Ohio's Best Family Fishing Vacations

Ohio's Best Family Fishing Vacations

With Lake Erie, 451 miles of the Ohio River, 40,000 miles of streams, more than 200 inland lakes and countless ponds, the Buckeye State has everything you need for a great family vacation this summer.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

For that sublime blend of fishing and family that makes for a great summer vacation, Ohio is the place to be. With 2.25 million-acre Lake Erie, 451 miles of the Ohio River, 40,000 miles of streams, more than 200 inland lakes and countless ponds, the Buckeye State is sure to have what you're looking for in the way of fabulous fishing destinations.

Ohio's well-organized state parks and multitude of family-friendly activities make it a premier place for vacationing families to relax, share an adventure and learn something new.

Campsite options include tenting, RV pads with electricity, sewer and water hookups, teepees, cabins, Rent-A-RVs, resort lodges and yurts. For the full lowdown on Ohio's state-run facilities, visit the state parks Web site at

www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks, or call 1-866-644-6727.

Here's a sampling of family fishing vacation destinations to consider as you plan your 2005 vacation in the Buckeye State.

GENEVA STATE PARK

Perched on the shore of Lake Erie at the northeastern tip of the state, Geneva is perfect for families who want to explore the great lake. The 698-acre park has three miles of hiking trails, 300 feet of beach, 88 campsites, 12 cabins -- and access to all that water!

Lake Erie is known as the "Walleye Capital of the World," and a top spot for noteworthy smallmouth bass and yellow perch fishing. Erie is also good for channel catfish. Steelhead trout and white bass are also plentiful. Spots long recognized as providing good angler action include the Lake Erie islands, the western basin reef complex, Sandusky Bay, Ruggles Reef and harbor break walls from Lorain to Conneaut. In season, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources provides frequently updated recorded fishing reports at 1-888-HOOKFISH.

The park office loans games and sporting equipment, and there is a privately owned golf course nearby. The east break wall of the park marina is capped with a sidewalk providing panoramic views of the lake. Explore the freshwater marshes, estuaries and mature woodlots in the park while hiking the trails.

There are 12 scenic covered bridges in Ashtabula County. The Conneaut Railroad, Shandy Hall and Jenny Munger Memorial museums will interest history buffs.

For more information about area attractions and lodging, call the Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-337-6746.

HARRISON LAKE STATE PARK

For an inland lake experience, Harrison Lake is ideal. This 142-acre park in the northwest region of Ohio has 42 primitive campsites, 151 with electricity, two yurts, a beach, a nature center and summer nature programs.

Harrison Lake features good catches of largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappies, bluegills, bullheads and channel catfish, northern pike and even carp. A boat ramp is available. The lake is restricted to electric motors only.

A 3.5-mile hiking trail circles the lake, offering plenty of chances to explore the surrounding woodlands. Bike and boat rentals are available. There are volleyball and basketball courts and horseshoe pits. The camp has a playground. Games and sports equipment can be borrowed from the camp office. Harrison sits in what was once a vast wetland. Great blue herons and common egrets are often spotted at the shallow western end of the lake.

A variety of songbirds may be seen and heard in the meadows and woodlands. The park is also home to several species of reptiles and amphibians. Small mammals, including red foxes, raccoons, skunks and the rare 13-lined ground squirrel, are often seen.

Area attractions include the Sauder Museum, Farm and Craft Village near Archbold. The 15-acre complex features a 1860s-era house and barn and a village where traditional crafters display their skills. The museum contains antique tools and farming equipment. A restaurant featuring country-style meals is in the barn.

Hikers may want to visit the Goll Woods State Nature Preserve three miles northwest of Archbold. The region around Harrison Lake was once part of the Great Black Swamp, which at its peak measured 120 miles long and about 40 miles wide. The nature preserve is one of the few remaining examples of black swamp forest. Ancient oak trees measuring more than 4 feet in diameter form the overstory above the native shrubs and flowering plants here.

The Fulton County Historical Society museum in Wauseon is open on Sunday afternoons at no charge. The history of the region is archived here. Nearby in the city cemetery is a memorial to the first superstar of American auto racing, driver Barney Oldfield.

SANDUSKY RIVER

To get that great walleye-fishing experience without having to brave Lake Erie, try wetting a line in the Sandusky River. Nearly two dozen popular game fish and panfish species swim these waters. The boulder-strewn pools south of Fremont provide excellent habitat for smallmouth and rock bass. From the Ballville Dam downstream through Fremont, smallmouths, channel and flathead catfish, crappies and sunfish reside. Spring runs bring walleyes, saugeyes, white bass and white perch from Lake Erie.

North of Fremont, the river deepens and largemouth bass, crappies, bluegill and pike are the target species. Salmon and trout are also taken here occasionally.

