Ohio offers plenty of great fishing waters, and most anglers have their favorite spots to cast for trophies. But with temperatures warming up and the school year winding down, this is the perfect time to focus on a different kind of destination: the best locations for a family fishing trip. The goal this month is to find waters where your kids can actually catch fish, and perhaps enjoy some fun diversions along the way. Here are a few places where you can make some memories.
No matter where you live in Ohio, you don't have to travel too far from home to locate a family-friendly place to fish. That's especially true if you live in one of the state's many urban areas that support a metro park system, most of which offer fishing as an activity. What's more, most of the angling opportunities in area metro parks are geared toward families, kids and beginning fishermen of all ages, featuring easy access to the water and surprisingly good action on species such as sunfish, bass and catfish that are often stocked specifically to provide fun, productive fishing for family members of all skill levels.
Some even offer kids-only fishing areas, where adults are allowed to supervise and help, as well as places where even the grownups are not required to have a fishing license to try their luck.
Here are some of the metro park systems in Ohio that offer excellent opportunities for families who want to fish together this season.
CLEVELAND METRO PARKS FAMILY FISHING OPTIONS
According to Mike Durkalec, an aquatic biologist at Cleveland Metroparks, fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities available in the park system, where angling ranks sixth in overall popularity among 15 specific activities listed by park users as part of their daily recreational activities.
The park district offers 13 fishing areas from inland ponds to the shoreline of Lake Erie and the Rocky, Chagrin and Cuyahoga rivers. That range of places draws some half-million trips to fish in the waters of Cleveland Metroparks each year — many of them by families in the Greater Cleveland metro area.
Local lakes and ponds dot the various reservations of the Park District. These areas are also productive year around, as rainbow trout are stocked during the winter months.
Durkalec, who oversees Cleveland Metroparks popular fishing programming, maintains a blog (clevelandmetroparks.com/Main/Fishing-Report-Blog.aspx#.WEGtnFz2W1t) with weekly updates that detail the angling opportunities, accomplishments and programs at the parks.
Two annual events that are free and of special interest to fishing families take place in May and October at a pair of Durkalec's top metro park picks for family fishing destinations. A Spring Children's Fishing Derby is held in mid-May that rotates between Wallace Lake in Berea and Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation in Cleveland Heights. This year, the Derby will be held at Wallace Lake on Saturday, May 20, and at the Ohio & Erie Canal location on Sunday, May 21.
"If I had to pick one metro park location that offers the best family fishing opportunities," said Durkalec, it would be Wallace Lake. At 17 acres it's got decent size, is easy to find and get to from the parking area, has a sloping shoreline for easy access to the water, and there are restrooms on site.
"It's also stocked several times each year," he added. "Including with trout for ice fishing, as well as bass and catfish and sunfish through the season."
The biologist said that during the summer months, the most shade — and the best fishing — can usually be found on the northern end of Wallace Lake where it narrows down a bit.
The Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, off East 49th Street, will be the site of the Fall Family Fishing Fest Oct. 1. The mile-long stretch of the canal is stocked with fish and offers a more urban fishing destination where families enjoy easy access from parking areas to the water.
Durkalec also recommends Lake Erie Lakefront Park, located at E 55th Street east of downtown.
"You can park in one place and fish the protected waters of the marina on one side for bass and sunfish, or walk the other way and fish off the breakwall for about anything that swims in Lake Erie," said the Cleveland Metroparks spokesman, adding that the breakwall fishing pier is wheelchair accessible, and that there's a bait shop, restaurant and restrooms on site, and a small beach area nearby.
For more information about family fishing at Cleveland Metroparks, call 216-635-3200 or visit clevelandmetroparks.com/Main/Recreation/Fishing-and-Ice-Fishing.
