Ohio's Best Family Fishing Vacations

The Buckeye State leads the way in destinations for great summer fishing and family fun. Here's where anglers can wet a line near some of Ohio's biggest tourist attractions, parks and historic sites. (June 2007)

Photo by Robert H. Cleveland Jr.

Finding the right balance between fishing time and family time can be a challenge when the entire brood goes on summer vacation. Buckeye State anglers need not worry, though, because prime fishing holes are just a stone's throw away from educational, entertaining and unusual attractions sure to please every family member.

Fabulous fishing is a given in Ohio, with Lake Erie's 2.25 million acres plus 451 miles of the Ohio River, 40,000 miles of streams and more than 200 inland lakes to choose from. Whether it's panfish for the kids to practice on or magnificent muskies, Ohio's got that.

And when it's time to put the pole away for the day, great hiking, natural resource education, historic sites and family entertainment are only minutes away.

Here's a roundup of some great family fishing vacation destinations to keep your clan happy this summer.

BUCK CREEK STATE PARK

East of Springfield, Buck Creek State Park offers plenty of camping and a 2,120-acre lake full of walleye, bass and panfish. There are 111 campsites, of which 89 have electricity. There are 26 housekeeping cabins. Buck Creek has a full service marina, a public fishing dock, a half-mile long beach, seven miles of hiking trails, volleyball, basketball and bike rentals. For information, call 1-866-644-6727.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages a visitor center and recreational site near the C. J. Brown Dam and Reservoir, offering displays, programs and dam operation tours.

Hiking, picnicking and fishing are allowed. Call (937) 325-2411 for details.

Another great place to stay or to fish is Kiser Lake State Park. The 396-acre lake is swimming with largemouth bass, bluegills, channel catfish, crappies and saugeyes.

The park has a boat launch and boat rentals. Only non-motorized craft are allowed on the lake. There are five fishing piers. Kiser has 114 non-electric campsites, a beach and five miles of hiking trails. For a hike, check out the North Bay Trail, which follows the lakeshore for over a mile.

For details, call (937) 362-3822 or 1-866-644-6727.

Or try the Enon Beach Campground, which has cabins and sites for tents and RVs, a 20-acre lake with fishing and swimming, boat rentals and a playground. Call (937) 882-6431 to learn more.

There's no shortage of fun things to do in this region of the state. There are rich historical sites, natural wonders to explore and all the offerings of city life in nearby Springfield and Dayton.

Be sure to drive the Simon Kenton Historic Corridor between Piqua and Mechanicsburg. This popular route offers access to the Piqua Historical Area, the A.B. Graham Memorial Center (commemorating the founder of 4-H Clubs), the Cedar Bog and the Ohio Caverns.

The Piqua Historical Area State Memorial (closed Mondays and Tuesdays) celebrates 2,000 years of Ohio history, from the prehistoric Indians to the state's canal era.

Much of the focus is on John Johnston, a farmer, public official and United States Indian Agent who contributed much to the settlement and growth of western Ohio. Visitors to his 1829 home and farm will meet costumed interpreters and craft demonstrators who make learning fun.

The massive double-penned log barn, constructed in 1808, is reputed to be the oldest and largest of its type in Ohio. Nearby is a ring-shaped earthwork constructed over 2,000 years ago by the mound-building Adena culture. Also nearby is a modern museum whose exhibits trace the story of the Eastern Woodland Indians of Ohio and display artifacts from the canal era.

From the patio, visitors can see a restored mile-long section of the Miami and Erie Canal, which once extended across Ohio from Toledo to Cincinnati. Mule-drawn canal boat rides aboard the 70-foot-long General Harrison are also available.

The Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve, home to many rare plants and animals, offers 427 acres to explore. Orchids and prairie wildflowers in bloom will thrill the family gardener. Call 1-800-860-0147.

Your family's adventurers will have more fun at the Ohio Caverns, where 45-minute, one-mile guided tours are offered at regular intervals. For details, call (937) 465-4017, or visit OhioCaverns.com.

Also, stop by the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This is the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum, and it's free!

For visitors wishing to visit the Presidential and Research and Development Galleries housed on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, special regulations apply. Log on to NationalMuseum.af.mil to learn more.

Through the region winds a series of trails that may be used for biking, rollerblading and walking. The Prairie Grass Trail travels south from South Charleston. The Simon Kenton Trail connects Champaign County to Clark County. The Buck Creek Trail, extending into Buck Creek State Park, hooks into the Little Miami Scenic Trail and continues on to Cincinnati. The Buck Creek Trail is presently being expanded to lead into downtown Springfield.

For extreme shopping, head to the Upper Valley Mall. There are four anchor stores and 76 specialty shops. For items that improve with age, check out the region's 15 antique shops, including the Midwest's two largest. Or head to the Clark County Fairgrounds where the Springfield Antique Show and Flea Market is held once each month and is reputed to the best in the state!

