These public waters offer some of our hottest fishing for spring crappies. (May 2010)
Arguably the most popular panfish in Ohio, at least according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW), crappies are pursued by thousands of anglers each spring with the peak of the attention coinciding with the peak of the action taking place from mid-April through May across the Buckeye State.
This is when crappies are in their annual spawning mode. Opportunistic anglers who fish for the most abundant at any given time know that now is the time and crappies are the target.
Here is a look at a dozen of Ohio's top waters where you can put your share of slabs on the stringer this month:
Crappies in central Ohio usually start to move shallow by mid-April and the fast, easy-access action continues through most of May. Look for them in good numbers around shallow woody structure by late April. The timing of the spawn depends on weather conditions, but typically begins by the latter part of the month and continues on into May.
Alum Creek Lake
During the summer boating season, Alum Creek Lake is one of the busiest bodies of water in the Buckeye State and can be a challenge to fish due to all the traffic and wakes generated by pleasure craft. Thankfully, the best crappie fishing occurs before the fair weather water sports enthusiasts take over.
The relatively frigid waters of the 3,400-acre lake are about 10 miles north of Columbus, east of U.S. Route 23. Plenty of coves and rocky dropoffs hold crappies in the southern two thirds of the lake, and riprap areas along the face of the dam and the Cheshire Road bridge concentrate these fish at this time of year. Shallow waters north of the U.S. Route 36 causeway that crosses Alum Creek Reservoir's northern basin are closed to all but wake-free boating and offer some quiet crappie fishing even when the balance of the lake is bustling with activity on warm May weekends.
For maps and more fishing information, call the state park office at Alum Creek at (740) 548-6056 or log onto www.alumcreek.com.
Delaware Lake is in Delaware and Marion counties north of Delaware between U.S. routes 42 and 23. This is a trophy crappie hotspot managed by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to offer central Ohio anglers bigger than average fish.
According to studies conducted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, crappies in Delaware Lake range in length from 8 to 13 inches and fish-attracting brush that has been placed in the lake continues to hold good numbers of crappies at this time of year.
There is a 9-inch minimum length limit and a new 30 fish bag limit in effect for Delaware Lake crappie anglers this season. In addition to the 1,300-acre reservoir, some 50 ponds are scattered across the massive wildlife area, several of which contain crappies and other panfish, as well as bass and catfish.
Knox Lake covers 500 acres in Knox County and is less than two miles northeast of Fredericktown on state Route 95. This popular lake contains a respectable population of crappies averaging 8-11 inches. By May, the bays in the north and south sections and the stump field in the eastern end will have warmed up and should produce plenty of crappies for central Ohio fishermen.
The lake features a fishing pier, boat and dock rentals, picnic facilities and a handicapped-accessible boat launch. Other launch ramps are on the north, south and southwest areas of the lake. There is a new 9-inch minimum length and 30 fish bag limit in effect for crappies at Knox Lake this season.
For maps and information about the crappie fishing available in central Ohio, visit www.wildohio.com or call the ODOW's Wildlife District One office at (614) 644-3925.
Four miles west of Lima, Bresler Reservoir serves as that city's drinking water supply.
This 600-acre upground reservoir is in west-central Allen County. Bresler is approximately one mile south of state Route 81 and one mile north of state Route 117 on Grubb and Kemp roads.
The boat ramp and main parking areas are on the lake's east side. A second parking area that's popular with anglers is on the southwest corner of the lake off Agerter Road. Parking areas on the west side of the reservoir are along Grubb Road.
Maintaining an average depth of 27 feet, Bresler is a deep reservoir and provides plenty of space -- if not traditional cover -- for room for crappies to thrive.
Slip bobbers are needed a little later in the season when crappies move into deeper water and suspend, but in May, anglers prowl the shore and fill their stringers with bragging-sized crappies taken right along the shoreline shallows.
Willard Reservoir in Huron County covers 215 acres and boasts a population of crappies that local anglers would rather not see publicized.
Willard Reservoir is in southwestern Huron County a couple of miles north of New Haven on state Route 61. It is rarely mentioned as a prime fishing destination for any species, making it one of those "sleeper" waters that may be worth hitting this month.
Willard Reservoir averages 36 feet deep with a maximum depth nearly 50 feet down.
There is an electric motor-only rule and a 25-foot maximum boat length to keep the fishing serene. Authorized boats may can be launched at a ramp and parking area on the southwest corner of Willard Reservoir off state Route 61.
For lake maps and more crappie fishing information, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Two office at (419) 424-5000 or log onto www.wildohio.com.
La Due Reservoir
With some 1,500 acres of water, more than 20 miles of shoreline and plenty of underwater cover, La Due Reservoir is a super destination for northeastern Ohio fishermen.
Located in Geauga County, the lake is about 30 miles east of Cleveland near the intersection of state Route 44 and U.S. Route 422, which crosses the reservoir. In May, crappies are caught on both sides of the bridge and around the nearby islands that dot La Due's generally tranquil surface. Boaters at La Due are limited to electric motors only.
