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Ohio's Top 10 June Catfish Hotspots

Ohio's Top 10 June Catfish Hotspots

Big flatheads and channel catfish can be found statewide. But these 10 biologist-recommended waters are the places to be for rod-bending action this month. (June 2007)

Photo by Bruce Ingram.

The first hints of summer often start revealing themselves in May. In Ohio, this typically means warm, sunny days interspersed with rain, cold and gloom. Not until June, however, do the heat and humidity of summer begin to dominate.

For many anglers in Ohio, this means only one thing -- catfish season! Fortunately, for Ohio's vast cadre of catfish catchers, there are literally hundreds of waterways across the state where these whiskered fish make their abode.

Catfish exist in nearly every one of Ohio's lakes and rivers, but according to Buckeye State fisheries biologists, some waters are better than others. The following district-by-district review highlights the state's finest catfishing hotspots.

An assortment of top-rated rivers and lakes made the list. Depending on where you reside and what you hope to achieve, each destination offers its own unique brand of angling opportunities:


Hoover Reservoir

Hoover Reservoir, in Franklin and Delaware counties, provides willing anglers with 3,843 acres of fishable water.

According to Marty Lundquist, an Ohio Division of Wildlife District One fisheries biologist, Hoover is most noted for being a channel catfish fishery. Trophy-class flatheads are few and far between. In Hoover Reservoir, channel cats average about 20 inches in length.

"We occasionally see a 28-inch-plus channel cat here," Lundquist pointed out.

Biologists recommend that anglers target the north end of the lake for best fishing results.

"The feeding flats in this section of the lake are approximately 8 feet deep during normal pool," said Lundquist. "Most anglers fish after dark and during early morning hours, using shrimp and cut shad for bait."

When he was asked if there was any scientific approach to placing baits on these large feeding flats, Lundquist said, "Simply put your bait out there and keep it fresh."

Hoover Reservoir lies northeast of Columbus and four miles east of Westerville. The 10-horsepower motor limit is currently in force. Handicapped-accessible areas are available across the lake.

For more information on Hoover Reservoir, call the ODOW's District One headquarters at (614) 644-3925.

Alum Creek Lake

According to Lundquist, Alum Creek Lake is another great hotspot in his district for channel catfish.

"Fishing on Alum Creek Lake is good on the north end," he said. "In June, many anglers seem to prefer fishing the area from Howard Road northward."

Expect to see catfish in the 18- to 24-inch range. The fishery is capable of producing channels much larger than this, but they are not nearly as abundant. Cut bait, chicken livers and shrimp are the staple baits used on Alum Creek Lake.

The lake covers 3,400 acres in Delaware County. It may be accessed one mile west of Interstate Route 71 on U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37.

For more data on Alum Creek Lake, contact the ODOW's District One headquarters at (614) 644-3925.

Buckeye Lake

In 1995, a substantial fish die-off occurred in Buckeye Lake. This event's adverse effects proved to be most evident with its flathead population. Hundreds of big flathead catfish were found floating on the lake's surface. Many of these fish surpassed even the 60-pound mark.

According to biologist Lundquist, this had a major impact on the flathead fishing for several years. In spite of the setback, the lake still managed to remain a great flathead fishery. Its fishery has recovered for the most part, but Buckeye Lake is still improving as a catfish destination.

Today, anglers are catching flatheads in the 20- to 60-pound class. The bigger specimens are not quite as common as they were back in the early 1990s, but they are there.

Though Buckeye Lake spans 3,300 acres, most of the catfishing is done around Cranberry Marsh and the two holes on the east end of the lake, near Avondale Park. Successful flathead anglers cast live bait such as sunfish, carp, and chubs onto the flats near these holes. (Continued)

Channel catfish in Buckeye Lake reach great sizes as well. They are typically found in the same or similar areas as flatheads. Channel catfish anglers simply adjust their baits to cut or smaller live baits, which have proven to be very successful in June.

Access to Buckeye Lake may be found off state Route 79 south of Hebron. There are no horsepower restrictions in effect, and the lake is typically very busy during daylight hours.