For more information on where to sleep and eat and what to do in the Springfield/Clark County region, visit SpringfieldNet.com, or phone (937) 325-7621.

BUCKEYE LAKE

Don't visit Ohio without fishing Buckeye Lake! This 3,100-acre lake in Fairfield County is stocked annually with hybrid bass and is also home to plentiful saugeyes, perch, muskellunge and channel catfish.

Access is available at Buckeye Lake State Park on Lakeshore Drive, the North Shore Ramp on Route 79 and the Brooks Park area.

Buckeye Lake State Park is in Millersport. In the park, there are two swim areas, one at Fairfield Beach and the other at Brooks Park on the lake's south side.

Stocking began back in the 1890s when the "Buckeye Fish Car," a state-run railroad car, would transport crappies and bass from Lake Erie. Call (740) 467-2690 for more state park information.

For family-friendly lodging nearby, check out the Lazy River at Granville, which offers tent and RV sites and cabin rentals. Lazy River has a heated swimming pool, a large recreation hall, a mini-golf course, pedal carts and banana bikes.

Phone (740) 366-4385 or visit GoCampingAmerica.com/lazyr.

Or make base camp at Dillon State Park in Nashport, where 183 of the 195 campsites have electricity. Families can rent a cabin or even a teepee!

Non-electric sites are primitive, walk-in only destinations. The park has a beach, boating, boat rentals, a wading pool and 17 miles of hiking trails. Three boat ramps provide angler access to some great fishing for largemouth bass, muskies, bluegills, crappies and catfish.

One unusual offering at Dillon State Park is the Sportsmen's Area, with lighted trap and skeet fields, a 100-yard rifle range and a 25-yard pistol range.

Call 1-866-644-6727 for reservations, or phone (740) 452-3529 for Sportsmen's Area information.

To cool off on a hot summer day, head north to Ye Olde Mill on route 13, one mile south of Utica. Velvet Ice Cream is created here. There's an ice cream parlor, visitor's center, mill museum and free factory tours. Call 1-800-589-5000, or visit Velvet-Icecream.com for details.

Visit the Hebron Fish Hatchery north of Buckeye Lake on Canal Road. This area, administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife, is open to the public. In addition to letting you see next year's fish stock, the area has ponds, trails and woodlots that provide bird watching opportunities for over 250 species.

Flint Ridge Museum and State Park is home to quarry pits where Ohio's ancient inhabitants came to get flint for making tools and weapons, and for trading. Touring this site helps you realize how hard people must have worked to remove flint from the earth.

The museum at Flint Ridge, built around a restored prehistoric quarry pit, demonstrates the digging and shaping of flint. A gift shop on site features flint as a gemstone in locally manufactured jewelry. There is a picnic area with grills available. Visit OhioHistory.org/places/flint.

The forest there is worth a visit on its own. Hikers will be rewarded with views of hardwood forest, wildflowers and wildlife. Call the Ohio Historical Society at (614) 297-2300.

While in Newark, be sure to drive past the seven-story Longaberger building, designed as a giant replica of a Longaberger Market Basket! It's just not something folks see every day and has been known to stop traffic out there on Route 16. Contact Longaberger Guest Relations at (740) 322-5588 for tour details and times.

Check out Blackhand Gorge. This 970-acre Newark attraction has hiking and biking trails, bird watching, canoeing and fishing! Check out the narrow east-west gorge cut by the Licking River through the famous Black Hand sandstone formation.

Fishing is allowed here in designated areas along the Licking River. Call (740) 763-4411, or for details on any of the state's nature preserves, visit OhioDnr.com/dnap.

Be sure to check out Mount Pleasant in nearby Lancaster, where a 250-foot rock outcropping overlooking the city was once used as a favorite Native American lookout. Hiking trails wind their way up to the top.

For more on historic Ohio, visit Square 13 on Main and Broad Streets in Lancaster. This square features 19 historic buildings, and a free pamphlet and walking-tour tapes are available through the Fairfield Heritage Association at 105 East Wheeling Street. Call (740) 653-8251.

Or view the region via the Buckeye Central Scenic Railroad at 5475 National Road in Newark. This 90-minute route winds through scenic Licking County. Call (740) 432-2022.

In nearby Zanesville, visitors can take a one-hour cruise down the Muskingum River aboard the sternwheeler Lorena. Call (740) 455-8883. Visit the National Road/Zane Grey Museum, with three major exhibit areas. The first is devoted to the National Road, early America's main land artery to the west, which stretched from Cumberland MD to Vandalia, IL.

The second area is devoted to Grey, the "Father of the Adult Western," who wrote more than 80 books. A third area is devoted to Ohio art pottery. Call (740) 872-3143, or visit OhioHistory.org/places/natlroad.

