Ohio's 2006 Ice-Fishing Forecast

Here's a look at the action that Buckeye State ice-anglers are likely to encounter this season. (January 2006)

Photo by Michael Skinner

There's plenty of good ice-fishing action around the state this month as anglers prepare to take buckets of bluegills, crappies, perch, walleyes and saugeyes through the ice. Waters in the northern half of the state usually ice up quicker than in the southern half, but the fishing south of Columbus can be just as good.

As important as good tactics and fresh bait are, knowing where to set up is the key to success.

"Fish will be pretty much scattered throughout the winter if there is no cover," said Matt Wolfe, a District Three fisheries biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife

"All of our fish management activities have an all-season focus. The Ohio Division of Wildlife does some work to enhance ice-fishing opportunities, such as placing fish concentration devices including pallets, rock reefs, Christmas trees and fiberglass crappie tubes. We try to place these structures near the shoreline, especially on larger reservoirs, where anglers can walk out on the ice, stay in sight of their cars and catch fish."

Here's a look at some of our best bets for when the winter winds are blowing and the mercury has bottomed out:

DISTRICT ONE

Alum Creek Reservoir

Alum Creek is north of Columbus in Delaware County off Interstate 71. The lake is loaded with big saugeyes, according to Elmer Heyob Jr., a fisheries biologist with the ODOW's District One office in Columbus.

In January 2002, a new state-record saugeye was taken that weighed over 12.5 pounds.

According to Heyob, there's plenty more big saugeyes where that one came from.

Heyob recommends fishing near the lake bottom over deep water with rattle-type lures, minnows, jigs and larval baits. He suggests a slow, lift-and-drop presentation near points and shallow reefs.

The crappie angling is also excellent at Alum Creek. Anglers can expect to pull up crappies in the 12-inch range this year, and lots of them. A minimum length limit of 9 inches for papermouths is in effect at the reservoir, which covers 3,192 acres and has plenty of marinas and parking areas.

Access is from state routes 36/37, which intersect the northern section of the lake. State Route 521 and Cheshire, Hollenback and Lewis Center roads provide access from state Route 23 on the west side of the lake.

For more information, contact the Alum Creek State Park office at (740) 548-4631 or the Ohio Division of Wildlife at (614) 644-3925.

Indian Lake

Logan County's Indian Lake covers 5,800 acres of water, the lake yields plenty of big bluegills, slab crappies and hungry saugeyes throughout the hardwater season.

Elmer Heyob also recommends Indian Lake for winter largemouth bass. Though far and few between in January, big bass may be taken on jigging spoons in the deeper areas that have been recently dredged.

In addition, the success of the saugeye in Indian Lake is almost unparalleled, according to Heyob. Every year the ODOW stocks nearly 500,000 saugeyes into Indian Lake, and fish up to 7 and 8 pounds are occasionally taken.

The deeper water east of Dream Bridge off state Route 368 is one of the best spots on the lake to target for saugeyes.

Public access is available along the West and South banks where parking lots are provided. Additional parking lots and access are available at the Chippewa, Blackhawk and Moundwood marinas.

Indian Lake may be reached off state routes 235 and 366 or from side roads off state Route 117 on the east.

Call Indian Lake State Park at (937) 843-2717 for current ice conditions, which can vary widely across the lake. Even the head of the local Coast Guard auxiliary has gone through the ice on a snowmobile, so caution is always advised.

A map and more information are available from the ODOW's District One office at (614) 644-3925.

DISTRICT TWO

Lake La Su An Wildlife Area

This productive hotspot features 13 fishable ponds and covers 130 acres of water in Williams County, but good things can come in small sizes.

The ponds on the area are some of the most highly managed waters in the state for huge bluegills, and the ponds harbor some true lunker bass.

Every year anglers take an estimated 12,000 bluegills from these ponds. Up to 40 percent of these 'gills reach between 8 and 11 inches before finding their way into anglers' buckets.

Managing for bluegills revolves around setting slot limits for bass. Bass numbers and sizes are controlled to provide the proper predator-prey relationship, and the panfish population responds with larger-sized fish.

Bass up to several pounds are taken with regularity and these ponds may be the angler's best bet for taking bass from under the ice.

All harvested fish must be recorded in at the fish check-in station before leaving the area.

