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Our Top 10 Spring Crappie Lakes

Our Top 10 Spring Crappie Lakes

Ohio's best spring crappie lakes boast high numbers of hefty fish, including many Fish Ohio certificate contenders. Here's a sampling of 10 of the Buckeye State's finest spring crappie lakes for 2003.

By Curt Williams

Call them papermouths, specks or calico bass, according to Scott Hale, Ohio's crappie anglers can expect good fishing across the Buckeye State in 2003.

Hale, who conducts fisheries studies with the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Inland Fisheries Research Unit, said that a four-year study on Ohio crappies has just been completed and that most of the lakes that are known for good crappie fishing continue to have good growth and production rates.

With excellent crappie fishing available throughout the state, it can be tough to decide where to go for a productive May outing. The following Buckeye State lakes come highly recommended for top notch angling this month:

Delaware Lake
Delaware Lake in portions of Delaware and Marion counties is a top-rated crappie hotspot for anglers in central Ohio. This reservoir is north of Delaware between state routes 23 and 42.

According to studies conducted by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, crappies in Delaware Lake range in length from 8 to 13 inches. With a 9-inch length limit in effect, the crappie outlook is great for the 2003 season.

Look for brush and woody cover to get Ohio's May crappies. Live minnows and small jigs are proven producers. Photo by Ron Sinfelt

The dam holds back the water of the Olentangy River and Whetstone Creek, with most of the reservoir located on the river. In addition to the 1,300-acre reservoir, an additional 55 ponds have been constructed for waterfowl and fishing purposes. Fish structures have been built primarily on the east side of the reservoir and are administered by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The boat ramps are on the east side as well.


Crappie fishing is best in the upper half of Delaware Lake. Recommended baits include the ever-popular live minnow or jigs in white or green.

Knox Lake
Knox Lake is a 495-acre crappie haven in Knox County is about 1.5 miles northeast of Fredericktown on state Route 95. The Ohio Division of Wildlife reports a good population of crappies averaging over 10 inches. The predicted catch rate is forecasted to be excellent.

When the water warms in spring, the bays off the north and south shores toward the midlake region are good crappie hotspots. The area around the fallen trees in the eastern end is also recommended.

Knox Lake is an electric motor- only lake. A fishing pier, boat and dock rentals, picnic facilities and a handicapped-accessible boat launch are also available.

Boat launching areas with mooring and parking lots are strategically located around Knox Lake on the north, south and southwest areas of the lake. Brush and trees were left standing in the upper section of the lake basin to provide natural cover for fish.

For maps and additional information on the crappie fishing available in central Ohio, contact Wildlife District One, 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215; or phone (614) 644-3925.

Bresler Reservoir in Allen County features 610 acres of crappie water in west-central Allen County four miles west of Lima. The lake is approximately one mile south of state Route 81 and one mile north of state Route 117 on Kemp and Grubb roads.

The boat ramp and main parking area are just off Kemp Road on the east side of the reservoir. Another larger parking area is near the southwest corner off Agerter Road. Additional parking areas are on the west side of the reservoir off Grubb Road.

Bresler is an above ground reservoir completed in 1971 as a source of drinking water for the city of Lima. With a surface area of 610 acres and an average depth of 27 feet, this reservoir provides plenty of water for crappies to reproduce and thrive.

Though not as well known for crappie angling as other lakes around the state, Bresler provides plenty of action for the enthusiastic crappie fisherman. The pier at the water outlet in the lake's southeast corner is a recommended crappie location.

Willard Reservoir
Willard Reservoir in Huron County offers 215 acres of crappie water in the southwestern region of the county two miles north of New Haven on state Route 61.

This is another up-ground reservoir that was constructed adjacent to the Huron River. It has an average depth of 36 feet and a maximum depth of 48 feet. Although it is a bit smaller than some other crappie waters in Ohio, Willard Reservoir contains plenty of good fishing opportunities in this region of the Buckeye State. An electric motor-only lake with a 25-foot maximum boat length, this is a quiet getaway lake for panfish anglers.

