Now's the time for some serious catfish angling, and these proven Buckeye State rivers are the places to be for lunker flatheads and channel cats this month. (July 2006)
Ohio fisheries biologists are predicting another banner year of catfishing for Buckeye State fishermen.
Anglers can "bank" on seeing good action all around the state this month. But their best bet for optimal fishing will be on the several rivers crisscrossing Ohio's vast landscape.
Anglers should note that a new statewide regulation has been established governing the harvest of trophy catfish. Only one channel cat over 28 inches and one flathead catfish over 35 inches may be taken per day.
"A lot of experienced anglers are actually excited about this new limit," said Tim Parrett, an Ohio fisheries biologist. "It will help protect the trophy-class fish that so many people are now targeting."
The first step in catching big catfish is targeting the waters where they live. Here is a closer look at Ohio's top catfish rivers, how to access them and where to find your Fish Ohio trophy this month:
Among Ohio's Wildlife District Two catfish hotspots is the Maumee River. According to district biologists, the stretch of the Maumee upriver from Toledo is the best for catfishing.
"Both channel cats and flatheads are prevalent here," one biologist pointed out. "For the most part, channel catfish are in the 2-pound class, and flatheads attain weights up to 20 pounds."
The Maumee, though broad, is a shallow river. Some of the deepest holes are only 6 to 8 feet deep. These holes are great places to look for catfish during the day. Biologists recommend that once night falls, you search for cats on nearby flats and other shallow areas. Use live bait for flatheads; and fresh cut bait, livers or worms for channel catfish.
A good portion of the river is surrounded by private property, forcing anglers to obtain permission from landowners to gain access. Be aware that in Ohio, you must have written permission to hunt or fish on someone else's land.
Other access areas can be found below the Providence Dam off state Route 110, or near the Independence Dam east of Defiance off state Route 424. The Grand Rapids area, off U. S. Route 24, is also a good access point.
Many flatheads are caught below the Providence Dam.
The Huron River is another District Two catfish magnet. ODOW Biologists note that the river from Monroeville to Lake Erie is prime for both channel cats and flatheads.
During the day, look for fish in holes between 5 and 7 feet deep. At night, the catfish will head for the shallow flats to feed. Don't expect to find many holes on the Huron deeper than 7 feet.
On the Huron, channel cats under 5 pounds are the norm, but bigger fish do exist. Flatheads around 20 pounds are frequently caught. Access may be gained by obtaining written permission from bordering landowners.
Public access is available at the Huron Boat Basin on state Route 2, or below the Monroeville Dam off state Route 20. The Milan Wildlife Area, managed by the ODOW, is three miles west of Milan, east off state Route 13 on Lovers Lane Road.
According to biologists, this area is popular with local anglers.
According to local fisheries biologists, the Sandusky River is a great place to catch good numbers of channel catfish between 2 and 5 pounds. Most fishing is done from shore and by wading. Focus your attention on the pool areas. Most of the holes will be between 5 and 8 feet deep. There are some spots that reach depths of 10 feet.
One biologist recommended fishing the river near bridge crossings.
"There is usually public access in such locations," he pointed out. County Road 38, north of Tiffin and Rice Road south towards Freemont, provides good public fishing opportunities.
For more information on the Maumee, Huron or Sandusky rivers, contact Ohio's Wildlife District Two office at 952 Lima Avenue, Box A, Findlay, OH 45840, or call (419) 424-5000.
The lower Tuscarawas River is a vastly overlooked catfish hotspot in District Three.
"The river is prime for nice specimens of channel catfish," said biologist Parrett, "but I don't hear a lot about trophy-size flatheads."
The river seems to provide the best catfishing opportunities from the town of Tuscarawas downstream to its confluence with the Walhonding River, where the Muskingum River is formed.
Some anglers attest that this section provides the best catfishing in the district. One local hotspot may be found north of Gnadenhutten, where state Route 416 and U.S. Route 36 intersect. There is a large pool above a steep, sloping section of river. This is one of the more popular fishing areas throughout the summer.
Other great spots to try include outside river bends where deep holes have formed. Such areas are common on the Tuscarawas. If the holes are associated with some kind of woody cover, all the better. Cast your baits to the head of each hole and wait a few minutes. If nothing happens, change spots, but be sure to cover each hole thoroughly.
Though the Tuscarawas is not notorious for numbers of big flatheads, some do exist. Its channel catfish claim most of the attention in this river.
For more information on the Tuscarawas River, contact Ohio's Wildlife District Three office at 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319; or call (330) 644-2293.
The Scioto River makes its entrance in Auglaize County and flows southward to where it empties into the Ohio River at Portsmouth. According to biologist Parrett, the best section of the river for catfishing is from Columbus south to the Ohio River.
The Scioto is too small for commercial shipping, but not too small to harbor a healthy population of channel and flathead catfish. Flatheads between 20 and 30 pounds are relatively common. The closer you get to the Ohio River, the better your shot at a bigger fish. Channel cats are most abundant in the 2- to 3-pound class.
"Nighttime anglers should target the shallow sandbars that are common along the river," Parrett recommended, "while daytime baits are best presented near deeper water and heavy cover."
Use live bait for flatheads and cut bait, chicken livers or worms for channel cats.
Parrett warned that the Scioto is full of shallow riffle areas, so boaters should be extremely cautious.
Boat access is available at the Lower Scioto Boat Ramp off West Whittier Road in Columbus. There is a canoe ramp off Scioto Street in Portsmouth. There are plenty of pull-offs and shore-fishing areas all along the river.
For more information on fishing the northern Scioto River around Columbus, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District One headquarters, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215; or call (740) 644-3925.
For information on the southern section of the river, contact Ohio's Wildlife District Four office at 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701; or call (740) 594-2211.