Anglers who plan on fishing the frozen waters here will have to call ahead for a free permit and make reservations. Contact the fish check station in the winter months between 9 a.m. and noon at (419) 636-6189.

Call the ODOW at (419) 424-5000 for a map and additional information.

Findlay Reservoirs 1 and 2

Few winter waters in northwest Ohio are more productive than the Findlay reservoirs in Hancock County.

Both good sizes and numbers of walleyes and perch are jigged up regularly during the coldwater season.

The upground reservoirs share a common shoreline at one point but otherwise have slightly differing characteristics.

Reservoir No. 1 covers 72 acres and is better known as a lake with loads of bluegills. There are some bass as well as yellow perch and walleyes, but the lake has aged and has developed more weed growth than its counterpart.

The sister reservoir is much larger at 629 acres and averages depths in the 20- to 25-foot range.

Walleyes roam here up to 26 inches while perch can run up to 10 inches. Bluegill are present but pale in popularity to the bigger walleyes.

If ground conditions are slippery anglers can expect to climb the stairways built into the sides of the reservoirs or drive up Reservoir No. 2's vehicle access and boat ramp on the southwest section of the lake.

Fishermen should call ahead to find out if the ice is thick enough and if the park district rangers will allow ice-anglers onto the reservoirs.

The lakes are east of Findlay on county roads 205 and 207.

For a map and more information, contact the Hancock County Park District at (419) 425-7275 or the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000.

DISTRICT THREE

Mosquito Lake

Covering 7,241 acres, there's plenty of room to roam at Mosquito Lake for the tip-up crowd, and there's plenty of fish available to draw ice-anglers to this winter paradise.

The ODOW reports good numbers of walleyes up to 21 inches. Over 15 million walleyes were stocked in 2004, an increase over past stockings that have resulted in a thriving fishery. As a matter of fact, the ODOW estimates that the lake holds well over 60,000 fish that measure 13 inches or more.

Mosquito Lake also contains a thriving population of crappies. Small minnows or larvae on a light pole will produce plenty of action on fish up to 13 inches.

Most ice-anglers set up north and south of the state Route 88 causeway. Pallets, Christmas trees and crappie tubes have been established south of the causeway as fish attractors.

This is one of the only lakes in Ohio that offers fair numbers of northern pike in respectable sizes. Lunkers up to 36 inches can be taken on shiners fished just under the ice.

Bluegills are the bucket-fillers at Mosquito Lake, with fish in the 6- to 8-inch size dominating the fishery. Surveys have indicated that the average size of harvested bluegills is nearly 7 inches long.

Mosquito Lake is in Trumbull County. Access is off state Route 46 on the east and from Blackstub Road on the west.

The northern section of Mosquito Lake is a wildlife refuge where no fishing is allowed.

For more information and a map, contact the Mosquito State Park office at (330) 637-2856 or the ODOW at (330) 644-2293.


Waters in the northern half of the state usually ice up quicker than in the southern half, but the fishing south of Columbus can be just as good.
 

Berlin Reservoir

This 3,280-acre lake in Stark, Mahoning and Portage counties is another good winter destination.

The reservoir's white and black crappies are big and abundant. The blacks are running 7 to 9 inches with 11-inch fish always possible. Whites aren't far behind with 15 percent of the fish caught in a 2004 trap-netting survey measuring at least 10 inches.

Walleyes are present but smaller than their counterparts in other Ohio waters. A 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect in an effort to rectify that situation.

Look for the steepest structure, dropoffs and other deep-water cover to locate walleyes. Minnows fished with a bobber, teardrop jigs tipped with minnows, small spoons and vibrating baits are all good bets.

Largemouth bass prospects, especially during warm spells, are considered excellent, so ice-anglers should expect the occasional bucketmouth. Jigging spoons or a minnow fished under a bobber or on a tip-up might produce a 15-inch or better fish.

Berlin Lake stretches for 18 miles and averages three-quarters of a mile across. It's the fifth largest inland lake in Ohio.

For additional information and a map contact the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers' Berlin office at (330) 547-5445 or the ODOW at (330) 644-2293.

DISTRICT FOUR

Grand Lake St. Marys

This is Ohio's largest inland lake. It covers 13,500 acres in Mercer and Auglaize counties. It's also one of the best crappie lakes in the state. The population of crappies is so large that the lake hosts a "Crappiethon" every year. Fish up to 13 inches are taken regularly through the ice.

