All Ohio crappie anglers dream about the spring crappie spawn. At no other time of the year are the fish as accessible or aggressive as they are right now throughout the Buckeye State. Now is the time to dust off your rods and jigs and head for public waters that consistently produce big crappies year after year.
“In many waters, crappie numbers fluctuate year to year — it’s part of their normal reproductive cycle,” said Ray Peterling, administrator for the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s inland fisheries division. “Serious crappie anglers should concentrate their efforts on waters that are consistent producers.”
With that philosophy in mind, here are among the most consistent crappie waters throughout the state.
If big crappies in big schools sound good to you, Sandusky Bay is the place to be this spring.
“I believe it is the best place for crappies in Ohio,” said Peterling. “On the Sandusky Bay, you may catch more big crappies in one day than you will all year anywhere else. I have fished in a lot of places throughout the country, including famous crappie haunts like Dale Hallow and other lakes in the South. And the only spot that can compare is Lake Okeechobee in Florida.”
An avid fisherman, Peterling fishes the Sandusky each spring.
“You can sometimes catch 150 fish a day there and never see one under 10 inches,” he said. “Crappies in the 15- to 17-inch range are not unusual.”
Jeff Tyson, supervisor for the Sandusky Fisheries Research Unit of the Ohio DNR, said that Sandusky Bay has changed because of re-vegetation brought on by lower water levels and better water clarity conditions.”
He noted that many species of fish have made a remarkable comeback in the bay with crappies being one of the strongest.
“The shallow conditions of the bay allow it to warm faster than Lake Erie,” Peterling noted. “The spring spawn on the bay happens a little later than in most of the rest of Ohio’s inland waterways or lakes.”
One advantage the bay offers over the rest of Lake Erie is that calm conditions usually prevail, he noted.
“Smaller boats can handle the water when the rest of the lake is just too rough. Even so, for the best action anglers should fish the areas of the bay that are most protected from wind and waves,” Peterling added.
Sandusky Bay has a relatively shallow bottom with some beaches and an often rocky shoreline. Boating channels and old creek beds help break the otherwise flat bottom structure, and later in the spring, aquatic vegetation can add cover for spawning crappies. It’s perhaps some of the best crappie habitat to be found anywhere. The entire bay acts as a huge natural hatchery.
Bank fishermen have some access near and around the Bay Bridge, and there is some public park access in the city of Sandusky, but fishing from a boat offers the greatest success.
A public launch is available in Sandusky at 101 Shelby Street. The launch fee is $5 daily. More information on the launch may be obtained by calling (419) 621-1059.
Erie, Sandusky, and Ottawa counties border Sandusky Bay, with the city of Sandusky being the closest and largest town nearby. Anglers can reach Sandusky by driving Route 2 east 60 miles from Toledo or west 62 miles from Cleveland, and then taking Route 4 north.
From the Columbus area, anglers can reach Sandusky by traveling about 70 miles north on Interstate 71 and picking up state Route 250 west near Ashland. Continue approximately 60 miles into Sandusky.
For more information about fishing the Sandusky Bay, contact the ODOW’s District Two office at (419) 424-5000, or write them at 952 Lima Avenue, Findlay, OH 45840.
Anglers can also find information online at www.ohiodnr.com. For information on services and accommodations, contact the City of Sandusky at www.ci.sandusky.oh.us.
Long considered by many anglers to be one of the best crappie lakes in Ohio, Delaware Lake continues to consistently produce large numbers of both black and white crappies. Anglers wanting to fish Delaware Lake in early spring should concentrate their efforts along the lake’s southern half, which features deep channels and sloping shorelines. The eastern shore south of the marina also yields good numbers of fat slabs.
As water temperatures rise and fish move higher into the shallows, anglers should focus their efforts on the northern half of the lake and its long shallow flats. The confluence waters of Whetstone Creek on the eastern shore and the island south of it are great places to drop a line.
About a mile north of Whetstone creek is an area where the Olentangy River bed (which was flooded to create the lake) swings into the eastern shore. The steep dropoff into the channel and the short flat above it are good spots for the serious angler to try out.
This 948-acre Delaware County lake has over 21 miles of shoreline, two boat ramps, a marina and numerous campsites on the western shore, which is easily accessed from state Route 23, about 20 miles north of Columbus.
On the eastern shore is a third boat ramp that can be accessed through the Delaware Lake Wildlife Area off Sherwood Road.
Delaware Lake has a size limit on crappies of 9 inches. There is no creel limit.
For more information about Delaware Lake, contact the District One office of the ODOW at (614) 644-3925, or write them at 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215. More information and a map can also be obtained from the ODNR’s Website at www.ohiodnr.com.
ALUM CREEK LAKE
Another consistent crappie hotspot is Alum Creek Lake. With 3,269 acres of water and some 70 miles of shoreline, this lake has all the components for great crappie fishing.
As water temperatures rise, look for crappies to move into the shallow coves and flats along Alum Creek’s rugged shoreline. The long creek-like bays and backwaters on the northern end of the lake should catch anglers’ attention as spring progresses.
Also fish the fallen
timber along the steeper banks and dropoffs. Look for many of the bigger crappies to hold in these areas, especially when they leave the spawning sites later in the spring.
Alum Creek Lake is seven miles north of Columbus in Delaware County. From Interstate Route 71, take state Route 36/37 west to access the lake from the east. There are parking areas where state Route 36/37 crosses over one of the northern bay-like fingers of the lake.
From the west, Alum Creek Lake can best be accessed from state Route 23, using either state routes 521, 36/37, Cheshire Road, Hollenback Road or Lewis Central Road. Camping areas are on the western side of Alum Creek Lake along Cheshire Road, and the lake has parking access scattered along its shore.
