Things are looking up for Buckeye State bass anglers in 2007. Here's a look at what anglers can expect as they make plans for another exciting year on the water. (March 2007)
Ohio's bass managers are hard at work protecting and producing more lunker bass for Buckeye State anglers.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
It'll be another banner year for bass in Ohio again in 2007, according to Scott Hale, an Ohio Division of Wildlife biology supervisor who heads up the Inland Fisheries Management Research Unit in Hebron.
"Acton Lake with its 15-inch minimum-length limit and Knox Lake with an 18-inch minimum are great places to catch some nice bass," said Hale. "We've had an initiative called the Inland Management System in place since 2003. The IMS is our systematic approach to sampling lakes 25 acres in size across the state. Every lake will be sampled on a six-year cycle, and some lakes will be studied every year or so."
Biologists statewide want to get the word out to anglers.
"Our plan has been to store all of the bass-sampling data into a consumer digest format on the ODOW Website. And right now, we have consultants working on it to get it up and running," he added. "We don't have a date yet when the information will be available. But when it is, bass anglers will be able to access the most recent information we have.
"We want people to know where the good bass lakes are. You can take Ohio's bass fishing and stack it up against the fishing in any other state in the country."
Creel surveys, angler-harvest statistics, regulations and fish population samplings play a part in helping fish managers improve bass populations -- which in turn keeps bass anglers happy.
"I've been tournament fishing in Ohio for 13 years and I can safely say that it now takes two or three times more weight at the end of the year to qualify for the regionals as it did 10 years ago," said Roger Adams, vice president of the Ohio Valley Bass Masters club.
Bass fishing is alive and well in the Buckeye State. Here's a look at where you can get in on the action this season:
"Our No. 1 bass lake in District One is Knox Lake," said Elmer Heyob, an Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist. "It's loaded with 18- to 20-inch bass. But it's a small system, and the bass have seen every kind of lure an angler can toss at them."
Heyob has always been impressed with the bass production on the lake. This is one of the few waters in Ohio managed specifically for trophy-class bass. An 18-inch minimum-length restriction has been in place since 1991, and the resulting bass fishery is one of the best that Ohio has to offer.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife ranks Knox Lake among the top five inland lakes fished by the Ohio Bass Federation based on tournament results. Anglers have done well in the lake's many competitive events, and weekend anglers have been scoring some big fish as well.
Fallen trees and shallow stumpfields provide excellent bass habitat. The lake covers 481 acres, two miles east of Fredricktown. Access is from U.S. Route 95 on county Road 5 in Knox County.
Three ramps serve boaters, and ample shoreline access is available for bank-fishermen. A 10-horsepower motor limit is in effect on the lake.
For more information, contact the ODOW's District One office at (614) 644-3925.
"O'Shaughnessy is really popular among anglers, which means it gets pounded," said biologist Heyob. "The water is turbid, and the bass hold tight to the bank because the water is so dirty. But that may be why tournament anglers do so well here. It's easier to trick a bass in darker water than it is in clear conditions, and anglers are catching a lot of them. There are good numbers of 12- to 15-inch largemouths in this lake."
The ODOW lists O'Shaughnessy Reservoir as one of the top 10 lakes fished by the OBF. Tournaments are a common event on this long, narrow lake, which is an impoundment on the Scioto River. There is a lot of activity on this lake because it is so close to Columbus.
"Bass fishing on O'Shaughnessy is very good," said Adams. "The last time I fished there, we had four keepers in the boat by lunchtime, fishing black-and-blue jigs in the shallow, woody cover."
Shoreline opportunities abound. Pull-offs and small parking areas provide lots of room to roam for bank anglers who can reach the action without a boat.
O'Shaughnessy Reservoir covers 1,330 acres northwest of Columbus in Delaware County. It's accessible from state routes 37 and 257 and U.S. Route 34.
Ramps are available on the western side of the lake outside of Shawnee Hills and on the eastern side by the Home Road bridge.
For additional information, contact the ODOW's District One office at (614) 644-3925.
Kiser Lake is one of Ohio's sleeper lakes for largemouths. It's often overlooked because of its unique motor restrictions. When the Kiser family donated the lake and surrounding land to become Kiser Lake State Park, one of their conditions was that the lake would never allow boat motors of any kind. The resulting regulations prohibit the use of any motor, including electric trolling motors. Watching the few canoes and rowboats that dot the water is a step back into time.
