Here's a sampling of biologist-recommended lakes where hot bluegill action may be had this month from shore, boat or on the ice. (February 2007)
Photo by Ron Sinfelt.
The bluegill is perhaps the most sought-after sport fish in the country, and why not? They are prolific, abundant and they are great fighters. As table fare, they're second to none. And now is a good time to put a fresh mess of their flavorful fillets on your table.
Here's a look at where to find some great winter bluegill action near you:
Matt Wolfe, a fisheries biologist in the Ohio Division of Wildlife's District Three office, said the best places to go bluegill fishing in Ohio during February are in his district.
"Mogadore Reservoir and the Portage Lake systems are the best picks," Wolfe said.
"We have done a lot of habitat improvement with fallen trees and sunken Christmas trees. Bluegill anglers need to be aware that the lakes also have significant redear sunfish populations and they should expect to catch many of them as well."
Wolfe, who fishes these lakes, said that on Portage Lake, he and his wife once caught over 100 bluegills and redears, most of them over seven inches.
"I can't remember the last time I could actually use two fishing poles there," he said. "The action can be hand over fist sometimes."
Bluegills average 8 inches on Mogadore, with redears reaching 10 inches.
Size isn't the only reason why District Three may be the best bet for fantastic February bluegill angling. Wolfe claims the normal ice thickness on district lakes is about 12 inches, sometimes reaching 24 inches in cold years. This heavy ice cover allows anglers easy access to the bluegills there.
Wolfe's sleeper pick is Highlandtown Lake. With its large numbers of bluegills, a February angler can fill up a limit quickly.
"What makes this lake so significant is that it also has a large pumpkinseed population," Wolfe noted. "The state-record pumpkinseed is 9 1/2 inches, and I have handled pumpkinseeds over 10 inches during shocking surveys there. I don't mean just one or two either," he added, suggesting that if more bluegill anglers targeted Highlandtown Lake this winter, a new state-record pumpkinseed would be pulled from its depths.
Mogadore Reservoir is in Portage County off state Route 43, six miles south of Kent. It covers about 1,000 acres. Some artificial fish structures are marked on maps available from the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
The Portage Lakes are in Summit County and may be reached off state Route 93 four miles south of Akron. The lake system has 1,681 acres of water, and many of its fish structures are marked on maps available from the ODOW.
Highlandtown Lake is in Columbiana County and may be reached off state Route 39, eight miles west of Wellsville.
Covering about 170 acres of water, the lake has many structures that are well marked on maps available from the ODOW. However, many fish structures have not yet been updated on the present maps.
Anglers looking for more information are invited to call Wolfe's District Three office at (330) 644-2293.
Mike Wilkerson, a fisheries biologist in District Two, said his district usually has very good ice-fishing conditions in February.
"My top picks would be the Resthaven Wildlife Area," he said, "specifically, ponds 8 and 7, in that order. Bluegill numbers are good in both ponds," Wilkerson continued. "But No. 8 is probably the best for big specimens."
Wilkerson also said there are significant numbers of redear sunfish there.
Another good choice, according to him, is Pleasant Hill Lake.
"It is loaded with bluegills, but the sizes may be slightly smaller," he said.
Resthaven Wildlife area and its ponds lie in Erie and Sandusky counties. The ponds cover a combined 444 acres of water. Ponds 7 or 8 may be accessed off of state Route 269 north of Castalia.
Pleasant Hill Lake is in both Richland and Ashland counties. The lake covers over 78 acres and may be reached by going south on Covert Road from state Route 93.
More information about these lakes may be obtained from the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000.
Due to slightly warmer winter temperatures, ice-fishing opportunities for bluegills are not as prevalent in southern Ohio. But anglers can still do well fishing from boats or from shore in open water.
Tim Parrett, a fisheries biologist in the ODOW's District Four office, said his first pick is the Ohio Electric Power Company ponds.
"Bluegills, as well as other panfish species, are numerous," he said, adding that in his district, the ponds are among the first bodies of water to freeze when it's cold enough to form safe ice.
Due to slightly warmer winter temperatures,ice-fishing opportunities for bluegills are not as prevalent in southern Ohio. But anglers can still do well fishing from boats or from shore in open water.
A special permit is required to fish the AEP ponds. Permits may be obtained at any AEP office or by writing the American Electric Power Company, P.O. Box 328, McConnelsville, OH 43756; or the Publications Center, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Fountain Square, Building C, Columbus, OH 43224-1386.
Maps of the company's various ponds are available at the same locations. In addition, you can obtain online forms by visiting www.aep.com.
"Wolf Run Lake is another good location," Parrett added, "and the bluegills there have some really good size to them."
Anglers fishing from a boat should be aware that there is a 10-horsepower motor limit on Wolf Run Lake.
Biologist Parrett also recommended Piedmont and Tycoon lakes.
"Piedmont has had some fish structures installed to improve the fishing," he noted, "and bluegill numbers are on the rise. There are also plenty of rock bass."
Piedmont Lake also has a 10-horsepower motor limit.
"Tycoon Lake is a great lake for bluegills," Parrett enthused, "and it also has good redear fishing. There are plenty of standing timber, stumps, and fallen trees in the lake."
The lake does not have a dense population of bluegills, Parrett said, but there are plenty of big ones.
He noted that Tycoon Lake is a trophy bass fishery and the larger bass help keep the bluegill population under control, which means the surviving bluegills grow to much larger sizes.
Boat anglers should be aware that only electric motors are allowed on Tycoon Lake.
Wolf Run Lake offers 220 acres of fishable water. The lake is in Noble County off Route 215, about three miles north of Caldwell.
Wolf Lake's boat-launching facility is off Route 215.
The 2,256-acre Piedmont Lake is in Guernsey, Harrison and Belmont counties. The lake may be reached off state Route 336 by taking township Road 359 south to Belmont Ridge Road.
There is a multitude of township roads and service roads off Belmont Ridge Road that provide access to various parts of the lake.
The lake boasts a multitude of fish attractors that are clearly marked on ODOW maps. A boat ramp and marina are on the western shoreline and may be reached off U.S. Route 22.
Tycoon Lake is within the Tycoon Lake Wildlife Area, which contains 684 acres. The lake covers some 200 acres east of Centerville off state Route 554.
To get there, take county Road 17 north from Route 554 to the eastern side of the lake. The road follows the lakeshore past the dam to its northern tip. A boat launch is also found along this route.
More information about District Four lakes can be obtained from the district office at (740) 589-9930.
Contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife at 1-800-WILDLIFE for information about bluegill fishing in Ohio or check them out online at www.dnr.ohio.gov. Maps of area lakes are also available on their Web site.
The Ohio Division of Tourism at 1-800-BUCKEYE will provide information on travel and accommodations. You can find out more online at DiscoverOhio.com.