Also on the western shore, at the end of Hollenback Road, are a boat ramp and marina. Two other boat ramps are on the lake’s eastern shore, accessed by Africa Road.
Anglers can get on Africa Road from state Route 36/37, Cheshire Road or Lewis Center Road.
Traveling north off state Route 36/37 onto Dunham/North Old State Road about a mile west of the lake, anglers will find one last boat ramp on the eastern shore. Follow Dunham Road about three miles north and then turn right onto Howard Road.
Once Howard Road crosses Alum Creek Lake, look for the ramp on the right. This ramp offers quick access to some great crappie spawning flats. Look for some of the best action south of the ramp where a creek enters the lake from the east. The shoreline north of this creek also offers some quick action for big crappies.
Alum Creek Lake has a minimum size limit of 9 inches on crappies, with no creel limit.
For more information on Alum Creek Lake, contact the District One office of the Ohio DNR at (614) 644-3925, or write them at 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215.
More information and a map can also be obtained from the ODNR’s Website at www.ohiodnr.com.
Mosquito Lake is known for its excellent crappie fishing. This 6,550-acre lake has developed a reputation for consistency that makes it one of the best in the state for springtime slabs. With some 40 miles of shoreline, a crappie angler need not look far to find some great fishing here.
At 25 feet in the deepest channel, with an average depth of only about 15 feet, Mosquito Lake lends itself well to its role as a natural fish hatchery. In fact, this abundance of reproductive habitat keeps its crappie populations from the radical fluctuations that occur in many other lakes or streams.
Anglers coming to Mosquito Lake for the first time should be aware that the northern end of the lake is a waterfowl refuge where fishing is prohibited.
One of the best crappie spots on the lake is along the causeway where Route 88 crosses the lake, creating a narrow bottleneck where fish concentrate. North of the causeway, some excellent spawning flats for crappies occur along the western shore and continue north to the waterfowl refuge.
South of the causeway, much of the shoreline is riddled with submerged vegetation and other structure that are great areas to fish. The eastern shore, with its multitude of draws and shallow channels, seems to have the best features, but the southwestern shore of the lake also has some great spots for crappie fishermen to check out.
Mosquito Lake is in Trumbull County, about seven miles north of Warren and 35 miles east of Cleveland. The lake is easiest accessed from Route 305 along its southern shore, where most of the boat ramps can be found. Also off Route 305 are the lake’s camping area and park office.
Anglers wishing to try the fishing at the northern end of the lake can launch boats from the ramp there, using Route 88 and turning north onto Blackstub Road. This ramp accesses the lake at the border of the waterfowl refuge.
To find Mosquito Lake from Warren, take Route 11 north to Route 305 west or Route 88 west. Taking Route 11 south from Ashtabula to these routes will also put you at the lake. From Cleveland, anglers can use Route 87 or U. S. Route 322 to Route 11 and turn south toward routes 88 or 305.
Mosquito Lake has no size or creel limitations on crappies. For more information about the lake, contact the District Three office of the ODOW at (330) 644-2293, or write them at 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319. More information and a map can be obtained on www.ohiodnr.com, the ODNR’s Web site.
THE OHIO RIVER
When most anglers think of crappies, visions of brushy lake shorelines and quiet bays come to mind. Though atypical from that viewpoint, the Ohio River is a crappie hotspot all its own. With some 95,000 acres of waterway and better than 450 miles of shoreline, crappies have plenty of opportunities for to flourish here.
The Ohio River flows along the state border and is divided into 10 distinct fishing pools by a system of locks and dams constructed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. While all of these pools offer some good crappie fishing, a few stand out for the quality and quantity of crappies that make anglers sit up and pay attention.
The Hannibal Pool
In Monroe and Belmont counties, the Hannibal Pool yearly gives up crappies approaching 14 inches. Anglers should concentrate their efforts along any embayment, or wherever streams enter the river. Warmwater discharges are also hotspots during the early spring.
The Hannibal Pool is located along Route 7, running from Dilles Bottom in Belmont County to Hannibal in Monroe County.
The Willow Island Pool
The Willow Island Pool runs along Route 7 from Hannibal in Monroe County to near Reno in Washington County. This pool courses along the border of Wayne National Forest.
Anglers should fish the island backwaters and any embayment in this pool. Crappies here average 10 to 15 inches, with larger fish possible. As with the Hannibal Pool, warm- water discharges and stream confluences are great spots to fish in spring.
The Racine Pool
Coursing its way along routes 124 and 338 through Meigs County, the Racine Pool of the Ohio River consistently yields catches of crappie averaging 12 inches.
As with the other pools, brushy embayments and any stream confluences are the places to start fishing.
The R. C. Byrd Pool
With Route 7 on its northern shore, the R.C. Byrd Pool — also known as the Gallipolis Pool — produces some of the biggest crappies on the Ohio. Almost yearly, crappies in the 16-inch range are caught here.
Anglers should concentrate on warmwater discharges and brushy emba
The Markland Pool
Along the border of Clermont and Hamilton counties south of Cincinnati lies the Markland Pool. This pool’s crappies often average upwards of 13 inches, with larger fish possible.
Access may be gained from U. S. Route 52, which borders the pool.
Crappie fishermen should look for warmwater discharges, brushy embayments and stream confluences. For some bruiser slabs, also try fishing the banks of the rocky main channel.
Before fishing any of the waters of the Ohio River, it’s advisable to contact the local lockmaster for the pool you intend to fish, to determine water conditions and any special regulations concerning your pool of choice.
The Ohio River has a daily creel limit of 30 crappies, with no size limit. For more information about crappie fishing in the Ohio, contact the ODOW’s District Four office at (740) 589-9930, or write them at 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701.
Call the District Five office at (937) 372-9261, or write them at 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45385.