Ohio's Top Summer Muskie Lakes

August muskie fishing can be as productive as at any other time of year. Our expert has the lowdown on where to find your Husky Muskie this month. (August 2006)

Photo by J. Michael Kelly

Ohio's muskie fishery is growing increasingly popular among anglers all around the country. And though August is the hottest month of the year, muskie anglers keep plugging away on their favorite lakes.

Fueled by dedication and the lure of 50-inch Huskie Muskies, these avid anglers account for the majority of fish taken each year.

Some biologists maintain that the best time to target Buckeye State muskellunge this month is from dusk to daylight. But in August, muskies can be taken at just about every hour of the day.

Fisheries biologists agree with anglers on one thing: Muskie fishing is improving in the Buckeye State. And there's no reason for this trend to slow any time in the near future.

The current stocking program encompasses several lakes around the state. Ed Lewis, an Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist and muskie data recorder, said that each lake involved in the ODOW's stocking program receives muskie fingerlings at a rate of one fish per surface acre.

Lewis noted that every muskie stocked is approximately 9 inches in length.

"By stocking larger fingerlings," he said, "we have been able to increase the fish's odds of survival by several percent."

Lewis also explained that the Ohio Division of Wildlife attempts to keep a running count on the number of muskies caught in Ohio waters every year.

"The program depends entirely on anglers reporting their catches to us," Lewis said. "We provide small postage-paid envelopes near the boat ramp facilities of all the lakes stocked with muskies. All an angler needs to do is remove five or six scales from his fish, drop them in the envelope, fill out the appropriate data on the front and put it in the mail."

Lewis said that the information gathered through this process helps the state determine the success of their management practices.

If the muskie an angler catches and turns in is eligible for an award, the angler will be notified by mail.

"It's really a win-win situation," Lewis said. "By reporting your catch, we can see the results of our stocking efforts and continue it in the same direction, while anglers may continue pursuing the muskellunge on their favorite lakes."

Here's a look at the best places in the state to pursue the muskies throughout the month of August.

SALT FORK LAKE

Salt Fork Lake in Guernsey County near Cambridge is home to some of the state's finest muskie fishing. In 2005, dam problems forced the state to lower the lake's levels, making it almost impossible to access the water to fish. As a result, Salt Fork endured very little fishing pressure and fewer muskie returns than normal. This should mean more opportunities for anglers in 2006 because last year's survivors will be bigger and hungrier.

The dam has been repaired and water levels are back to normal, so Salt Fork Lake is ready for action this month. This muskie masterpiece provides anglers with 2,952 acres of high-yield muskie water. There is approximately 76 miles of shoreline, and the average depth of the lake is 14 feet. The deepest section of the lake (near the dam) is about 37 feet.

There are currently no horsepower restrictions on the lake, so expect heavy pleasure-boat traffic throughout the day.

According to Scott Schell, District Four fisheries biologist, Salt Fork Lake is a rapidly improving muskie fishery. It offers good forage and relative stability for its fish. With the exception of the recent decrease in the water level, things in Salt Fork tend to stay the same.

The best way to target active muskies in August is to troll around the dam and other deep areas of the lake. Muskies will typically be found suspended about eight to 12 feet down. With this in mind, keep your lures running at about that depth, and troll between three and five miles per hour. If you locate a large school of shad on your electronics, it's a good bet that there's a muskie nearby.

Don't expect to find fish relating to cover this time of year on Salt Fork. Often, similar to stripers, they'll be suspended in open water in the middle of the lake for no apparent reason.

Public access to Salt Fork Lake can be found off U.S. Route 22, six miles east of Interstate Route 77 near Cambridge. You can also access the lake by exiting Interstate 77 at Route 541 and follow it to county Road 35 (also known as Old 21 Road).

Follow County Road 35 south to Morning Glory boat ramp. For lake information, bait and tackle, contact Salt Fork Outdoors at (740) 439-4570. You may also contact the District Four headquarters at (740) 594-2211 or write to the Wildlife District Four office, 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701.

