May is beautiful. Spring is in full bloom and the weather is finally agreeable. If getting on the water isn't on your mind, it should be. Bassin' in the Buckeye state is coming of age.
Here's a sneak peek at where you can get in on some of the state's best bass action this spring.
PLEASANT HILL RESERVOIR
When it comes to a double bass bite for anglers looking to find both largemouth and smallmouth in one place, fisheries biologist Mike Wilkerson gives this overlooked lake a definite thumbs-up.
"Pleasant Hill consistently rates near the top of the list for both size and numbers of largemouth bass," said Wilkerson.
The upper end of the lake is the top pick for the largemouth bass and the lower section has a fishable population of smallmouth bass. The bucketmouths sometimes hit the 20-inch mark and the smallies occasionally go 15 inches or so.
The largemouth bass are frequently caught on soft plastic baits and spinnerbaits in the shallow western end of the lake. The smallmouth bass will hit jigs and small crankbaits up along the rocks near the dam, where the water reaches 35 feet deep.
The boat ramp on the northern shore is off State Route 95 on Covert Road. There are no horsepower restrictions. Anglers find a lot of recreational traffic from Memorial Day through Labor Day so it's easiest to handle a small boat in the early mornings and evenings.
Pleasant Hill is 2 miles southwest of Perrysville and 12 miles southeast of Mansfield.
Call District Three at (330)644-2293 or the MCWD at (419)938-7884 for additional information.
Fish Management Supervisor Doug Maloney goes on record recommending this 642-acre jewel. The lake is set in the hills of Hueston Woods State Park in Butler and Preble counties.
"Our electrofishing surveys show excellent numbers of bass 15 inches and larger," said Maloney. "Acton is the top bass lake in the Cincinnati area and the number of bass we see per hour during the electrofishing surveys is one of the highest anywhere in Ohio."
Anglers will find plenty of action from 2- to 4-pound bucketmouths, with the opportunity for a 5-pound lunker now and then. Most of the fish are from 12 to 17 inches. The 15-inch minimum length limit, which has been in effect for over a decade, has done its job well.
The shoreline emerging vegetation, docks, and any lay-down timber are places to start. Casting traditional baits for early-season bass means fast action when conditions are right.
The marina is operated by the state park and boats can be rented off County Road 47 near the nature center. A 10-horsepower restriction is in effect.
Acton is located 5 miles northwest of Oxford.
For additional information contact District 5 at (937)372-9261 or the Hueston Woods State Park at (513)523-6347.
Portage Lakes harbors more big bass than anglers know. The last ODOW fisheries survey was in 2009 and of the fish measuring at least 12 inches, 19 percent were at least 15 inches. The largest was over 20 inches.
East Reservoir covers 379 acres and is known to host some whopper-sized bucketmouths. This is where ODNR fisheries biologist Chris Aman likes to toss a crankbait on occasion; he's past needing to be convinced that this reservoir and the other Portage lakes are worth fishing.
The Portage Lake system consists of five interconnected major lakes and several smaller lakes totaling 1,681 acres of water. The largest is Turkeyfoot at 664 acres. Structure that Turkeyfoot anglers should check includes the Christmas tree reef submerged about 120 feet from the main-lake shoreline of the island in the lake.
Tournament organizer Rory Franks is another fan and believes the fishing here is just about as good as it gets. He recommends anglers hit the grass flats in Mud and Turkeyfoot lakes with suspending jerkbaits.
Long Lake covers 225 acres and North Reservoir 219. North Reservoir is a good choice for newcomers since there are probably more bass in this lake than in any of the others.
Portage Lakes gets pounded pretty hard as spring progresses. Bring some finesse baits to fool these educated bass.
The 10-mph speed limit is enforced. There is a 400-horsepower restriction. The entire system is no-wake with the exception of parts of East Reservoir and Turkeyfoot.
Portage Lakes is reached via State Routes 93, 224, and 619 near Akron in Summit County.
Contact District 3 at (330)644-2293, the Portage Lakes State Park at (330)644-2220 or Frank's Bass Fishing Promotions at www.dobass.com.
"Burr Oak is one of our best all-around bass lakes in southeastern Ohio with its 12-15-inch slot limit," District 4 fisheries biologist Michael Greenlee said.
The 2009 fisheries survey results showed a top-heavy population of bigger-than-average bass. Seventy percent of the bass measured at least 12 inches and of these, 43 percent were 15 inches or longer. There are a lot of bass up to 15 inches and some 5- to 6-pounders in the mix. Greenlee's taken reports over the last several years of fish a number of fish larger than 5 pounds being caught.
The best springtime spots on Burr Oak aren't difficult to find. Start on the point extending out from the Dock 4 Marina and the shallow channel that lies close to the road in the same vicinity. Shallow coves start producing this time of the year as well.
Burr Oak is a typical southern Ohio impoundment. It's long and narrow, with depths averaging 10 feet and some spots dropping to 30 feet. The nearly 8 miles of shoreline add tremendous largemouth bass habitat to the underwater points and drop-offs.
The water clarity is good and these bass can be hard to fool. Try plastic worms and lizards and other finesse baits along structure in the low-light hours.