Campers have several options in the Sandusky region. Eagle Lake Camping Resort offers sites with an 80-acre lake nearby. Dining, a grocery store, a bakery, a public library, post office, country store and beach are all within walking distance. Call (419) 637-7667 or visit

www.staff@eaglelakecampingresort.com.

Wooded Acres, four miles west of Fremont, offers fishing, picnic shelters, a playground, swimming, tennis, volleyball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, concessions and a game room. Call (419) 665-2414 for information.

Other campgrounds in the region include Riverfront Marina and Campground, Tackle Box II, Cactus Flats, Lazy J RV Resort and Young's RV Center.

When you're not on the water, visit the 31-room Hayes Victorian Mansion. The 25-acre center also includes the tombs of the 19th president, Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife, Lucy, as well as the nation's first presidential library. For more details, call (

419) 332-2081 or visit

www.rbhayes.org.

Train enthusiasts will want to stop by the Mad River and NKP Railroad Museum to tour a station house, museum and railroad yard full of engines, passenger cars, freight cars and cabooses. There is a gift shop and a picnic area. Special rail trip packages are available. Call 1-800-837-8785.

Adventurous families will love exploring Seneca Caverns. This registered national landmark is well lit and has seven underground levels open to the public. Unique fossilized shells, coral and fish, along with inscriptions dating back to 1872, can be found here. Walk 110 feet underground to view "Ole Mist'ry River" during a one-hour guided tour. For more information, visit the official Web site, SenecaCavernsOhio.com.

The Historic Lyme Village includes a Victorian mansion, an 1836 family home, log cabins, a one-room schoolhouse and 10 other historic buildings open to the public. Visit Grandma's Attic for gifts and souvenirs. The Woodville Historical Museum also provides a peek into the past with a collection of memorabilia and newspapers.

Kids of all ages will enjoy the whimsical Enchanted Moment Doll and Gift Shoppe, Museum and Gallery. This Fremont attraction features dolls of many vintages and varieties with over 400 doll faces from the 1800s on display. Call (419) 334-7098 for details.

Cedar Point Amusement Park is on a Lake Erie peninsula and has been named the Best Amusement Park in the World several times. The 130-year-old amusement complex offers 68 rides and 16 roller coasters, more than any other park in the world. Cedar Point also has a long stretch of sandy beach, an 18-acre water park, a family activity complex, hotels, a marina, RV campground, games, live entertainment, restaurants and special areas just for kids. Cedar Point's Camp Snoopy features seven rides, including the 38-foot-tall "Woodstock Express," a Peanuts Playground and Kiddy Kingdom.

ALUM CREEK STATE PARK

Family fishing opportunities in central Ohio shouldn't be overlooked. Alum Creek Reservoir is a good place to start. The broad part of the 3,387-acre lake south of Cheshire Road provides boaters and skiers with plenty of room to maneuver, while the northern portion offers tree-lined shores, shale cliffs and sheltered inlets for anglers. Alum Creek's narrow coves and quiet inlets are home to bass, bluegills, crappies, walleyes and saugeyes. Alum is also considered on of the best muskellunge lakes in Ohio.

Alum Creek Lake has the largest inland beach in Ohio's state park system. The 3,000-foot shore has several volleyball courts and a concession stand, and is open during daylight hours only.

The state park has 286 campsites plus a few full-service sites, cabins and Rent-A-RVs. There are 30 primitive sites reserved for folks with horses.

As with most other Ohio State Parks, Alum Creek State Park has basketball courts, horseshoe pits, playground equipment and games available on loan from the camp office.

Hiking and horseback enthusiasts will enjoy the challenging northern reaches of the park. Over 40 miles of trail follow the lakeshore through mature beech and maple forest and across deep ravines. Two trails off Lewis Center Road offer mountain bikers a chance to go freewheeling.

While in Delaware County, check out the Delaware State Park and Wildlife Area, the Highbanks Metro Park and the Olentangy Caverns. To the southwest is the Columbus Zoo, which boasts an extensive collection of exotic animals to observe.

The city of Columbus is home to fine-arts, cultural and sporting events galore. The Ohio Historical Society and Village, Ohio State University sports, Columbus Clippers baseball, Ballet Met and state fairgrounds are just a few of the area's attractions. For more information, call the Office of Travel and Tourism at 1-800-BUCKEYE.


Ohio's well-organized state parks and multitude of family-friendly activities make it a premier place for vacationing families to relax, share an adventure and learn something new.
 

LAKE LORAMIE STATE PARK

Loramie State Park is a quiet retreat near the state's western border. The 407-acre park features 1,655 acres of water inhabited by crappies, bluegills, channel catfish, bullheads and largemouth bass.

Saugeyes have been stocked into the lake with very good results. About 1.1 million fingerlings have been dumped into Lake Loramie since 1999. A 2003 survey indicated an excellent number of 1- to 3-pound fish. A 27-inch 9-pounder was pulled from the lake in 2002. Try casting or trolling crankbaits in May and June. From July through September, use jigs and plastic twistertails tipped with night crawlers.