The Muskingum River is formed in Coshocton by the confluence of the Walhonding and Tuscarawas rivers. It flows approximately 111 miles, till it meets the Ohio River in Marietta. All of the pools on the Muskingum offer good opportunities for catfish anglers.
Biologist Parrett pointed out, however, 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. Anglers can expect to find flatheads between 20 and 40 pounds on this stretch, 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 catfish hotspots. In these pools, the fish are typically smaller than the catfish you'll see in the Marietta Pool.
Muskingum County also hosts a series of good pools for anglers to target. The Philo Pool is a good one. Most angling efforts here are focused around the Y-Bridge. The Licking River Pool and Zanesville Pool are also noteworthy spots.
The most popular areas to fish include the tailwater sections, eddies, large timber piles, riprap shorelines and current obstructions.
Most of the Muskingum may be accessed off state Route 60, which runs almost the entire length of the river. Use state Route 376 for access to the river near Stockport.
For more information on the Muskingum River contact Ohio's Wildlife District Four office.
Great Miami River
The Great Miami River starts its trek toward the Ohio River north of Dayton. After flowing southbound for several miles, it passes through Cincinnati before making its confluence.
According to district biologists, the outlook for Great Miami catfishing is very good. Anglers can expect to see healthy numbers of both channel cats and flatheads inhabiting the river. Flatheads grow up to 20 pounds, sometimes larger as you get closer to the Ohio. Channel catfish can attain weights up to -- but seldom over -- 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. Don't pass up such spots.
Little Miami River
According to Ohio's District Five fisheries biologists, the Little Miami isn't quite as popular as its big brother, but it does offer some decent catfishing. The river is not known for its thriving flathead population, so if trophy flats are your bag, you should consider another body of water. But if you're looking for some fat channel cats up to 5 pounds and a healthy supply of bullheads, this is the river for you.
The Little Miami River flows through Greene, Warren and Hamilton counties.
The East Fork Little Miami has produced some good fish in years past, one biologist pointed out. This section of the river juts into Clermont County. Anglers will find good catfishing opportunities up to Batavia and the East Fork tailwater.
On the main stem, likely hotspots include deep holes associated with timber piles, eddies, current obstruction and big blowdowns. It doesn't seem to matter if you fish day or night on this little honeyhole. If you're in the right place, you're bound to see some action.
Access may be found off Mathers Mill Road, southeast of Lebanon off state Route 350, off state Route 50 near Milford and at Constitution Park off state Route 725.
For more information on the Little Miami River or the Great Miami River, contact the ODOW's District Five office at 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45385; or call (937) 372-9261.
DISTRICTS FOUR AND FIVE
Due to the stringent consumption advisories currently in effect on the Ohio River, few "meat fishermen" target its waters. Aside from tournament anglers, which are almost entirely catch-and-release fans, and some sport fishermen, the Ohio River is really under-utilized for the amount of water that's there, according to biologist Parrett.
"There doesn't seem to be any section of the river that is significantly better than another," said Parrett. "The entire Ohio holds healthy numbers of both channel and flathead catfish."
If one spot on the river were to stick out, though, it would have to be the Greenup Pool in Gallia, Lawrence and Scioto counties. This pool is 62 miles long and encompasses about 11,200 acres of water.
Anglers who frequent the Ohio River have found that flatheads in the 20- to 30-pound class are not at all uncommon. Larger fish are certainly a possibility. Channel catfish on the river may reach 10 to 15 pounds, but fish between 2 and 3 pounds are common.
Flatheads respond best to live bait, and indigenous species have proved to be the best choice. Sunfish, suckers, herring and shad hooked onto a bottom rig have accounted for more fish than any other tactic on the Ohio.
Don't fish deep water at night for flatheads, because the fish are simply not there. If you're targeting flatheads, place your baits on shallow sand or gravel bars, at the heads of deepwater holes, near timber piles and other shallow feeding or resting areas. Parrett pointed out that tributary inlets are also hot tickets.
Channel catfish respond well to live bait, too, but readily take fresh- cut bait. Ohio River anglers should target the same areas for channel cats as they do for flatheads. Other likely areas to catch these whiskered devils are eddies, current obstructions and riprap areas. Tailraces are among the most popular fishing spots.
Here's how to access each pool on the Ohio River:
Markland Pool: Access the river at Big Sugar Creek Public Ramp off Big Sugar Creek and Highway 42.
Meldahl Pool: Access Meldahl Pool at Bracken Creek Public Ramp on the Northeast end of Augusta on Bracken Road.
Greenup Pool: Little Sandy Public Launch may be accessed 1/4-mile west of Greenup off U. S. Route 23.
Gallipolis Pool: The Gallipolis Public Ramp may be found on the south end of First Street in Gallipolis.
Racine Pool: The Racine Pool can be accessed at Forked Run Public Ramp off Blennerhasset Avenue, south of Belpre in the City Park.
Willow Island Pool: Access can be found at Old Lock and Dam 15 off state Route 7, one mile south of Duffy.
Hannibal Pool: You can find access on Mellott Street at the Powhatan Point Public Ramp.
Pike Island Pool: The Steubenville Marina is located off state Route 7 in Steubenville.
New Cumberland Pool: Access can be found at the Broadway Wharf Public Ramp on River Road off state Route 39 in East Liverpool.
For more information on fishing the Ohio River, contact either the District Four or District Five offices.
All of the aforementioned rivers come highly recommended by various state fisheries biologists. It doesn't matter if you fish from a boat or from shore, for flatheads or channel cats -- it's time to saddle up for some great catfishing action this year.
To learn more about Ohio's river catfishing opportunities, or to ask for directional maps, tourist information, etc., call 1-800-WILDLIFE.