Here's a look at what's in store for Buckeye State ice-fishermen in 2007, plus some biologists' picks for great winter angling in each district. (January 2007)
Photo by Tom Evans
Ohio's ice-fishing season will be kicking off in earnest this month. Lakes and reservoirs packed with panfish, perch, walleyes await hardy anglers who will brave the cold in pursuit of these and other popular species.
If you're one of the savvy anglers who grins ear to ear while other anglers retire their fishing gear for the season, here's a look at what Ohio's Division of Wildlife fisheries biologists are doing to make your next winter outing a raging success.
Throughout the state, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division, biologists have been conducting specific programs to improve winter fishing opportunities for Buckeye State anglers.
These programs include habitat improvement, creel surveys, netting samples, new stocking plans and regulation enforcement.
Though none of these activities is specifically earmarked toward ice- fishing, Ken Cunningham, a fisheries biologist in District One, said the ODNR tries to provide high-quality fishing for anglers throughout the year, with management techniques aimed at providing Ohio's anglers with maximum opportunities regardless of the season.
With this in mind, here's a district- by-district breakdown of this season's top picks by the biologists responsible for their districts.
Cunningham's gave his picks for District One without hesitation.
"The best spots for winter fishing are Buckeye and Indian lakes," he asserted. "Both are canal lakes and freeze up well."
Along with usually having good ice, both lakes also have DNR-managed stocking programs for both saugeye and hybrid bass.
"Most ice-fishermen target the saugeye," he noted. "But I have also seen some anglers working on hybrid stripers.
"Saugeyes are there in good numbers, too," he added, "and the sizes are really good as well."
Anglers who want to focus on crappies or bluegills can also do well on either lake.
Buckeye Lake lies in Fairfield, Licking, and Perry counties. The lake is 23 miles east of Columbus and may be reached from state routes 79, 13, 204. Buckeye Lake has approximately 2,847 surface acres of water and some 37 miles of shoreline. Most of the lake is from 6 to 8 feet deep, with the deepest water on the eastern end, near the Fairfield and Perry county line. There, the lake has a few 12- to 14-foot holes that often stack up with fish, especially in winter.
Indian Lake is in Logan County and may be reached via state routes 366, 235, 368, 708 and 702. With some 5,059 surface acres, Indian Lake offers plenty of room for winter angling. Much of the lake is only 4 feet deep. The deepest section is along state routes 235 and 366, where the water averages about 6 to 8 feet deep.
For more information about the ice-fishing opportunities in the ODOW's District One, contact Cunningham's headquarters office at 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus, OH 43215; or call (614) 644-3925.
Lake La Su An topped the list offered by Joel Plott, a fisheries biologist for the ODOW's District Two.
"Largemouth bass are the main target on Lake Su An," he said, "but panfish are also pursued."
Anglers heading for Lake La Su An need to be aware that the DNR posts new site-specific regulations on signs at the lake.
Lake La Su An is in Williams County and may be reached off county roads R and S. County Road S also provides access to many of the smaller lakes and ponds on the north side of Lake La Su An.
Lake La Su An has about 82 surface acres, but with the other lakes in the wildlife area, there is a combined 127 acres of surface water for the ice- angler to try.
Lake La Su An has its deepest waters, about 40 feet, near the middle of the lake along its westernmost bend. Most of the rest of Lake La Su An is about 10 feet deep.
"Another good largemouth bass lake is the Resthaven Wildlife Area's pond No. 8," Plott said. "It has special, site-specific regulations posted on signs that anglers should read before fishing."
Crappies and other panfish are also targeted by Resthaven's ice-anglers.
Resthaven Pond No. 8, along Heywood Road off state Route 269, is a relatively small pond that resembles a network of canals. It has three marshy islands stacked up side by side, with deep-water canals surrounding and between them.
"Both Findlay reservoirs are also good for ice-fishing," Plott added. "Yellow perch are often targeted there as well as other panfish species."
