Ohio's Finest Spring Crappie Lakes

Ohio's spring crappie fishing is some of the best in the world. Here's a sampling of the Buckeye State's 10 best waters for crappie anglers to consider in 2003.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

By Curt Williams

When the first rays of spring sunshine warm the waters of Ohio's public fishing lakes, crappies anglers are quick to grab their fishing gear. A warm spring day spent catching a mess of these tasty panfish is definitely one of the finer times in life.

Ohio's crappies population is healthy and growing according to Scott Hale, fisheries biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Inland Fisheries Research Unit. A four-year study of Ohio's crappie population has been completed, and the outlook for the future of Buckeye State crappie fishing looks good.

"We have implemented new length limits in five lakes around the state," Hale said. "Alum Creek, Seneca Lake, Caesar Creek, Deer Creek and Tappan Lake now have length limits. Each has pretty good growth and reproduction rates for crappies, and all had large crappie populations. With the new length limits in place, we hope to increase the size of fish caught as well as the catch rates for anglers."

There are numerous opportunities for crappie anglers around the state, but the following 10 lakes are highly recommended for a spring outing in 2003.

Deer Creek Lake
About 25 miles Southwest of Columbus in Pickaway and Fayette counties, Deer Creek Lake offers crappie anglers with 1,277 acres of quality fishing opportunities. With a shoreline of over 19 miles and a maximum depth of 35 feet, this lake features plenty of room for anglers as well as plenty of fish.

This is an unlimited-horsepower lake with a boat ramp on the west shore of its northwest arm and a ramp on the east shore of its northeast arm. Picnic tables, boat and dock rentals as well as camping with 227 sites, a lodge and cottages are also available.

Crappies average 6 to 14 inches at Deer Creek Lake, and a 9-inch length limit is in effect. Proven crappie baits include minnows and small jigs.

The best access is from Interstate Route 71 to state Route 56. In Mt. Sterling, take Route 207 to the lake. Williamsport is south of the lake region and New Holland is to the southeast.

For information on the facilities available at Deer Creek State Park, call (740) 869-3124. For lodge or cottage reservations, call 1-877-678-3337.

Alum Creek Lake
Alum Creek Lake in Delaware County offers anglers 3,387-acres of water sure to provide a productive crappie outing. This lake has a shoreline of over 46 miles and is 45 feet deep in places, with an average depth of 25 feet.

This is an unlimited horsepower lake with showers, toilets, picnic areas, RV hookups, and boat and dock rentals. A 287-site camping area is available as well in Alum Creek State Park.

This lake is governed under the 9-inch length limit on crappies. The most productive areas include the breaks off the banks and across the points. The old roadbed that runs along the lake's east shore is also recommended for crappies. Other good March hotspots for crappies include dead-end channels, weedy shoals and shallow rock piles.

For information on the accommodations available at the park, call Alum Creek State Park at (740) 548-4631.

The lake is north of Columbus near Africa and Cheshire. The best access to Alum Creek Lake is from Interstate 71 or from state Route 37 at the north end of the lake.

Both Alum Creek and Deer Creek Lakes are in Wildlife District One. For additional information on the crappie fishing in central Ohio, contact the District One office, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, Ohio 43215; or call (614) 644-3925.

Atwood Lake
According to Phil Hillman, Wildlife District Three fish management supervisor, Atwood Lake is one of the top producing crappie lakes in this region of the state. Crappies are plentiful, with an average size of around 10 inches and some fish that measure 14 inches.

This Carroll County lake covers 1,529 acres of surface water. The average depth is 10 feet, with a maximum of 30 feet. There is a 25-horsepower motor limit on the lake. There are two ramps on the north shore and one ramp on the west shore, south of the dam.

The best areas for spring crappie fishing includes the broad point near mid-lake on the south shore, in the long central bay area, deeper water near dropoffs, and along the old railroad bed in front of the east-shore marina. Secondary creek arms and shallow lake coves are also good crappie-fishing locations.