And so is the bass fishing. According to Hale, Kiser Lake rates highly in the IMS statistics.
Kiser Lake regularly produces largemouths in the 5- to 6-pound range, most of which go unnoticed except by the occasional local who has earned bragging rights at Todd's Sport Shop.
"My biggest was a 6.5 pounder," said Jacob Cline, an angler who's been tossing spinnerbaits and crankbaits at Kiser Lake for years.
"I caught this fish from the shoreline near the state park marina on a chartreuse shallow-diving Bomber. The water around the marina and just off the campground is where I catch my best largemouths."
Bank-fishing is allowed all around this 394-acre lake. Bass prowl the weeds, riprap, fishing piers and downed trees throughout the lake. Deeper water is shared with hybrid stripers up to 26 inches and weighing in at 14 pounds.
Crankbaits and chicken livers fished on the bottom take hybrid stripers.
Kiser Lake is on state Route 235 in Champaign County.
Boat ramps are near the park office, by the small campground and in the Grandville area.
For more information, contact the ODOW's District One office at (614) 644-3925, Todd's Sport Shop at (937) 362-3473 or nearby Indian Lake State Park at (937) 843-2717.
"Shad are showing up in Highlandtown Lake, and the bass are getting larger," said Matthew Backhaus, Fisheries Management Unit leader in District Three.
"The bass I saw caught last year looked like they were starting to put on weight. Tournament fishermen told me that these bass are some of the finest fish they've taken in years, with some specimens up to 6 pounds and many fish over 15 inches."
Highlandtown Lake lacks cover, said Backhaus, so the ODOW has placed a variety of artificial structures into the lake.
"I built a reef that is about 60 feet long and put pine trees at the end of it, along with some tube structures in the same area," said Backhaus. "Plans are to put in some Christmas trees and to fell some trees around the lake for shoreline cover.
"I'd predict good fishing if the weeds come back strong," Backhaus continued. "If people want to target bass and aren't familiar with Highlandtown, I'd steer them toward the dam or the bay right off the main launch ramp."
The western section of the lake has the heaviest concentration of bass. Fish attractors have been placed near the dam and along the north and south shorelines in the lake's western section.
Bonus crappies have been caught over the last couple of years, with some reaching the 16-inch bracket, said Backhaus.
The boat launch is off Osbourne Road. The lake covers 170 acres in Columbiana County and lies four miles northeast of Salineville off state Route 39 and nine miles south of Lisbon off state Route 164.
For more information and to find out where submerged structure has been placed, contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293, or the Highlandtown Fish Unit at (330) 679-2201.
"Inland lake fishing in Ohio is largely limited by habitat, and Piedmont Lake is a lake that has it," said Dave Bright, a fisheries biologist in southeastern Ohio. "Piedmont is the top smallmouth lake in District Four and is normally in the top three waters throughout all of Ohio for Fish Ohio! qualifiers."
Bright pointed out that the excellent and varied habitat within Piedmont Lake makes it a good largemouth lake as well. Biologists sampling the lake have found impressive bucketmouths along with the big smallies.
The bays provide the most largemouth action, said Bright. Weedy shoreline areas and the shallow stumps on the eastern end of the lake are bass magnets. Smallmouths slam jigs and spinners off the dropoffs. Look for rocky bottoms adjacent to the dropoffs.
Piedmont covers 2,273 acres of water in Harrison, Guernsey and Belmont counties. Ramps are available off township Road 893 on the northwestern end of the lake and off Reynolds Road on the southwest end. Boaters are under a 10-horsepower motor restriction.
For more information, call the ODOW's District Four office at (740) 589-9930.
AEP RECREATION AREA
"The AEP ReCreation Area is another perennial producer of Fish Ohio! qualifiers, producing largemouth bass that place it in the top three waters of the state," said Bright.
Many ponds on the area's 28,000 acres have been reclaimed from the strip-mining era, but the majority of them contain bass. The larger ponds have primitive campgrounds, parking areas and boat launches where belly boats, canoes and small fishing boats may be launched.
The more remote ponds are tucked away in the steep hills and valleys and see little angling pressure. Thorns and thick brush make getting to some of these ponds nearly impossible. Smallmouths have found homes in a few of the larger, more structure-laden waters, while largemouths rule in most of the others.
