had plenty of submerged vegetation, but now, along with decreasing water clarity, most of the vegetation is gone.

The DOW has placed some manmade fish attractors in Reservoir No. 2, which has helped to concentrate crappies. The old Christmas tree structures are old and falling flat, said Lewis, but may still hold a few fish. The trees are located between the two Findlay reservoirs, and there are some rack structures near the base of the courtesy dock that are worth checking as well.

Crappies are likely to be found anywhere in this lake, often just suspending close to the bottom. "If you're going to look for fish you're definitely going to need a fish finder," said Lewis.

The lack of competition from bluegills is helpful, according to Lewis. As the fish grow there aren't many panfish to compete for the available food.

Findlay Reservoir covers 629 acres of water southeast of Findlay on township Road 207, off township road 234 and south of state Route 568. A large launch ramp is available on the west side of the lake.

Bank fishing can be productive and is allowed anywhere on the lake's seven miles of shoreline.

A map and up-to-date information can be obtained from he ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000.

NETTLE LAKE

"It's small but one of the few natural lakes we have in Ohio," said Lewis. "We're really not sure why it's such a good crappie lake, but the fish are in there.

"The fishing tends to be cyclical: Some years there's some real nice fish taken, and other years there's just a bunch of small ones," said Lewis. "I think that the lake is small, and when fishermen take out the bigger the smaller ones take over until they grow up."

According to Lewis, Nettle Lake tends to run in five-year cycles, as do many other Ohio crappie waters. Every few years or so huge crappies can be taken by anglers that show up at the right time.

Nettle Lake is in the far northwestern tip of Ohio in Williams County. The lake covers 94 acres and is accessed off state Route 49 four miles northeast of Cooney.

Look for some good crappie angling this year. There are no minimum-size or possession limits in place.

Call the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000 for additional information and a map of the lake.

MOSQUITO LAKE

"Mosquito Lake is probably one of the best in the state," said Phil Hillman, a District Three fisheries biologist.

According to a fall, 2003, survey, the lake is dominated by black crappies. The average harvested crappie measures 10 inches. There is good productivity and a good forage base. The population doesn't tend to get to where it's a boom-and-bust situation, and it remains pretty consistent.

A prominent part of the landscape in northeastern Ohio, Mosquito Lake covers 6,550 acres of water and has 40 miles of shoreline.

According to Hillman, Mosquito Lake has been a great crappie lake for years. Knowledgeable fisherman target crappie along the extensive shoreline, especially where there are docks, submerged or flooded vegetation and dropoffs. The water around the state Route 88 causeway produces good catches in the spring.

The ticket to Mosquito Lake crappies is minnows and small jigs, said Hillman.

Mosquito Lake is in Trumbull County seven miles northeast of Warren. Depths range to about 25 feet at the south end near state Route 305. Above the causeway, the water is shallower, with depths to 15 feet, and the far north end is a waterfowl refuge where fishing is not allowed.

There are several boat launches on this big lake administered by the nearby state park.

The ODOW's District Three office can provide a lake map and additional information by calling (330) 644-2293.

BERLIN LAKE

"Our fall 2003 trap-netting surveys showed larger white crappies from 9 to 11 inches, while black crappies averaged 8 1/2 inches," said biologist Hillman. "Black crappie were slightly more numerous than whites, with three blacks caught for every two whites."

The larger fish have less of a tendency to school than do smaller fish. As temperatures warm up in the shallows, the big crappies will move into 10 to 20 feet of water.

Fish attractors are scattered throughout this long, sprawling 3,650-acre lake. There are numerous bays, depth changes and shallow flats. The lake is 50 feet deep on the east side and 60 feet on the northeastern tip.

Anglers have the choice of several boat launches around the lake.

Berlin Lake is in Portage, Mahoning and Stark counties on state routes 183, 224 and 225.

For more information and a lake map, call the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293.

SENECA LAKE

"Seneca Lake is a good place to crappie fish," said Scott Schell, a fisheries biologist with District Four. "It's one of the best in our district."

Schell attributes Seneca Lake's productivity to a 9-inch minimum-lengt

h limit and abundant shad population.

Crappies eat zooplankton until they're 2 years old. At that point they begin consuming minnows and shad.

There are plenty of potential hotspots on Seneca's 3,550 acres. Anglers should begin by probing the fallen timber along the eastern shoreline of the island in the upper section of the main basin as well as the fallen trees along the shoreline of Depue Run Bay. The tip of the point off the bay's north shore is also a good spot.

The downed trees off township Road 56 and the trees and other structure in Crooked Bay can also produce crappies in the far northern section of the lake.

"The last time we ran survey nets there we saw a lot of fish to 10 inches, with some bigger specimens," said Schell.

Lake depths average 12 feet with a maximum of 25 feet.

A boat launch is on the north side of the lake above the dam.

Seneca Lake is in Noble and Guernsey counties 12 miles southeast of Cambridge on state Route 313. The lake is the largest of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District lakes.

There is no maximum possession limit on Seneca Lake crappie.

For more information and a map, call the ODOW's District Four office at (740) 589-9930.

GRAND LAKE ST. MARYS

"Historically, Grand Lake St. Mary's has been a good crappie lake, at least based on our on-site survey experiences," said Debbie Walters, a fisheries biologist with the ODOW's District Five office.

This 13,500-acre lake has long been known as one of Ohio's premier crappie lakes. Many thousands of crappies are taken from Grand Lake every year.

Grand Lake is a shallow lake, reaching to about 10 feet in midlake holes. Channels and bays abound, producing some great angling.

April and May anglers find plenty of crappie action near the brushy shoreline areas and near boat docks. Popular baits include live minnows under a bobber fished shallow. A lightweight spinning outfit spooled with 4- to 6-pound monofilament line should suffice.

"I would go back into one of the canals on the lake in the spring and fall," said Walters.

The crappie population is rebounding, said the ODOW, with plenty of 7- to 10-inch fish, and some up to 15 inches. In 2003, fish population surveys indicated that there were a lot of 8- to 9-inch fish, which should be reaching good sizes about now.

In Mercer and Auglaize counties, Grand Lake St. Marys is accessible via state Route 29 on the north, U. S. Route 127 on the west, and state Route 703 to the south.

Additional information may be obtained by contacting the ODOW's District Five office at (937) 372-9261.

For additional information on crappie fishing destinations in Ohio, contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife at 1-800-WILDLIFE or on the Web at www.ohiodnr.com.

For trip-planning assistance, contact the Ohio Division of Tourism at 1-800-BUCKEYE, or go online and visit the agency's Web site at www.ohiotourism.com.

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