Along The Way
Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, right on the Cleveland waterfront where boats tie up to visit from the open waters of Lake Erie. It's open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; extended hours on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. General Admission: $23.50; military and northeast Ohio residents with 440, 441, 442 or 443 zip codes with ID: $19; Seniors (65+ with ID): $21.25; Children ages 9-12: $13.75; Children ages 8 and under free with purchase of adult admission. Visit rockhall.com for information and directions from any Cleveland Metropark.
METRO PARKS TOLEDO FAMILY FISHING OPTIONS
Metro Parks of the Toledo Area offers family-friendly inland fishing ponds at five of its parks, plus access along the Maumee River, according to park spokesman Scott Carpenter.
"All the ponds offer shore fishing and two are boat accessible," he explained, recommending three of these ponds to families who want to fish together: Wiregrass, Silver and Pearson lakes.
"Wiregrass is our newest, opening just last year," he said of the 11-acre lake located of Toledo that is stocked with crappie, bluegill, bass and catfish. The lake offers a roll-off launch ramp for paddlecraft and a fishing dock. For families who want to make a weekend out of their trip, primitive campsites are available for $20 per night.
"Silver Lake at Side Cut Metro Park in Maumee is another good family fishing destination," said Carpenter of the 7-acre pond the metro parks stocks with bass, sunfish and catfish. It also has a roll-off launch ramp for canoes and kayaks, as well as a playground, picnic shelters and a bike trail.
Pearson Metro Park is the site of a family-friendly fishing lake of the same name, located in Oregon on Toledo's east side.
"Pearson's an older park," said Carpenter. "There's no fishing dock, but the lake features a stair-stepped shoreline for easy fishing access. It's just under four acres, and we stock it with bass, catfish and sunfish, with the bonus of rainbow trout each spring."
For more information about the family fishing opportunities at Metro Parks of the Toledo Area, visit http://metroparkstoledo.com/outdoor-adventures/fishing/ or call 419-407-9700.
Along The Way
Visit the National Museum of the Great Lakes to learn the history of the "Inland Seas," which make up 84 percent of all of the fresh water in North America, while seeing boats on display from canoes and schooners to early steamers and freighters, some of which ply the Maumee River right next to the Museum. It's open Tuesdays though Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the SS Col James M. Schoonmaker is open May through October. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for children and seniors, and kids age 5 and under are admitted for free. The museum is located at 1701 Front Street, Toledo, 43605; (419) 214-5000; inlandseas.org.
COLUMBUS METRO PARK FAMILY FISHING OPTIONS
Several parks in the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks system allow fishing in 10 ponds, including three set aside for kids age 15 and younger, at Chestnut Ridge, Sharon Woods and Slate Run metro parks. What's more, adults age 60 and older can fish on the ponds at Chestnut Ridge and Sharon Woods as well!
Andrew Boose is an aquatic ecologist for Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, and recommends families consider Osprey Lake at Battelle Darby and the ponds at Prairie Oaks metro parks.
"Both parks have ponds set up specifically for kids fishing," said Boose, and are stocked with bass, bluegills and channel cats.
"Some of the ponds at Prairie Ridge are deep enough to allow us to stock them with muskies and yellow perch," he added.
Sharon Woods Lake, he said, is popular with families thanks to three kids fishing docks specifically for use by children — and adults are allowed to lend a hand.
High Banks Metro Park on the north end of Columbus also offers stream fishing in the Olentangy River. Stream fishing is also at Scioto Audubon Metro Park, along sections of the Big and Little Darby Creeks. Scioto Grove Metro Park, with frontage along the Scioto River and a canoe launch ramp south of the Capital City. Is another place river anglers can try their luck.
For more information about family fishing opportunities at the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, visit www.metroparks.net or call 614-891-0700.
Along The Way
Visit the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, the Midwest's largest, with a huge aquarium complex displaying fresh and saltwater fish species. The zoo is located along the banks of the Scioto River north of Columbus and a short drive from several metro parks. Admission is $14 for adults, $8 for kids 3-9 and seniors. Open every day but Christmas and Thanksgiving at 4850 Powell Rd, Powell, 43065; columbuszoo.org; 614-645-3400.
