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Ohio's Bass Forecast For 2008

Ohio's Bass Forecast For 2008

Here's a look at what's in store for Buckeye State bass anglers this year. (March 2008).

Photo by Ron Sinfelt.

With the largemouth bass being North America's most widely distributed and most popular game fish, it's little wonder that bass fishing accounts for approximately 22 percent of all hours spent fishing inland lakes. Research has shown this boils down to approximately 2.2 million hours annually.

Americans love to fish for bass!

When it comes to avid bass fishermen, Ohio is right at the top. The Buckeye State also provides plenty of opportunities from bank or boat, and all five of the Ohio Division of Wildlife's wildlife districts offer good access to public waters.

District fisheries supervisors stay on top of habitat conditions, through programs that constantly monitor the state's largemouth bass population.

This has resulted in some of the best bass fishing anywhere in the Midwest.

"Our guidelines dictate standardized statewide sampling and sampling of each reservoir on a systematic basis," said Rich Carter, fisheries biologist for Ohio's Division of Wildlife District One.


"Our larger lakes are sampled annually or semi-annually. Some of our smaller lakes are sampled at least once within a six-year period."

Carter also noted how the ODOW has been working with the Ohio Bass Federation, Ohio BASS Federation Nation and other tournament groups on the Ohio Bass Tournament Database. These groups enter their tournament results through a link on the Division of Wildlife's Web site.

This information helps the ODOW preserve our excellent breeding stock and keeps Ohio lakes filled with large-sized fish each year.Since the first attempt to manage largemouth bass in Ohio in 1885, hundreds of thousands of these fish have been stocked and are now well established in every county.

Then, with government encouragement, thousands of farm ponds were constructed throughout Ohio from 1950 to 1980.

Huge bass grew in close proximity to anglers. (The long-standing state- record largemouth, at 13 pounds, 2 ounces, was caught in a farm pond in 1976.) And the numbers of bass fishermen increased rapidly as well.

Another management tool that state biologists use is the length limit. The first size limit was implemented in 1977 in Ross Lake, when a 14-inch minimum was placed on largemouth bass. Since that time, size limits have been strategically placed on fish in targeted lakes to speed both the size and abundance of bass.

Throughout Ohio, bass management is ongoing. The same basic approach is used in all five wildlife districts from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. The following is a district-by-district report on what the outlook is for Ohio bass.

"Our sampling results for largemouth bass indicate that in general, we have really good bass populations in District One," said Rich Carter.

"Knox Lake in Knox County has catch rates that are consistently among the highest in the state."

Knox Lake covers 495 acres and is northeast of Fredericktown in Knox County off state Route 95. Created in the 1950s by impounding the Kokosing River, the standing trees and brush in the upper lake basin make ideal bass habitat.

"Knox Lake has an 18-inch length limit on bass," Carter noted. "This resulted in a marked increase in the numbers and size of bass."

Another excellent central Ohio bass lake is O'Shaughnessy Reservoir. Covering over 1,300 acres in Delaware County, this lake has good numbers of bass in keeper-sized range (12 inches) and an abundance of fish in the 2 1/2- to 3-pound range.This has helped O'Shaughnessy's anglers to report the highest tournament catch rate of any reservoir in the state.

As for new management projects within this central Ohio region, Carter noted how the ODOW is in the process of working with the Ohio BASS Federation Nation on the Indian Lake Blackbird Basin More Fish Project, and with the Ohio Bass Federation, and their member club the Ohio Valley Bassmasters, on a Spawning Habitat Improvement Partnership (SHIP) at Lake Loramie.

The Lake Loramie SHIP project, being conducted in conjunction with the ODOW's Wildlife District Five office, involves placement of nesting boxes in the lake to improve spawning habitat for largemouths.

For additional information on the bass-fishing opportunities in the central Ohio region, contact the Wildlife District One office, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215; or call (614) 644-3925.

"In the small, warmwater lakes of Lake La Su An, we have some of the highest densities of largemouth bass per acre in the state," said Larry Goedde, a district fish management supervisor for Ohio's Division of Wildlife District Two. "It's not unusual to catch 50 or 60 bass in a day, thanks to an extremely high density of fish."