Boat and dock rentals, picnic areas, a handicapped-accessible boat launch and camping are available at Atwood Lake. The lake is in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.

State routes 212 and 542 provide access. The nearest towns are Dellroy and New Cumberland. The nearest city is New Philadelphia, which is southwest of Atwood Lake just off Interstate 77.

Berlin Lake
Another large northeastern Ohio crappie haven is in Berlin Lake. This 3,650-acre lake has 68 miles of shoreline and averages 15 feet in depth with a maximum depth of 60 feet. Constructed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in 1942 for flood control and industrial water supplies, the water levels can fluctuate as much as 50 feet each year.

Crappie sizes average 10 inches and several go up to 14 inches. Numerous parking areas and launch ramps are available around the lake. Fish attractors are also scattered around the perimeter of Berlin Lake.

This lake has no horsepower limits and is one of the most used lakes in the state. This can sometimes be a problem for crappie fishermen, especially on weekends and during holiday periods. Crappie anglers may want to fish Berlin Lake through the week or early in the morning and late in the evening to avoid conflicts with recreational boat traffic.

Berlin Lake is in sections of Portage, Mahoning and Stark counties and is near Alliance. Accommodations include camping, boat and dock rentals, picnic areas, toilet facilities and a handicapped accessible boat launch. Access is provided by state Route 14 and U.S. Route 224.

Both Atwood and Berlin Lakes are in Wildlife District Three. For additional information on crappie fishing in northeast Ohi

o, contact the Wildlife District Three office, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319; or call (330) 644-2293.

Salt Fork Lake
Salt Fork Lake in Guernsey County has a nice population of crappies averaging 10 inches, with reports of 14-inch fish coming in on a regular basis. This long, sprawling, 2,926-acre lake has 64 miles of shoreline with an average depth of 15 feet and a maximum of 35 feet.

The lake is seven miles northeast of Cambridge. It was constructed in 1968 for flood control and recreational purposes. Many trees were left standing when the reservoir was flooded, and an artificial reef was built in the north branch to provide cover for fish. The crappie habitat is good in this lake, with heavy populations being reported in the extreme northern areas.

This is an unlimited horsepower lake. Accommodations in Salt Fork State Park include camping (212 sites), showers, cottages, a lodge, boat and dock rentals, picnic areas and numerous boat launches.

For information on these and other facilities available at the park, call (740) 439-3521. For cottage or lodge reservations, call 1-800-282-7275.

Seneca Lake
Another large crappie lake with 3,550 acres of water in Noble and Guernsey counties, Seneca Lake was built in 1938. Its crappie habitat is well developed and the numbers of fish are good. A 9-inch length limit was implemented on Seneca to help increase crappies sizes.

A 165-horsepower limit is in effect on this lake. Two ramps are available on the north shore above the dam. Camping with 380 sites, full RV hookups and 233 electric hookups are available with cottages, cabins and a marina.

In the northeastern end of the lake, crappie habitat includes fallen trees along the east shore. Look for points in this vicinity that end with a submerged hump that rises relatively close to the surface. Crappies congregate around these humps. Crappies are also abundant around fallen trees, which can be found at different locations around the lake.

The best access to Seneca Lake is from state routes 313, 574, 566 and 761. The nearest town is Senecaville to the northwest of the lake, with Batesville a little farther to the east.

Both Salt Fork and Seneca lakes are in Wildlife District Four. For additional information on crappies management and other crappie waters within this region, contact the Wildlife District Four, 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701; or call (740) 594-2211.

Caesar Creek Lake
In portions of Warren, Clinton and Greene counties, 2,830-acre Caesar Creek Lake provides some of the best crappie fishing in southwestern Ohio. A 9-inch length limit is in effect at this lake. The crappie population is in good shape, with most fish measuring between 7 and 11 inches.

This is another of Ohio's unlimited-horsepower lakes. A launch ramp is on the northeast side of the inlet to the lake. Two more ramps are on the north shore, and another ramp is on the southeast shore, off Oregonia Road. This lake has a maximum depth of 115 feet.