ALUM CREEK LAKE

Alum Creek Lake is in Delaware County near Columbus, one mile west of Interstate 71 on U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37. This 3,269-acre muskie hotspot has approximately 70 miles of shoreline and countless bays and coves extending from its main body.

The muskie bite is almost always hot on Alum Creek. As long as anglers keep up with the seasonal change of the fish, they'll always have a fair shot at a true Ohio trophy.

"As the surface water warms, it holds less oxygen," said Elmer Heyob, a District One fisheries biologist and avid muskie angler. "Muskies, in turn, will relocate to deeper water near the thermocline where temperatures are cooler and the water is richer in oxygen."

With this in mind, trolling for suspended fish is often the ticket when fishing the summer bite.

Good areas to troll are near main lake points, neck-down areas and tributary inlets. Areas where small streams enter the lake often result in cooler water that attracts baitfish, which will bring muskies into shallower water.

Catch returns indicate that in 2005, eight Ohio Huskie Muskies (that is, muskies over 42 inches long from Ohio waters) were caught in Alum Creek, plus 135 honorable mentions (muskies over 30 inches) and 122 fish less than 30 inches.

One 50-inch-plus fish was reported.

Biologists claim that these numbers do not indicate every fish caught, only those

turned in. Probably the real number of hooked fish is considerably higher because not all anglers report their fish.

Biologists strongly feel that Alum Creek's muskie fishery is on a steady upward track and will provide anglers with great fishing opportunities again in 2006. Anglers targeting Alum Creek in August can expect a fair chance at some exceptional fish, and -- who knows? -- maybe even a 50-inch Goliath!

Currently, there are no horsepower restrictions posted for Alum Creek.

For more information on Alum Creek Lake, contact the ODOW's District One headquarters at (614) 644-3925; or write them at Wildlife District One, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215.

For tourism information and accommodations, try the Alum Creek State Park office at (740) 548-4631.

CLEAR FORK RESERVOIR

Clear Fork Reservoir covers 971 acres and has approximately 14 miles of shoreline. It lies within Richland and Morrow counties. There are no horsepower restrictions currently in effect, but officials do strictly enforce an 8-mile-per-hour speed limit. The lake can easily be accessed off state routes 97 and 314 northwest of Lexington.

Few discussions of Ohio's muskie fishing are complete without the mention of Clear Fork Lake. This small reservoir is home to what many call the best muskie population in all of Ohio. Clear Fork Lake has earned its reputation by being a consistently top producer of large muskies and good numbers of fish, too.

Clear Fork Lake is stocked annually with one muskie fingerling per surface acre of water. Clear Fork is also an ODOW brood lake, where fertilized muskie eggs are gathered to rear for stocking in other Ohio waters.

"As far as I'm concerned," said biologist Lewis, "Clear Fork is among the top two lakes in the state for those seeking a muskellunge."

Good August hotspots include the spring holes on the north end of the lake. Many successful anglers cast their lures into these areas every time they're on the water.

Also check the islands and underwater humps in the middle of the lake, as well as the steep ledges on the north shore by the spring holes.

Biologist Heyob pointed out that yearly temperatures typically determine the depth at which anglers will find fish. With every passing year, fishermen are faced with different weather patterns.

"Be adaptable in every fishing situation," he said, "and your efforts will pay off on Clear Fork. If you look long enough, you will find fish."

Clear Fork anglers tend to be far more casting-oriented than anglers on other lakes. When nothing else seems to work, be open to trolling tactics.

According to Lewis's data, there were 50 Ohio Huskie Muskies, 154 honorable mentions and 45 muskies under 30 inches caught from Clear Fork in 2005.

No major changes have occurred on Clear Fork recently, and stocking has gone on as scheduled. So the 2006 season should be even better.

For more data on Clear Fork Reservoir and muskie fishing information, contact the District Two Headquarter at (419) 424-5000, or write 952 Lima Ave, Box A, Findlay, OH 45840.