DAYTON'S FIVE RIVERS METRO PARKS
Dayton's Five Rivers MetroParks is an expansive park system offering nearly 16,000 acres of green space in 25 facilities on the greater Dayton area. The lakes, ponds and rivers are popular with anglers of all ages, and fishing families can find plenty to like at several locations.
Fishing is offered at nine parks: Carriage Hill, Eastwood, Germantown, Possum Creek, Twin Creek, Englewood, Huffman, Taylorsville and Island — and the first five lakes in this list do not require adults to have a license to fish. Those five lakes "no license" lakes are especially popular with families whose adults want to fish right along with the children, without having to spend the money for a license to do so.
In addition to the pond angling action, fishing on the various rivers and creeks in the park system can be excellent for rock bass, sunfish, smallmouth bass and catfish.
To learn more about fishing option for kids and families at Dayton area metro parks, visit metroparks.org/things-to-do/fishing/ or call 937-275-7275.
Along the Way
While it has nothing to do with fishing, for a regional favorite destination in the Dayton area for kids and adults, consider a trip to the National Museum of the US Air Force, better known for generations of visitors as simply "the Air Force Museum." It's located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 1100 Spaatz Street, Dayton, 45433; nationalmuseum.af.mil; 937-255-3286. The museum is open 9 am to 5 p.m. seven days a week and closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Best of all, admission is free.
CINCINNATI AREA METRO PARKS
Based in Hamilton County surrounding Cincinnati, the Great Parks of the Hamilton County metro park system offers a variety of family-friendly fishing opportunities in the Queen City area. The metro parks manages four lakes that are ideal for fishing and boating, and three more that offer productive fishing form shore.
The metro parks have thousands of pounds of adult fish stocked annually in its waters, including farm-raised rainbow trout each March and October when lake waters are cooler. Channel catfish and fingerling largemouth bass are stocked in the summer at each lake. The lakes also contain blue, shovelhead and bullhead catfish, along with panfish, and yellow perch.
Neil Ramsey is the district recreation manager for the park system, and an avid angler and parent himself. Ramsey points to a half dozen parks with ponds that make prime destinations for families with kids who wish to fish, including four that offer boat rentals.
"Miami Whitewater Forest, Winton Woods, Sharon Woods and Lake Isabella" all offer boat houses with rentals, bathroom facilities, snack bars and bait sales, according to the parks spokesman.
"In addition, we have the parks with lakes that families can fish form shore: Triple Creek, Mitchell Memorial and Campbell lakes."
Lake Isabella (28 acres) and Campbell Lakes Preserve don't require adults to carry a license to fish in those park waters, a bonus that make them popular with adults who want to fish with younger family members.
"When fishing with children, I recommend one the larger lakes where you can expect to have really good action from shore, like Winton Woods (156 acres) and Miami Whitewater (85 acres)," said Ramsey, adding: "as well as options for the kids when they lose interest."
"At both those locations," he said, "kids can go get an ice cream cone or other snack, play on a playground, or just run around to burn off steam."
For more information about family-friendly fishing options in Cincinnati's metro park system, visit www.greatparks.org/recreation/fishing or call 513-521-7275.
"It's important to keep in mind, when fishing with kids," advised Ramsey, "What you're trying to do, at the end of the day, is create an experience that they remember as being fun. That may not be all fishing, and certainly shouldn't be all day. So keep it short, keep it fun, and keep it active, and they'll want to go again next time!"
Along The Way
The Duke energy Children's Museum, within the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, has lots of kid- specific activities and displays. Admission for adults is $10.50, seniors $9.50, children ages 3-12 $8.50, toddlers ages 1-2 $5.50 and infants under 1 are free. It's open Monday-Saturday 10am to 5pm; Sunday: 11am to 6pm at 1301 Western Avenue, Cincinnati, 45203. For information, visit cincymuseum.org/childrensmuseum or call 800- 733-2077.