The northeastern end of the lake is highly recommended for spring crappie fishing. This is in the vicinity of Haines Road near the launch ramp. This is a traditional spring staging area for crappies, where brush piles provide good cover for spawning fish. Several areas in the southwestern portion of the lake supply good numbers of crappies as well.

Camping is available with 280 sites. RV hookups, dock rentals, showers, picnic areas, a handicapped-accessible fishing pier and boat launch are also provided at Caesar Creek Lake.

Access to the lake is via state routes 380 and 73. Harveysburg is on the southeastern side of the lake and Waynesville is to the west. Dayton and Xenia are north of the lake.

Paint Creek Lake In the rolling woodlands of Highland and Ross Counties, Paint Creek Lake covers 1,190 acres and boasts one of the better crappie fisheries in the region. The lake has over 30 miles of shoreline and averages 25 feet in depth, with a maximum depth of 40 feet.

Paint Creek Lake is a flood-control and recreation lake built between 1967 and 1974. Trees and brush were left standing in many sections of the lake to provide additional fish habitat. Several low, rock dams were built below the main dam to improve the tailwater fishery. Crappies have done well in this lake and average 8 to 10 inches, with some 15-inch fish taken on occasion.

This is an unlimited-horsepower lake. One launch ramp is on the southeast shore near the dam. Another ramp is on the south shore near mid-lake, and another ramp is on the north shore off Taylor Road. Anglers are advised to get on the lake early or late in the day to avoid the recreational powerboat traffic.

The best access to Paint Creek Lake is from U.S. Route 50 and from state Route 753. Greenfield is north of the lake and Hillsboro is to the west. The lake is in Paint Creek State Park. For information on the facilities available at the park, call (937) 365-1401.

Caesar Creek and Paint Creek lakes are in Wildlife District Five. For additional information on the crappie fishing opportunities available in southwestern Ohio, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Five office, 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45385; or call (937) 372-9261.

Charles Mill Lake
This 1,350-acre crappie lake in Richland and Ashland counties is known for its quality spring panfishing. A relatively shallow lake with an average depth of 8 feet and a maximum depth of 15 feet, its crappie population seems to be doing well.

Formed in 1936 when the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers dammed the Black Fork of the Mohican River, the reservoir is now part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. The main purpose of the reservoir is to provide flood control and recreation resources. For anglers, the recreational part has definitely been a success!

Both black and white crappies are found in Charles Mill Lake. There are good numbers of crappies in the 6- to 10-inch range. Recommended areas of the lake are its stump-laden bays and overhangs. Spring crappies will always hit minnows, but small, white-green jigs are also successful.

Best access to this lake is from state Route 603 and U.S. Route 30. Accommodations are available in nearby Mifflin, Mansfield to the west or Ashland to the north.

Pleasant Hill Lake
Also in Richland and Ashland counties, Pleasant Hill Lake offers 781 acres of crappie fishing for anglers in this region. The lake has an average depth of 15 feet and a maximum depth of 35 feet. Another unlimited-horsepower lake, it is heavily used by recreational boaters during the day.

Pleasant Hill crappies often congregate around entrances to creek arms prior to spawning. Dense stands of timber along inlet streams are the best locations for spring fishing. After spawning, the crappies are found closer to the main body of the lake. Dropoffs, stumps, brush and fallen trees are good post-spawn locations to try.

Accommodations at Pleasant Hill Lake include camping, picnic areas, boat and dock rentals and a handicapped-accessible boat launch. A boat launch ramp is on the north shore.

Access to Pleasant Hill Lake is via state routes 603 and 95. Perrysville and Loudonville are nearby. Mohican Memorial State Forest is to the south, and Malabar Farm is west of the lake.

Additional information about Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill lakes can be obtained by writing the ODOW's Wildlife District Two office, 952 Lima Avenue, Findlay, OH 45840; or call (419) 424-5000.

For more information on crappie management and fishing opportunities around the Buckeye State, contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife headquarters, 1840 Belcher Drive, Columbus, OH 43224-1300; or call (614) 265-6300.

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