LEESVILLE LAKE

Leesville Lake in Carroll County can be accessed two miles southeast of Sherrodsville, off state Route 212. Anglers should be aware of the 10-horsepower limit currently in effect on the lake.

Leesville's reputation as Ohio's No. 1 muskie lake is all but etched in stone. Its muskie fishery is phenomenal, and almost every Ohio angler knows it.

Just about every year, this body of water leads the state in muskie returns. In 2005, Leesville anglers reported catching an astounding 112 Ohio Huskie Muskies, 442 honorable mentions and 31 muskies under 30 inches. On top of this were three muskies reported over 50 inches.

Leesville Lake receives annual stockings at a rate of one muskie fingerling for every surface acre of water. This 1,000-acre fishery has enjoyed a long and well-known reputation as a great muskie lake, and is arguably the best in the state, continually turning in high numbers of both large fish and numbers of fish.

According to Don Weaver, former president of the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club and an avid Leesville Lake muskie angler, Leesville has gained a reputation as being a casting lake. But he also pointed out that in the hot summer months, a lot of fishermen troll the lake after dark.

Keep your trolling speed between 3 and 5 miles per hour. Lewis recommended that anglers troll or cast near the thermocline in deeper water. Many fishermen are found continuously trolling around the dam area in August.

There's a lot of speculation on the best depth to run lures. The rule of thumb is to keep them near the thermocline, where most bait species tend to congregate -- usually around 12 feet. If you do opt for a trolling presentation, don't be afraid to stop and thoroughly cast high-percentage areas when you locate them.

It doesn't matter if you're looking for big fish or numbers of fish, Leesville is often the lake of answers. Additional information on Leesville Lake can be obtained by contacting the District Three Headquarters at (330) 644-2293, or by writing 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319.

Anglers can also contact Clow's Landing on the lake at (740) 269-5371, or Petersburg Landing at (330) 627-4270.

PYMATUNING LAKE

Pymatuning Lake is a 14,650-acre reservoir that sits on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Anglers from each state enjoy a reciprocal agreement that acknowledges the other state's fishing licenses.

The Ohio side of the lake is in Ashtabula County and can be accessed off state Route 6, which is 2 miles east of Andover. There is a 10-horsepower restriction.

Pymatuning is not annually stocked by the ODOW, but does occasionally receive fish left over from lakes on the stocking schedule. Pennsylvania stocks the lake annually, however. Last year's returns indicate eight Huskie Muskies, 56 honorable mentions and seven fish under 30 inches.

Biologists stress, however, that these numbers are an indication of Ohio returns only and don't represent the actual numbers of fish caught on the lake -- considering the majority of it lies in Pennsylvania.

Anglers should look for fish near the underwater humps between the dam and Stocker Island. In consideration of Pymatuning Lake's immense size, trolling is far and away the most utilized tactic on the lake. Run lures down to about 12 feet and fish around steep dropoffs and ledges. Schools of baitfish should draw one or two feeding fish nearby.

For additional

information on Pymatuning Lake, contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293; or the Pymatuning State Park offices at (440) 293-6329.

The lakes discussed here are top-notch, but they aren't the only places to find muskies in August.

PIEDMONT LAKE

Piedmont Lake, lying in Harrison, Belmont and Guernsey counties, is also a great location. Piedmont showed tremendous improvement in its 2005 returns, and biologists say there is no reason it will not continue on the same track in '06.

LAKE MILTON

Lake Milton is another option available to Ohio anglers near Youngstown. It provides healthy numbers and good sizes of fish, too.

Regardless of where you go muskie fishing this August, this is the time for night fishing. Be extremely cautious and avoid fishing after dark on waters you are not familiar with.

Remember, all boating laws apply, and running lights are required.

You can obtain more information on Ohio's muskie lakes and additional trip-planning details by calling the Ohio Division of Wildlife's headquarters at 1-800-WILDLIFE, or by writing them at 1840 Belcher Drive, Columbus, OH 43224.

Maps of Ohio's muskie lakes can be obtained online by logging onto the ODOW's Web site, noted above.

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