The animal lover in your family will want to go on safari at The Wilds Game Park in nearby Cumberland. This conservation center, home to species from Asia, Africa and North America, offers safari tours and interactive educational activities. Critters include Przewalski's horse, Hartmann's mountain zebra, greater one-horned rhinoceros, Bactrian camel, a wide variety of deer, Rothchild's giraffe, American bison, sable and many more. Visit TheWilds.com.

For those who like to swing a golf club as much as they like casting a fly rod, the region has many golf courses, including the Longaberger and the Vista View in Nashport, and the Licking Springs Golf and Trout Club in Newark.

Also in Newark is the Burning Tree Golf Course, where a mastodon was unearthed on the course grounds in December 1989! The club's dinosaur museum alone makes it worth a visit. Call (740) 522-3464.

LAKE MILTON MUSKIES

Anglers looking forward to battling some mighty muskellunge this summer will want to head to Lake Milton, located off Route 534 at County Road, 15 miles west of Youngstown.

This 1,684-acre lake has been stocked with thousands of muskies. By now, most have grown past the 30-inch mark, and some 50-inch monsters have been reported!

Milton is also home to largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegills and walleyes.

There's no shortage of family-friendly lodging near the big lake. Green Acres Lake Park in Lake Milton offers 140 sites with water and electricity, as well as 10 primitive sites. Paddleboats and small fishing boats are available for rent. The campground has a playground, a game room, swimming, hiking trails, horseshoes a

nd hayrides. Call (330) 538-2194.

Country Acres Campground in Ravenna has full hook-up and primitive sites, as well as cabin and camper rentals. The campground has its own fishing lake, swimming pools, paddleboats, hay rides, a game room and a variety of outdoor sporting options. Try CountryAcresCamping.com, or call (330) 358-2774.

Fabulous fishing is a given in Ohio, with Lake Erie's 2.25 million acres plus 451 miles of the Ohio River, 40,000 miles of streams and more than 200 inland lakes to choose from.

Philabaun's Hidden Cove Resort is situated on the Berlin Reservoir in Deerfield. Fishing is allowed here, as are motorized watercraft. The resort has wooded and lakeside campsites and cabin rentals. There's a heated game room, a playground and a clubhouse. Call (330) 584-3695, or visit GoCampingAmerica.com/philabauns.

Pay a visit to the Ford Nature Education Center in Youngstown. A beautiful old stone home now serves as headquarters for the park's programs in nature education. The grounds feature wildlife gardens and walking trails. Guided nature walks are available. Call (330) 740-7107, or visit MillCreekMetroParks.com.

For a taste of the local history, visit Century Village in Burton, where 100 years of history is on display for the purposes of education and historic preservation. For details, log on to GeaugaHistorical.org.

For a more modern twist on vacation, take the family for a spin on more than 40 rides at Geauga Lake Family Amusement Park and Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora. Rides and water attractions are geared to please all ages. Glide down Hurricane Mountain, Ohio's tallest waterslide, or check out rides sure to thrill, like the Texas Twister, Ripcord and Dominator.

One admission covers both parks. Children under 48 inches tall get a junior admission rate; kids two and younger get in free. A handy Web site provides details on each ride and a height guide so that parents can know ahead of time which rides their tykes can board. Call (330) 562-7131, or visit GeaugaLake.com.

Football fans won't want to miss a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. More than seven million visitors have come here since the doors opened in September 1963. Nearly 83,000 square feet of display space are dedicated to tracking the history of the game from 1892 to the present day.

Visit ProFootballhof.com. Or check out the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which celebrates over 150 of the men and women whose inventions have contributed to the American economy and way of life. Inventor's Workshops are offered on site. Visit Invent.org.

If your family has a sweet tooth, be sure to visit the Harry London Chocolate Store in North Canton. The largest such store in the Midwest, it offers over 500 varieties of chocolates and gourmet confectioneries.

Guided forty-five minute tours of the factory include facts about chocolate production -- and samples! Reservations are required for the tours, which are offered Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 1-800-321-0444, Ext. 119 or e-mail queries to tours@harrylondon.com.

For a birds-eye view of the region, join LTA Aviation for a hot air balloon ride over Geauga County's wildlife areas and farm fields, including the fourth largest Amish community in the country.

Flights last about an hour and are offered mornings and early evenings, seven days a week from mid-May to mid-October. Call (440) 543-7139, or visit ltaaviation.com.

For Ohio fisheries information, visit Ohiodnr.com and select "Fishing." For questions you can't find answered on the Web site, call the Ohio Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-945-3543, or e-mail them at wildinfo@dnr.state.oh.us.

For travel information, you can visit www.discoverohio.com, or contact the Office of Travel and Tourism at 1-800-282-5393.

Find more about Ohio fishing and hunting at: OhioGameandFish.com

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