Over 250 ponds measuring from 1/8-acre to three acres in size are scattered over the property. The ponds hidden at the bottom of steep bluffs and bordered by tangled undergrowth often haven't seen an angler for a long time.
Anglers should plan to bring what they'll need when visiting the AEP ReCreation Lands. There are no bait shops or stores on site.
The area is open to public fishing through an agreement between American Electric Power and the ODOW. The company still works the area, and sections are closed to the public on a temporary basis. Ponds in newly opened areas that haven't been fished for a couple of years can be dynamite.
The AEP ReCreation Lands lies in Noble, Muskingum and Morgan counties.
To obtain a free map and permit, write the AEP ReCreation Lands, P.O. Box 328, McConnelsville, OH 43756; or call the ODOW's District Four office at (740) 589-9930.
"Angling for largemouths in Seneca Lake should be good this summer," said Tim Parrett, an ODOW fisheries biologist in southeastern Ohio. "We last sampled its largemouth bass population in 2003. Our catch rates were relatively low, but many of the bass were quality-sized, including fish up to 20 inches and weighing up to 5 pounds."
Parrett recommends the main lake coves for good bass action and says that the smaller coves within the larger ones should produce as well. The last survey showed good numbers of legal fish that may be taken along the main lake shoreline bordering state routes 313 and 574.
Woody cover, weedbeds, dropoffs and lily pads in the upper section are also bass haunts on Seneca Lake. To help correct a notable lack of bass habitat, biologists have dropped nearly a thousand Christmas trees into the lake over the last several years.
Smallmouths and white bass are also available. The Owl's Nest area and along state Route 313 are where anglers can tag white bass. The deeper structure is where the smallmouths will be.
Seneca Lake covers 3,508 acres in Noble and Guernsey counties. The lake is 12 miles southeast of Cambridge.
For more information, call the ODOW's District Four at (740) 589-9930.
The undisputed smallmouth bass capital of the world, Lake Erie offers bass action that can be fast and furious.
"The smallmouth fishing is looking good in Lake Erie," said Travis Hartman, a fisheries biologist with the Sandusky Fish Research Unit.
"We still have 16- to 20-inch smallmouths out there from the older year-classes and now we have fish coming in from recent year-classes," he said.
The islands-area shorelines and reefs will continue to be some of the best areas to target smallies, Hartman added.
The shorelines of North Bass, Middle Bass, South Bass and Kelleys islands are all great places to start. Hartman said that the productive reefs will be the West Reef, Gull Island Shoal and the Kelleys Island Shoal. Ruggles Reef, just east of the islands, can also be a fantastic fishery for near-shore anglers.
"Some of the best untapped smallmouth fisheries are from Cleveland to Conneaut," said Hartman. "Harbor break walls and near-shore rocky dropoffs in Ohio's eastern portion of Lake Erie produce some incredible fishing opportunities that surprisingly few anglers take advantage of."
But it's not only the smallmouths that are exciting anglers nowadays.
"The largemouth fishing on Lake Erie is becoming even more awesome," said Adams. "In some spots, you can catch a limit of largemouth bass in 20 minutes on spinnerbaits or black-and-chartreuse worms."
Adams doesn't hold back when it comes to smallies, either.
"Lake Erie is my favorite body of water to fish, and the smallmouth fishing has been phenomenal. Hooking a 5-pound smallie and seeing it jump 40 yards out from the boat is a heart-stopper. During the summer, I like to drift-fish and drag a tube in 12 to 30 feet of water. Any shade of green or brown works great for this approach."
One fish in particular still brings sighs, said Adams. He was tournament fishing out of Sandusky and using green-pumpkin tubes.
"I felt a light tick on the worm I was dragging and set the hook. My heart nearly stopped when the biggest smallie I've ever seen came crashing up out of the water. I fought it to within a couple feet of the boat, and it jumped again. It was much larger than the 6.5-pounder I'd seen caught by a friend. As I started to net it, my line broke. That was a 7-pound fish, I just know it!"
For more information, contact the Fairport Harbor unit at (440) 352-4199 or the Sandusky Fish Research Station at (419) 625-8062. For a recorded, updated Lake Erie fishing report, call 1-888-HOOK-FISH.
For more information on Ohio's bass fishery management plan, contact the Inland Fisheries Management Research Unit in Hebron at (740) 928-7034.
Lodging information may be obtained by contacting the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism at 1-800-BUCKEYE, or you can go online at DiscoverOhio.com.