The launch ramp is at the south end of Valley Road.
Clendening Lake covers 1,800 acr
es in Harrison County and offers some of the best crappie fishing in Ohio. Clendening is a long, narrow waterway with 44 miles of mostly wooded shoreline. There is a 10-horsepower limit on boat motors. A boat dock with marina and a launch ramp, as well as overnight accommodations, are available on the south-central side of the lake
The dam area of Clendening at Tippecanoe off state Route 800 is a popular one with anglers. State Route 799 bisects the lake, and township roads provide good access from all sides.
Access is via Interstate Route 77 about 25 miles north at New Philadelphia. There is a new 9-inch minimum length and 30 fish bag limit in effect for crappies caught at Clendening this season.
Portage County's Mogadore Reservoir contains 900 acres of water and has an excellent population of keeper-sized crappies.
The lake is three miles east of Akron and six miles south of Kent on state Route 43 a mile north of U.S. Route 224. Anglers hit Mogadore fairly hard by on balmy spring weekends.
However, going by the annual catch of crappies, the lake seems to be able to handle the pressure and keeps producing fine catches of slabs all season.
Good crappie habitat may be found in several areas, including around the public fishing pier and in the western end of Mogadore. The ODOW maintains a launch ramp and three parking areas offering access to Mogadore Reservoir, complemented by the city of Akron's two campgrounds, which are popular with fishermen throughout the season.
Maps and additional information may be obtained by contacting the ODOW's Wildlife District Three office in Akron at (330) 644-2293 or by logging onto www.wildohio.com.
A Muskingum Watershed Control District (MWCD) reservoir, Piedmont Lake on state Route 22 midway between Cambridge and Cadiz about 10 miles north of Interstate Route 70.
Piedmont's Lake's 2,300 acres spill across parts of Guernsey, Harrison and Belmont counties, providing some of the best crappie fishing in the district.
Averaging 15 feet deep, Piedmont Lake offers some 35 miles of shoreline to crappie anglers. Much of the shoreline offers woody cover and shallow areas where slabs congregate at this time of year, putting them in range of anglers fishing from both shore and boats. Motors are limited to 10 horsepower and may be launched at a public ramp at the north end of the lake off state Route 800.
i>Burr Oak Lake
Burr Oak Lake is a gem of a crappie water, offering a scenic 664 acres in Morgan and Athens counties starting at the dam three miles north of Glouster on state Route 13.
The lake stretches south across Athens County for before entering Morgan County. Burr Oak State Park surrounds the lake and offers a popular state park lodge, campground and swimming beach. The rocky area near the latter provides some excellent crappie fishing for spring anglers, as do the abundant blow downs and other woody cover along the shoreline.
Ramps and parking for anglers are available at the campground and near the lodge, and boaters with outboards of greater than 10 horsepower are required to proceed at idle speed only on Burr Oak Lake.
For a state park map or information about camping or lodging, call (740) 767-3570 or log onto www.atapark.com.
For maps and more information on the crappie action at Burr Oak Lake and Piedmont Lake, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Four office in Athens at (740) 594-2211 or follow the links off www.wildohio.com.
Clinton County's picturesque Cowan Lake contains 700 acres of water that are picture-perfect for spring crappie fishing. Located seven miles southwest of Wilmington, 40 miles northeast of Cincinnati and about the same distant southeast of Dayton via U.S. Route 68 and state routes 730 and 350, Cowan Lake gets some fishing pressure during the peak of the crappie action, especially on weekends at this time of year. A 10 horsepower motor limit is in effect.
At this time of year, crappie anglers are the most numerous. Many of them launch and then make a beeline for the north end of the island on Cowan's eastern basin.
Boat ramps may be found on the east and southwest shores of Cowan Lake. For a map and more information, contact the park office at (937) 289-2105 or visit www.wildohio.com and follow the links for Cowan Lake.
Grand Lake St. Marys
At one time considered to be one of the premier crappie destinations in Ohio, Grand Lake St. Marys has suffered some bad press due to annual algae blooms in recent years, and last autumn plans were implemented to address the issue of runoff from adjacent farms affecting water quality.
However, the massive lake's 2,500 acres of water continue to produce excellent catches of crappies for those who know where to find the fish.
To find the lake, head to Mercer and Auglaize counties in west-central Ohio. The city of St. Mary's is off the northeast corner shoreline, with state Route 29 along the north shore, U.S. Route 127 to the west and state Route 703 along the south side of the lake.
A pair of dams hold water originally destined for the Ohio-Erie canal system, backing up flows from both the Wabash-Ohio river drainage system and the St. Marys River to form Grand Lake St. Marys.
The lake contains one of the largest populations of crappies in the state, which thrive in the shallow, structure-laden waters of the sprawling impoundment. As in any quality crappie water, woody cover along the shore will attract fish this month.
For maps and additional information on fishing in southwestern Ohio, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Five offices in Xenia at (937) 372-9261 or visit www.wildohio.com.