Lake La Su An, in the northwest corner of Williams County, is one of several lakes available to bass anglers in the 1,161-acre Lake La Su An Wildlife Area. Additional lakes within this area include Lakes La Vere, Sue, Mel, Us as well as others. These lakes provide top quality bass-fishing opportunities, with several special regulations in effect.

In order to fish the six largest lakes of Lake Lu Su An Wildlife Area, you must make a reservation by calling (419) 636-6189 one week in advance. Reservations are taken on Monday of each week, from 8 a.m. till 12 noon for the following Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

All of the lakes are closed to fishing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and on Mondays that fall on a holiday.

The lakes close to fishing for the year around the first week in October and reopen the first or second Thursday in April.

No more than two people in a party, with the exception of youth reservations, may reserve a fishing slot. Only one reservation may be made for any three-week period on Lake La Su An or Lake La Vere.

Anglers must use artificial baits only.

The carefully monitored fishing schedule has resulted in unparalleled bass fishing.

"We do a lot of intensive mana

gement in these lakes," said Goedde. "We try to keep a density of 70 bass per acre, which results in very high catch rates, but not many trophy fish."

Other good bass lakes in Wildlife District Two include Pleasant Hill Reservoir, which covers 850 acres in Richland and Ashland counties, and Clear Fork Reservoir, a 944-acre lake in Richland and Morrow counties.

For additional information on the bass-fishing opportunities available in northwestern Ohio, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Two office, 952 Lima Avenue, Findlay, OH 45840; or call (419) 424-5000.


The northeastern sector of the Buckeye State is noted for plenty of lakes with big bass, including the Portage Lake system and LaDue Reservoir. All of these provide exceptionally good bass habitat.

According to Phil Hillman, a fish management supervisor for the ODOW's Wildlife District Three, the bass population in his region is doing well. With management policy pretty much standard throughout the districts, size and length limits have helped keep fish in District Three growing in size and numbers.

Besides his long-running duties as fish management supervisor, Hillman is also an accomplished angler. Some years back, I spent a day in heavy insulated waders trying to keep up with Hillman in the icy creek waters of Conneaut in pursuit of steelhead.He skunked me badly, pulling in two fish that weighed over 11 pounds.

"Turkeyfoot Lake, which is part of the Portage Lakes system, is one of our top bass-producing lakes," Hillman said. "In our sampling surveys, 29 percent of the largemouth bass were 15 inches or longer."

This lake covers 665 acres in and has a maximum depth of 52 feet. One of nine Portage Lakes, this body of excellent bass water was constructed in the 19th century to supply water for the canal system.

With quality habitat management by ODOW biologists, the mature bass population in Turkeyfoot Lake provides some of the best fishing opportunities in this region.

Long Lake is another Portage lake that supplies top bass-fishing water. Hillman noted that electro-shocking surveys revealed that 32 percent of the surveyed bass were 15 inches or longer.

Long Lake covers 225 acres and has a maximum depth of 40 feet. Turkeyfoot Lake has a 12-inch length limit in place, but Long Lake has no size limitations.

LaDue Reservoir is another top District Three bass producer. Hillman said surveys of that lake yielded a 34 percent catch of fish over 15 inches in length.

LaDue is an electric-motors-only lake covering 1,500 acres in Geauga County. This lake has a 12-inch length limit in place and has an average depth of 10 feet.

For more information on the bass lakes of this northeastern Ohio region, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Three office, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319; or call (330) 644-2293.


The rugged beauty of southeastern Ohio is an added bonus for bass anglers in this region.

Tree-covered hillsides surround many scenic lakes in this section of the state. Along with scenery comes top-quality bass fishing opportunities in numerous locations.

"Tycoon Lake is our best early-season lake," said Tim Parrett, a fish management supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife's District Four. "Relatively small and shallow, this lake warms up quickly and is a good producer of nice bass."

Just north of Rio Grande in Gallia County, this 204-acre lake is a prime example of the success of Ohio's bass management program. With a minimum-size length limit of 18 inches, Tycoon Lake produces exceptionally large bass.

This is primarily a boater's lake restricted to electric motors only, with little access to the better bass fishing areas from the bank. Tycoon is considered to be one of the most densely populated bass lakes in the region. The average fish will be from 1 to 3 pounds, with an occasional 7-pound fish being taken.