Burr Oak Lake covers 664 acres in Athens and Morgan counties off State Route 13 about 3 miles northeast of Glouster. Boat ramps are at the marinas on county roads 15 and 63 and south of the state park lodge off State Route 78. There is a 10-horsepower limit and boats can be rented at the park.
Contact District 4 at (740)589-9930, the Burr Oak State Park at (740)767-3570, or the Dock 4 marina at (740)767-3585 for information.
LAKE LA SU AN WILDLIFE AREA
Northwestern Ohio doesn't have a lot of public fishing water but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. The Lake La Su An WA is a place where even a shorebound angler can catch 80 to 100 largemouth bass on a good day.
"The Lake Su An Lakes have the highest density bass populations in the state," said Fish Management Supervisor Larry Goedde. "Most of them will be from 11 to 14 inches and there are a lot of them. A few fish from 17 to 20 inches are taken every year."
The bass are maintained in the ponds at about 60 to 80 bass per acre, roughly double or triple the density of even the best of bass lakes in the rest of Ohio. The unusual density is maintained to control the numbers and sizes of bluegills. These ponds routinely produce bluegills up to 9 and 10 inches.
Spinnerbaits and plastic worms are mainstays. The older, more educated fish occasionally require a bit of angler imagination to give them something they haven't seen before.
Lake La Su An WA features 14 lakes and ponds that cover a combined area of 130 acres. Many of them are connected. Ramps are available on La Su An, Lavere, Sue and Ann lakes. A 9.9-horsepower restriction is in place on La Su An and electric motors are permitted on the other ponds.
Due to the intensive management efforts going on, a restricted number of anglers are permitted to fish the area at a time. A free permit is required.
Lake La Su An WA is in Williams County on State Route 576 in the northwestern corner of the state.
To obtain a permit, map, and current rules and regulations, contact either District 2 at (419)424-5000 or the Lake La Su An check station at (419)636-6189.
Four- and 5-pound bass aren't out of the question here. This is one of the few lakes managed as a trophy fishery in Ohio.
"There's an 18-inch minimum length limit on Tycoon Lake and the electroshocking evaluations show this bass population has the best possible combination of higher numbers and larger sizes," said Greenlee. "It's one of the best bass lakes in the district."
The down side to big bass like these is the fact they become "educated" to the offerings commonly used by anglers. Biologists have studied the ability of black bass to remember baits they've been landed on already. Though findings aren't necessarily conclusive, it's believed that a bass will remember a particular bait type, and be conditioned to avoid it, through a warm water season. After the winter the playing field's level again. This might be one explanation as to why springtime angling is so productive for lunker bass.
Tycoon is loaded with stumps and flooded fencerows and the perfect spring destination. A small boat ramp is available but the lake can be a challenge to reach.
The lake is located off State Routes 325 and 554 five miles northeast of Rio Grande in Galia County. The ramp for smaller boats is off Township Road 21 west of the dam and where County Road 17 runs north to the lake. Access is gained from state Route 325 by Township Road (Eagle Road). Access off state Route 554 is from Township Road 20 (Vaughn Road) and County Road 17 (Tycoon Road).
Only electric motors are allowed on the lake.
A handicapped-accessible fishing pier can be used by shorebound anglers. The lake covers 204 acres.
For additional information call District Four at (740)589-9930.
Any discussion of bass fishing in Ohio eventually turns to the outstanding smallmouth bass action on Lake Erie. Ohio borders the big lake along several counties and there's good smallie action on most of it.
Tournament anglers are noticing that traditional hotspots aren't holding fish like they used to. Not that the same type of habitat isn't being utilized by the bronzebacks, but the population seems to be shifting from place to place somewhat unpredictably.
Fisheries biologist Travis Hartman, with the Sandusky Fish Research Unit, points out that smallies are taken from Lorain to Conneaut. The harbor breakwalls, harbors, rocky shorelines, drop-offs, and rock reefs are still producing big fish. The Conneaut area is known especially for smallmouth bass over 5 pounds. It's not unusual to catch fish from 14 inches and up and some fish have been reaching 29 inches. The Avon Point reef, spots to both the west and east of Ashtabula in the near-shore areas, and just about anywhere between Geneva and Fairport are worth exploring.
The big lake is now a developing largemouth bass fishery as well. In recent years the lake has cleaned up considerably and vegetation is taking hold in the harbors. As the weeds grow, so do the largemouth bass.
There isn't a lot of pressure on largemouth bass and they're easily hitting 5 pounds. These bass are long-lived and have reportedly reached the ripe old age of 11 years. That's a big bass.
Hartman suggests using the same tactics and baits that work on inland waters.
There are numerous access points for boating anglers along the coastline.
Check current regulations for the closed black bass season on Lake Erie. Last year the closed season was from May 1 through June 25. Largemouth and smallmouth bass can still be targeted during the closed season but must be released immediately.
Contact District Three at (330)644-2293 for a copy of the Lake Erie Fishing Guide which provides a detailed listing of launches and ramps. For Western Basis bass fishing information contact the ODOW's Sandusky unit at (419)625-8062. For Central Basin information contact the Fairport Harbor station at (440)352-4199. The recorded Lake Erie Fishing Report provides up-to-date information at 1-888-466-5347.
For additional information and lake maps visit the ODOW online at www.dnr.ohio.gov/wildlife.