To request more information and lake maps, call the ODOW's District One headquarters at (614) 644-3925.


Maumee River

Located on the far western basin of Lake Erie is the Maumee River. Noted for its early spring walleye run, this river rarely receives the acclaim it deserves for its magnificent flathead fishing throughout the summer, particularly in June.

Mike Wilkerson, a District Two fisheries biologist, pointed out that certain sections of this underrated river can yield tremendous flathead catfishing opportunities for persistent anglers. Flatheads over 20 pounds are not uncommon fare here. The occasional gargantuan one is also caught.

One good area to target, noted Wilkerson, is the lower Auglaize, where it turns into the Maumee at Defiance. Another good area is the Independence Dam tailwaters. The flats near deep river holes and timber piles downstream from the Independence Dam are also good targets in June.

Live bait seems to be the preferred choice, which comes as little surprise. Sunfish and creek chubs have become the most popular form of indigenous bait species on the river. Wilkerson recommends fishing them right off the bottom.

Nighttime is the traditional time to go for flatheads, but don't pass up an opportunity to hit the early morning bite as well.

Much of the access on the Maumee River is on private land. When accessing the river via private property, written permission is re

quired. However, some public areas are present off River Road (Route 65) on the east side of the Maumee.

Boat access on the lower Maumee is possible, but anglers must use extreme caution, as the shallow riffle areas can be hazardous.

For more information on the Maumee River, contact Ohio's Wildlife District Two headquarters at (419) 424-5000.

Findlay Reservoir No. 2

If you're after good channel catfishing in District Two, Findlay Reservoir No. 2 is a great place to start your search.

Findlay Reservoir No. 2, in Fulton County, is one of two water supply reservoirs for the city of Findlay. Findlay No. 2 is an upground reservoir and has no natural water supply. Furthermore, there are very few well-defined areas of structure where catfish might congregate.

When the reservoirs are low, water from the Blanchard River is pumped into Findlay No. 2 and later distributed among both of them as needed.

According to biologist Wilkerson, when water is being pumped into Findlay No. 2, the channel catfish turn on -- at least along the northern dike. The reservoir is filled on an "as needed" basis, and there is no way of telling in advance when that will happen.

Most of the bank is open for shore access, and fish can be caught just about anywhere. Channel cats up to 30 inches are not unusual here.

Boaters should note that on Findlay No. 2, a 10-horsepower motor limit is in effect. Access is off state Route 37 and county roads 205 and 234, three miles southeast of Findlay.

For more information on Findlay Reservoir No. 2, call the ODOW's District Two headquarters at (419) 424-5000.


Tuscarawas River

The Tuscarawas River is a vastly overlooked catfish hotspot in District Three, at least according to district fisheries biologist Matt Ward.

"The river is home to channel catfish in the 3- to 5-pound range," he said. "Bigger fish are present, though." The flatheads in the river are typically small and do not garner much attention.

According to Ward, the best catfishing opportunities are from the Tuscarawas boat launch upstream. But good angling can also be found downstream.

"The fishing seems to be pretty good along the whole river," he said.

One hotspot is north of Gnadenhutten, where state Route 416 and U.S. Route 36 intersect. The large pool above a steep, sloping section of river is one of the more popular fishing areas throughout the summer. As always, outside river bends, feeding flats near deep holes and large timber piles are good areas to target.

For more information on the Tuscarawas River's catfishing opportunities, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Three Headquarters at (330) 644-2293.

Tappan Lake

Tappan Lake, a 2,350-acre reservoir in Harrison County, is another catfish hotspot that's been often outshined by other lakes in the district.

According to Ward, the lake is teeming with opportunities for both flathead and channel catfish anglers.

"Though the channel catfishery is good, it's the flatheads that achieve the most acclaim here," he noted.

Fish in the 30 plus-pound range are not uncommon at this honeyhole. In fall 2006, ODOW biologists shocked up one monster after another while sampling other fisheries.

"Most of the bigger fish were in shallow water near deep-water haunts," noted biologist Ward. "Such areas seem to be the best places to target from June through October."

Tappan Lake is easy to access. U.S. Route 250 parallels the lake, and access areas are abundant.