Walleyes are often overlooked but there are plenty of them. Over 50 million walleyes have been stocked into this shallow basin lake since 1999, and they're now running from 13 to 20 inches.

Yellow perch also attract anglers. Most of the perch are from 6 to 9 inches long with an occasional 11- or 12-incher. Perch easily fall for larval baits and minnows along.

Depths average 6 or 7 feet, according to Charlie Huddleston of the Outdoorsman Bait Shop. According to Huddleston, ice anglers should locate deeper holes and channels that have recently been dredged. Crappies and perch stack up in these deeper spots, which will provide good action for three or four years.

Anglers should contact the state park for information on recent dredging operations.

The state park office may be reached at (419) 394-3611. Anglers may also contact the ODOW at (740) 589-9930 for additional information.

American Electric Power Ponds

The American Electric Power Company ponds offer a different kind of ice-fishing experience. There are few places to park at the ponds but there are miles of walk-in opportunities.

There are so many ponds and small lakes here that no one really seems to know exactly how many there are. A few are easily accessible while other ponds are in steep ravines, at the bottom of coal mining pits or nearly inaccessible due to briars and thick underbrush.

Bluegills are the name of the game here. The ponds produce thousands of scrappy 'gills up to 8 inches long. Redear sunfish reach 10 inches but aren't as widely dispersed.

The AEP's largemouth bass fishing is famous. Several 20-inch plus fish are taken every year, and occasionally fish in the 6-pound category are landed.

In milder weather the ponds remain open and may be fished successfully from shore. Finesse tactics are called for when targeting lethargic winter bass.

The AEP is still managing the property and will occasionally open a section that hasn't seen an angler in years. Ask for the most current map to locate these ponds.

Hardy types might consider winter camping on the area while tackling some of the more remote fishing.

Both an Ohio fishing license and a free AEP permit are required to fish these ponds.

Access is off of state routes 78, 83 and 284. The best way to find your way around on the company's private dirt roads is by using the map available from either the AEP or the ODOW.

For a free permit, write the American Electric Power Company, P. O. Box 328, McConnelsville, OH 43756; or go online at www.aep.com.

Contact the ODOW's office at (740) 589-9930 for more information.

DISTRICT FIVE

Lake Loramie

This winding 1,500-acre lake offers good ice-fishing according to George Shultis, manager of Lake Loramie State Park.

Bluegills and crappies take center stage, according to Shultis, along with an up-and-coming saugeye population. Most anglers haven't figured out how to catch them with any regularity, said Shultis, but the fish are here.

Even so, chances are good of tangling with a few saugeyes. In October 2003 a survey showed good results from the more than 1 million fish that have been stocked. Anglers told the ODOW that they'd been catching fish in the 1- to 3-pound range, and in February 2002 a 9-pounder was taken.

Saugeyes are taken under and around the Luthman's Road bridge. The lake narrows to about 50 feet here and creates a natural travel corridor for fish.

Crappies in this lake reach the 8- to 10-inch mark with bigger ones occasionally being caught.

Access is from state routes 119 and 362 about two miles east of Fort Loramie in Auglaize and Shelby counties.

Additional information and a map are available from the state park at (937) 295-2011 or from the ODOW at (937) 372-9261.

Stonelick Lake

Better known for its summertime lunker largemouths, Stonelick Lake yields an occasional winter bucketmouth as well.

According to ODOW fisheries biologist Doug Maloney, bass as large as 7 pounds have come out of this small 171-acre lake in Clermont County.

Depths reach 20 feet at the dam and provide winter refuge for bass, bluegills and crappies. Panfish are moderately sized but plentiful.

Rainbow trout are stocked in Stonelick and can provide an interesting change of pace. Small rainbows stocked in the lake provide excellent forage for big bass and help explain the huge sizes of some of the lunkers.

Stumps and old weedy cover are found throughout the lake.

Open-water boaters in cold weather can find public access ramps near the cemetery on the east end of the lake and at the west end near Newtonsville Road. Shoreline access is available anywhere you can find a place to park and walk in.

For a map and more information, call Stonelick State Park at (513) 625-7544 or the ODOW at (937) 372-9261.

For more information, contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife at (800) WILDLIFE for more information.

Trip-planning assistance may be obtained from the Ohio Division of Tourism at (800) BUCKEYE.

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