A boat launch ramp and parking area are on the southwest corner of Willard Reservoir off state Route 61. A campground and toilet facilities are also available.

For additional crappie information as well as additional crappie lakes within the northwest region of the state, contact the Wildlife District Two office, 952 Lima Avenue, Box A, Findlay, OH 45840; or call (419) 424-5000.

Clendening Lake
Clendening Lake covers 1,800 acres in Harrison County and offers some of the best crappie fishing in the Buckeye State.

The dam area of Clendening is at Tippecanoe off state Route 800. State Route 799 bisects the lake, and township roads provide good access on all sides. Access is via Interstate 77 about 25 miles north at New Philadelphia.

Clendening is a long, narrow, winding lake, and the majority of its 44 miles of shoreline is heavily wooded. Large numbers of crappies are caught here during the spring and summer months. Most anglers target the stump areas with minnows or jigs.

A boat dock with marina, parking and boat launch as well as a motel and cottages are available on the south-central side of the lake. Boat rentals, bait stores, picnic facilities, campsites and cottages are also available nearby. The lake has a 10-horsepower boat limit.

La Due Reservoir
La Due Reservoir is another large body of good crappie-fishing water in the northeast section o

f the Buckeye State. La Due contains 1,500 acres of fishing water in Geauga County and features over 20 miles of shoreline, with an average depth of 10 feet and a maximum of 25 feet.

The reservoir is approximately 30 miles east of Cleveland at the intersection of U.S. Route 422 and state Route 44. U.S. Route 422 crosses the reservoir and state Route 44 runs along the west side of the lake.

La Due Reservoir is in an area of glacial deposits, and the lakebed mimics the humps and hills of the surrounding landscape. Good numbers of crappies are caught on both sides of the state Route 44 Bridge. The stumps and overhanging trees near the islands north and south of state Route 422 are also recommended crappie hotspots.

Boats are limited to electric motors only. A boat ramp and boat rental are operated and maintained by the city of Akron at the south end of Valley Road. Several bait and tackle shops are located throughout the area.

Mogadore Reservoir
Mogadore Reservoir in Portage County has 900 acres of water that, according the Ohio Division of Wildlife, contains an abundant supply of good-size crappies. Mogadore is three miles east of Akron and six miles south of Kent on state Route 43 one mile north of U.S. Route 224.

The primary purpose of this large reservoir is to supply untreated water to downstream industries. The lake has premier crappie habitat where bigger panfish thrive. Crappies over 10 inches are common in Mogadore Reservoir. In fact, in 1999, a total of 29 Fish Ohio applications were submitted for crappies taken in this lake.

Excellent crappie habitat can be found in this relatively large reservoir. Recommended areas to fish include the fishing pier and the western section of the lake.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife constructed a launch ramp and three parking areas on Mogadore Reservoir. The city of Akron constructed and maintains two family camping areas, a swimming beach and picnic areas for public use.

Maps and additional information can be obtained by contacting the ODOW's Wildlife District Three office, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319; or call (330) 644-2293.

Burr Oak Lake
Burr Oak Lake in portions of Morgan and Athens counties is a 664-acre lake renowned throughout southern Ohio for its excellent largemouth bass fishing. And the crappie fishing is second to none for this region's spring anglers.

The dam for this lake is about three miles north of Glouster on state Route 13. From the dam, the lake extends southward for approximately 1 1/2 miles, where it crosses into Homer Township in Morgan County. The best locations for crappies are near the dam and along the rocks near the swimming beach.

Burr Oak is a flood control lake built in 1952 that is operated by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The lake is in Burr Oak State Park, which has a 60-room lodge, family cottages and 90 rustic campsites for rent. With its remote and scenic location, this is another good getaway lake for May crappie anglers.

Parking lots and boat ramps are at key areas for crappie fishing around Burr Oak Lake, and the lake has a 10-horsepower motor limit. The park office can be reached at (740) 767-3570. For lodge and cabin reservations, call (800) 282-7275.