The motor limit on Tappan is 120 horsepower. For more data on Tappan Lake or to request lake maps, call the ODOW's District Three headquarters at (330) 644-2293.

Local anglers know that when it comes to catfishing, Clendening has outperformed almost all other bodies of water in the district. It's expected to provide exceptional fishing again this year. However, we have chosen to feature Tappan Lake because it receives far less angling attention and provides more opportunities.


Muskingum River

All of the pools on the Muskingum River offer good opportunities for catfish anglers. Fisheries biologist Tim Parrett pointed out that the Marietta Pool (Devola Tailwater) is probably the best stretch for big flatheads.

"This part of the Muskingum is gaining notoriety all around the country for its excellent flathead fishing," he said.

The Marietta Pool is 5.8 miles long. On this stretch, anglers can expect to find flatheads between 20 and 40 pounds, and bigger fish have been caught. Channel cats can grow to 15 pounds here, but most weigh less than 5 pounds.

The Devola Pool in Washington County and the Beverly Pool in Washington and Morgan counties are also good catfishing hotspots. In these pools, the fish are typically smaller than the ones you'll see in the Marietta Pool.

Muskingum County also hosts a series of good pools for anglers to target. The Philo Pool is just one. Most angling efforts here are focused around the Y-Bridge. The Licking River Pool and Zanesville Pool are also noteworthy spots to try.

Tailwater sections, eddies, large timber piles, riprap shorelines and current obstructions are all great Muskingum River performers.

Most of the Muskingum can be accessed off state Route 60, which runs nearly the length of the river. Use state Route 376 for access to the river near Stockport.

For more information on the Muskingum River, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Four headquarters at (740) 594-2211.

"Most of the bigger fish were in shallow water near deep-water haunts," noted biologist Ward. "Such areas seem to be the best places to target from June through October."

Ohio River

According to biologist Parrett, the Ohio River demands a certain amount of respect, as always, when it comes to District Four catfish hotspots.

"The river is home to both big channel catfish and flatheads," noted Parrett. "Channels in the 10- to 12-pound range are not uncommon, and flatheads can often surpass 50 pounds."

The best areas to target are below the tailwaters of the locks and dams along the river. Scour holes and power plant discharges are also the "cat's meow" at times.

The Kyger and Gavin power plants, both in Gallia County, and Willow Island i

n Washington County are all good areas to target. On the West Virginia side, the Mountaineer Power Plant, across from Pomeroy and Meigs County, offers great fishing in June.

Cut shad and skipjack herring are great channel catfish baits. Big flatheads tend to prefer live offerings, such as sunfish and suckers.

For more information on the Ohio River or to request a map, contact the ODOW's District Four headquarters at (740) 594-2211.


Great Miami River

The Great Miami River starts its trek towards the Ohio River north of Dayton. After flowing southbound for several miles, it passes through Cincinnati before making its confluence.

According to District Five fisheries biologist Debbie Walters, this year's outlook for Great Miami's catfishing is very good.

Anglers will see healthy numbers of both channel cats and flatheads inhabiting the river. Flatheads grow up to 20 pounds, sometimes larger as they get closer to the Ohio. Channel catfish can attain weights up to about 5 pounds.

Successful anglers target main river holes by day and fish the heads of the holes or shallow nearby flats after dark. As on most rivers, large piles of timber and current breaks often attract and hold hungry cats.

"It's the lower regions that anglers should focus their efforts on," noted Walters. "If you're targeting flatheads, fish closer to the Ohio River."

She identified a few other great District Five hotspots, including the Meldahl Lock and Dam on the Ohio River and the Markland Pool, and also recommended the piers on Grand Lake St. Marys after dark, and the shallow flats on Rocky Fork Lake.

There are plenty of opportunities in every district to boat or bank some tremendous catfish this year. As Walters put it, "It's just a matter of getting out there."

When fishing the Ohio River, be sure to check all reciprocal agreements for bordering states before venturing too far out of your home turf.

The laws governing the harvesting and keeping of channel catfish and flathead catfish were changed in 2006. The regulations may tighten even more as time goes on.

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