Another southeastern Ohio lake noted by Parrett is Vinton County's Lake Rupert. This 325-acre lake is also known as Wellston Reservoir. With average depths of eight feet and a maximum of 28 feet, this lake has a good mix of shallow water for early-season fishing and depth for big bass to utilize when the weather turns hot.

Good numbers of largemouths weighing in at over 5 pounds are reported from Lake Rupert each year.

Anglers have numerous areas of premier bass habitat at their disposal: structure consisting of old roadbeds, sunken bridges and long sloping points. With weeds in the upper end and fallen trees along the shoreline, fish attractors are plentiful.

Lake Rupert lies north of the city of Wellston off state Route 93. A 9.9- horsepower limit is in effect, as is a 12- to 15-inch slot limit on bass.

The 125-acre Ross Lake in Ross County east of Chillicothe has been managed for bass for over two decades. The result has been good-sized fish with good densities in a comparatively small lake. With a 15-inch length limit in place and an electric-only restriction on the boating, many largemouths have grown to trophy-sized proportions.

Additional District Four bass waters include the many ponds found on the AEP ReCreation Land scattered through portions of Muskingum, Morgan, Coshocton and Perry counties. Over 350 lakes and ponds present great opportunity for bass anglers in this area.

A free permit is required to fish or camp on the AEP ReCreation Land. To obtain it, write the American Electric Power Company, P. O. Box 328, McConnelsville, OH 43756.

For additional information on the bass-fishing opportunities in southeastern Ohio, write the ODOW's Wildlife District Four office, 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701; or call (740) 589-9930.

The northeastern sector of the Buckeye State is noted forhaving plenty of lakeswith big bass, includingthe Portage Lake systemand LaDue Reservoir.


Careful management of bass in the ODOW's District Five has resulted in several lakes that hold both good size and numbers of fish, according to fish management supervisor Doug Maloney. He referred to studies and surveys conducted on lakes such as Acton, Cowan and Rocky Fork.

The 625-acre Acton Lake is in Butler and Preble counties approximately 40 miles northwest of Cincinnati. In March 1990, a 15-inch length limit went into effect in an effort to improve the bass fishery.

Since that time, the results have proven the effectiveness of the regulation. Anglers are reporting a steady catch of bigger fish and a

plentiful supply of smaller stock.

"Acton is one of the top bass lakes in Ohio," said Maloney.

"Its bass population continues to remain strong."

Acton Lake lies approximately midway between Cincinnati and Dayton and is accessible from state routes 177, 732 and 725. It has a 10-horsepower limit and an average depth of 12 feet, with a maximum depth of 30 feet.

The 692-acre Cowan Lake is in Clinton County about seven miles southwest of Wilmington. Cowan averages about 18 feet in depth and has a maximum depth of around 42 feet, making this one of the deeper lakes in the region. A 15-inch length limit is in effect at Cowan Lake. Many of its bass are in the 12- to 15-inch range, with fish up to 5 pounds caught on occasion.

A 10-horsepower motor limit is in effect on the lake, which may be accessed from state routes 730 and 68.

Another District Five bass lake that has come on strong for bass fishing is Highland County's Rocky Fork Lake. This recreational lake covers over 2,000 acres and averages 12 feet in depth. It is an unlimited-horsepower lake with an excellent population of largemouth bass.

"Rocky Fork Lake has been a hard one to beat in recent years," said Maloney. "The sampling we do at Rocky Fork may not be quite as good as Acton, but it is almost as good."

Rocky Fork may be accessed from U.S. Route 50 and state routes 124 and 753.

For more information on the bass-fishing opportunities in southwestern Ohio, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Five office, 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45385; or call (937) 372-9261.

When it comes to bass fishing, Ohio is second to no other state in the Midwest. And 2008 is shaping up to be yet another good year for largemouth bass fishing.

During the summer months of 2007, drought conditions settled over many parts of the Buckeye State, which resulted in lower water levels. Even so, anglers -- especially tournament competitors -- reported that for those who study the habitat and adapt to the conditions, the fish were out there.

Regardless of species, weather is always a factor. But hot, extremely dry conditions often require spending more time fishing at night.

For overall information on the bass management and bass-fishing opportunities in the Buckeye State, contact the ODOW's headquarters, 2045 Morse Road, Columbus, OH 43229-6693; or call (614) 265-6300.

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