Piedmont Lake
Piedmont Lake in portions of Guernsey, Harrison and Belmont counties provides anglers with 2,310 acres of top-quality crappie fishing. With 35 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 15 feet, this lake is yet another scenic angler's paradise.

The lake is on state Route 22 midway between Cambridge and Cadiz and approximately 10 miles north of Interstate 70 off state Route 800.

Piedmont Lake is considered to be one of the most scenic lakes in southeastern Ohio with its rugged, wooded landscape with few buildings visible along its perimeters.

A boat-launching facility with food, gasoline and boats and motors for rent is located at the northern end of the lake off state Route 800. Outboard motors may not exceed a 10-horsepower limit.

For additional information on the crappie fishing at Burr Oak Lake and Piedmont Lake, as well as other crappie lakes in southeastern Ohio, contact the Wildlife District Four office, 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701; or call (740) 594-2211.

Cowan Lake
Cowan Lake provides nearly 700 acres for spring crappie anglers in Clinton County. The lake is in the southwestern region about seven miles southwest of Wilmington, 35 miles southeast of Dayton and 40 miles northeast of Cincinnati. This lake is accessible from U.S. Route 68 and state routes 350 and 730.

A 10-horsepower limit is enforced on Cowan Lake, and the Ohio Division of Parks and Recreation operates and maintains launch ramps, parking lots, a boat rental, bait concession, picnic areas, campgrounds and cabins. The campgrounds have drinking water and shower facilities.

Cowan's crappie population is rated very good. Quality-size fish in lengths ranging from 8 to 11 inches inhabit these waters. Fish in the 13-inch range are caught by anglers or sampled by biologists on a regular basis. The point extending off the eastern end of the lake, just off the north end of Austin Island, is a good fishing location for crappies.

Cowan has an average depth of 18 feet and a maximum depth of 42 feet. Launch ramps are on the east shore of the mid-lake arm and on the southwest shore. The park office can be contacted at (937) 289-2105. For lodge or cottage reservations, call (800) 282-7275.

Grand Lake St. Marys
Grand Lake St. Marys provides 12,500 acres of crappie water in Mercer and Auglaize counties in west-central Ohio. The city of St. Mary's is near the northeast corner of the lake. State Route 29 lies to the north of the lake, U.S. Route 127 to the west and state Route 703 to the south.

Constructed to store water for the Miami-Erie Canal, two dams were constructed on the headwaters of two major drainage systems. The spillway on the west discharges water into the Wabash-Ohio river drainage system, and the spillway on the east flows into the St. Marys River.

The Ohio Division of Parks and Recreation operates and maintains parking lots, launching areas and camping areas at strategic points around Grand Lake St. Mary's.

Crappies are numerous in this large lake. Netting and creel surveys show most crappies range in length from 8 to 11 inches, but fish up to 15 inches are caught or sampled on a regular basis. The creeks that empty into Grand Lake St. Mary's are shallow but offer good woody cover for spring crappies.

For maps and additional information on the c

rappie fishing available in this region of Ohio, contact Wildlife District Five, 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45385; or call (937) 372-9261.

These are just a few of the top crappie lakes in the Buckeye State. Besides these proven inland waters, rivers such as the Big Scioto and Ohio provide quality crappie action and plenty of shoreline from which to pursue these tasty panfish.

Many of the lakes around Ohio are reservoirs, so knowing where to search for crappies is a prerequisite to a successful outing.

Prior to spawning, crappies will congregate around the entrances to the creeks. The best creek entrances have thick stands of timber and flowing streams.

After spawning, crappies tend to filter toward the main body of the reservoir. Drop-offs near standing timber, brush, stumps and fallen trees are good locations. Steep points near creek channels as well as deep shorelines near dam areas also provide good crappie habitat.

The most popular crappie rig is a small float, split shot and a plain No. 4 or No. 6 hook baited with a minnow. Fly-fishermen prefer subsurface flies rather than floating bugs.

For additional information on the crappie fishing opportunities in Ohio, contact the Division of Wildlife headquarters, 1840 Belcher Drive, Columbus OH 43224-1300; or call (614) 265-6300.

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