The park has 161 campsites with electrical hookups. Several sites offer boat tie-ups. There are also three group camping areas and four rental campsites with tents, dining shelter and cook stove.

The beach is 600 feet long. There are five boat ramps in the park; no motor limits are in place. Bike and canoe rentals are available. The park has a nature center and offers summer nature study programs.

There are more than eight miles of hiking trails at Lake Loramie. A portion of the trail follows the Miami-Erie Canal from the park to Delphos. This route is also part of the Buckeye Trail and the North Country National Scenic Trail.

The campground is home to a unique grouping of bald cypress trees as well as a plantation of sweet gum dating back to the 1950s. Hikers will also enjoy visions of Canada geese, various songbirds and small mammals, plus an abundance of wildflowers. Cattails, water lilies and American lotus grow on the lake. The trail to Blackberry Island provides glimpses of nesting redheaded woodpeckers and barred owls. A large population of eastern bluebirds inhabits the meadows.

North of Jackson Center is the Gross Woods State Nature Preserve, another excellent destination for hiking and bird watching. One of the least disturbed woods in west-central Ohio, it's also one of the few remaining mixed species swamp forests.

For more hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, picnicking and camping opportunities, Grand Lake St. Mary's State Park is a half-hour's drive from Lake Loramie.

Visit the city of Sidney's Tawawa Civic Park, a 400-acre facility created for hiking, fishing and family fun. Tawawa Lake is stocked with 10- to 13-inch rainbow trout. The park is adjacent to multiple baseball, softball and soccer sports complexes and the municipal swimming pool. Big Rock, a favorite landmark, is nearby along with a covered bridge and many other attractions. The scenic Great Miami River flows through Sidney, providing more fishing opportunities.

For more information about the city's recreational facilities, visit

www.shelbycopark.org.

Attend a show at the Cameo Theatre while you're in the region, or drive by the historic People's Federal Savings and Loan Building, designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan in 1917. Check out the Big Four Bridge, a reminder of the Big Four Railroad Line that once served as the east-west conduit through the country.

While you're there, visit Whitby Place, also known as the "Great Stone Castle." This monument to 1890s opulence is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Much of the downtown district is historic in nature. Now a National Registered Historic District, the Downtown Courthouse Square area is home to wonderful artwork, architecture and historic sites to catch the eye.

The Ft. Loramie Wilderness Trail Museum displays memorabilia from the Civil War era as well as American Indian artifacts. There is also a turn-of-the-century dry goods store, a women's store and a display of old shoe-making equipment. Included in the tour is a barn housing hundred-year-old farming implements.

Call (937) 295-3855 for more details.

SHAWNEE STATE PARK

Shawnee State Park is within the 60,000-acre Shawnee State Forest in the Appalachian foothills near the banks of the Ohio River. This park is one of the most scenic in the state. Shawnee State Forest's rugged, mountainous terrain has earned it the nickname "the Little Rockies."

The Ohio River is known as one of the state's top spots for channel catfish. Turkey Creek Lake, situated within the park, is one of many well-stocked lakes that offer largemouth bass, catfish, bluegills, crappies and trout. Between 1,500 and 3,000 catchable trout are stocked into Turkey Creek Lake annually. Anglers have been most successful using either black Rooster Tails or spinnerbaits for trolling or corn under a bobber for fishing by shore.

The park has 107 campsites suitable for tents. There are 25 cabins at Shawnee, each with two bedrooms, a bath with shower, a living room with sleeper-sofa, a complete kitchen, a dining area and a screened porch.

There is also a resort lodge in the park with 50 guest rooms, an elegant dining room, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, basketball and shuffleboard. All lodge amenities are available for cabin guests. Park activities include boating at Roosevelt and Turkey Creek lakes (electric motors only); each lake has a boat launch. Canoes are available for rent.

There are two beaches, one at each lake. An 18-hole championship golf course and a pro shop are just a short drive from the park's main entrance. Access to the Ohio River is available from the park's marina.

Hiking trails in the park and surrounding state forest seem endless. The 42-mile backpack trail maintained by the Ohio Division of Forestry takes hikers through some of the most remote country in Ohio. The forest also has 75 miles of bridle paths. Primitive campsites are available for hikers; there's a campground for folks with horses.

Shawnee State Forest is the largest of Ohio's 20 state forests. Towering stands of oak, hickory, sassafras, buckeye, black gum, pitch pine and shortleaf pine grow there. This is a working forest, managed for multiple uses and a sustained yield. Timber harvesting, tree planting, wildlife habitat, forestry research, watershed and soil protection are all part of the forest's function.

For more information, contact the Shawnee State Park office at (740) 858-6621.

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