Ohio's Top Five Spring Muskie Lakes

Ohio's Top Five Spring Muskie Lakes

If you want to join the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club this year with a fish over 42 inches long, these are the lakes that will help you qualify. (April 2006)

Buckeye State muskie anglers can expect more great fishing as the 2006 spring season gets under way. As of late October last year, muskie scale sample returns indicated a dramatic increase in catch rates all across the state.

According to Donald Weaver, president of the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club, a whopping 98 percent of all the fish caught were successfully returned to the water. The excellent angling opportunities that exist in Ohio can be attributed to the almost religious catch-and-release ethic of Ohio's most devout muskie anglers.

Here is a look at five of the best lakes for Ohio's muskie anglers to consider this fishing season.

LEESVILLE LAKE

Leesville Lake has earned its ranking in Ohio's top five spring muskie lakes. According to Weaver, this phenomenal body of water has done nothing but improve each season. The number of Huskie Muskies landed (a muskie caught in Ohio waters that is 42 inches or longer) more than doubled from 2004 to 2005.

Leesville Lake may be accessed two miles southeast of Sherrodsville off state Route 212 in Carrolton County, part of the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Wildlife District Three. Leesville is a small impoundment, at just 1,000 acres, and has a 10-horsepower motor limit.

Anglers visiting the lake can expect fishing pressure to be relatively high; however, the potential for catching a trophy-class fish here is excellent.

Many successful Leesville anglers cast bucktails and crankbaits along shallow shoreline structure.

"Muskies tend to hold in approximately 4 to 10 feet of water throughout the spring," noted Weaver. "Also, anglers will find the most active fish inhabiting the north shorelines, as these tend to warm more quickly."

Weaver also pointed out that muskies are structure-oriented at this time of year. Anglers should always allow for a few extra casts around fallen trees and timber.

Though Leesville Lake is well known for having ample weed growth, the weeds are rarely noticeable in April; therefore, the fish will be found near other forms of structure in spring.

Leesville Lake is stocked annually with one muskie fingerling per surface acre. Leesville Lake had been thought to be more of a numbers fishery, but in 2005 Leesville produced more fish over 42 inches than any other lake in the state. It also produced at least one muskie over 50 inches.

For more information on Leesville Lake or to request a lake map, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Three headquarters at (330) 644-2293.

CLEAR FORK RESERVOIR

Clear Fork Reservoir, off state route 97 and 314 northwest of Lexington, is another Ohio muskie classic. This 971-acre hotspot in Richland and Morrow counties is the ODOW's muskie brood stock lake.

According to Ed Lewis, a District Two fisheries biologist, there has been a slight decline in Clear Fork's overall muskie brood fish. In an effort to increase these numbers, the ODOW began using leftover fingerlings to double-stock the lake, increasing the rate to two muskies per surface acre. This started in 2005, and according to Lewis it will continue in 2006 if there is a surplus of muskie fingerlings after other scheduled lakes have been stocked.

Muskie anglers may find success on Clear Fork by targeting the area around the confluence of Clear Fork Creek. Focus on areas with 4 to 10 feet of water. North Bay is also a consistent producer of fish year after year.

Clear Fork has no motor horsepower restrictions; however, the ODOW has mandated an 8-mph law that is strictly enforced.

For more information on Clear Fork Reservoir or to request a lake map, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Two office at (419) 424-5000.

ALUM CREEK RESERVOIR

This 3,387-acre reservoir in Delaware County is a muskie gold mine. Alum Creek, a very stable fishery, is known for providing muskies with an environment conducive to rapid growth.

The lake is one mile west of Interstate Route 71 on U.S. routes 36 and 37. There are no horsepower restrictions in force on Alum Creek. The lake receives annual stockings of one muskie fingerling per surface acre.

Alum is often referred to as a "big fish" lake, and it lives up to its reputation. Anglers can expect to see fair numbers of 50-inch muskies boated here.

Most fishing is done at the confluence of Alum in 4 to 10 of water.

Alum Creek is rather expansive, and there seems to be more of a trolling mentality here than on some other lakes. Even so, anglers should always be willing to stop and cast to high- percentage shore and weed areas.

For more information on Alum Creek Reservoir or to request a lake map, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District One headquarters at (614) 644-3925.

For lake conditions, bait and tackle, contact Alum Creek Bait and Tackle on State Route 37 in Sunbury at (740) 369-0836.

LAKE MILTON

Lake Milton is a 1,685-acre impoundment in Mahoning County. Ironically, this honeyhole is not scheduled for regular muskie stocking. It does, however, receive fish if surplus fingerlings are available.

In spite of its "surplus only" status, Lake Milton has been stocked eight out of the past nine years. In 2003, Lake Milton produced the largest fish caught in Ohio waters all season, a 53-inch goliath.

Though catch returns from Lake Milton are frequently less than from the previously mentioned lakes, the fishing pressure is conservative too.

Lake Milton has no motor restrictions. It may be accessed off state Route 534 at county Road 18 about 15 miles west of Youngstown.

For more information or to request a lake map, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Three headquarters at (330) 644-2293.

PIEDMONT LAKE

Another excellent muskie fishery, 2,310-acre Piedmont Lake is in Belmont and Harrison counties in Wildlife District Four. This big lake is the home of the current state-record muskie, a 50 1/2-inch 55-pound, 3-ounce brute.

During the 1993, '94, '95, '97, '98 and 2000 fishing seasons,

Piedmont produced the largest muskie caught in Ohio waters. Following a lull in recent years, Piedmont's 2005 muskie returns show that it has regained its ranking in the upper echelon of muskie fisheries. Huskie Muskie qualifiers are not uncommon on this body of water, and it typically produces at least one 50-inch-plus fish every year.

Piedmont is considered to be one of the most scenic lakes in Ohio, and with a 10-horsepower-motor restriction it is truly hospitable to serious muskie anglers.

Good spring fishing opportunities may be found around the dam area, Essex Bay and Marina Bay. Spring muskies are seldom found deeper than 15 feet of water. North shores and wood structure remain consistent hideaways for hungry fish.

Piedmont Lake is off U.S. Route 22 one mile northeast of Smyrna.

For more information on fishing Piedmont Lake, or to request a lake map, call the ODOW's Wildlife District Four office at (740) 594-2211.

* * *

Biologist Lewis and Don Weaver encourage anglers to send in a scale sample of every muskie they catch in Ohio waters. The ODOW provides pre-addressed, postage-paid envelopes at the boat launching facilities of most muskie lakes, or the envelopes may be requested by phoning Lewis directly at (419) 429-8371. Simply remove four to six scales from one side of the muskie and put them in the envelope. Fill out the information on the front of the envelope and drop it into the mail. This data helps fisheries biologists determine how well their stocking methods are working on each lake in the program.

Anglers who send in their first scale sample to the ODOW will receive an honorary membership for the remainder of the year the fish was caught.

Or anglers may simply fill out a membership application. Application forms may be obtained at most marinas and bait dealers in Ohio water areas that have a muskellunge fishery. These forms may also be obtained by writing the Ohio Division of Wildlife at one of the following district offices:

  • 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215
  • 952 Lima Ave., Box A, Findlay, OH 45840
  • 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319
  • 360 East State St., Athens, OH 45701
  • 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Box 576, Xenia, OH 45385
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