Buckeye State anglers outside of Findlay wishing to fish the Findlay reservoirs can access them from state Route 568 and township Road 234. Findlay Reservoir No. 2 has the largest surface acreage at 629 acres and also has the deepest water (25 feet deep in some areas).
Reservoir No. 2 also has some channels and humps along its bottom.
Reservoir No. 1 has 72 surface acres, but has a virtually featureless bottom.
For more information about the ice-fishing opportunities in District Two, contact the district headquarters, 952 Lima Avenue, Findlay, OH 45840; or call (419) 424-5000
Matt Ward, a fisheries biologist for the ODOW's District Three office, speaks glowingly of Mogadore Reservoir as an ice-fishing destination.
"Panfish on the Mogadore Reservoir are both plentiful and large," Ward enthused. "Anglers can expect to catch good numbers of big bluegills, yellow perch, crappies and redear sunfish."
In fact, the ice-fishing is so good on Mogadore Reservoir that Ward plans to fish it this season.
Ward is especially excited about the big bluegills being caught by ice- anglers each year.
"We add a lot of fish hab
itat to Mogador Reservoir," Ward noted, "and this really concentrates the fish for all fishermen, including ice-anglers."
Ward noted that anglers can find out where fish structures have been placed on any public lake by consulting an ODOW map of the lake they wish to fish.
Mogadore Reservoir lies in Perry County about three miles east of Akron. Take county Road 82 to North Dike Road. The lake is four miles south of Kent via state Route 43 to West County Road 82 and North Dike Road.
Mogadore Lake covers 1,000 acres and has a maximum depth of about 20 feet near the westernmost. There is a 15-foot channel running down the center of the lake.
"Mosquito Lake is another District Three hotspot in Trumbull County," Ward said. "Most ice-fisherman target crappies and walleyes here, along with bluegills and perch."
Buckeye State anglers planning a Mosquito Lake trip will find it seven miles northeast of Warren, off state Route 5. Mosquito Lake can also be accessed from state Route 88 between Mecca and West Mecca.
At 6,550 acres, Mosquito Lake is quite large, but ice-anglers can get started near the southern end where the water is deepest (about 25 feet in the center channel). Deep channels run north through most of Mosquito Lake's bottom until it begins to level off near the northern end, where there is a wildlife refuge and fishing is prohibited.
For more information on the ice-fishing opportunities in District Three, contact the district headquarters, 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319; or call (330) 644-2293
According to Tim Parrett, a fisheries biologist based in the ODOW's District Four office, the best places to ice-fish are the American Electric Power Company ponds.
"There are several hundred of these ponds," Parrett said, "ranging in size from one-third to 20 acres. Ice-anglers mainly target bluegills, largemouth bass, and channel catfish in these ponds."
"Anglers wishing to fish these ponds must acquire a permit issued by the American Electric Power Company," he added.
For a free permit, interested anglers should write the American Electric Power Company, P.O. Box 328, McConnelsville, OH 43756; or try them online at AEP.com.
The AEP ponds are scattered throughout District Four. Anglers should check local maps to find the ponds they want to fish.
"Ice-anglers in District Four often have a relatively short season," Parrett said. "Being as far south as we are in Ohio, some years we don't have a lot of safe ice."
However, Parrett noted that in a good year, the fishing can be great.
Parrett's second pick for District Four ice-fishing action is Piedmont Lake. "Saugeyes are the fish most chased by ice-anglers here," he said. "Ice-fishing for saugeyes can be especially productive on Piedmont Lake, especially down toward the dam," Tim added.
Piedmont Lake lies in Guernsey, Harrison and Belmont Counties. It may be accessed from U.S. Route 22 or state routes 331 and 800.
Piedmont Lake covers 2,273 acres, with the deepest water at its northernmost tip. Depths reach 30 feet, but the lake has water that is 25 feet or better in the northern portion.
Another favorite, according to biologist Parrett, is Monroe Lake.
"All species of panfish and bass inhabit Monroe Lake," he said. "Most ice-anglers do quite well here each winter."
In Monroe County, Monroe Lake is best accessed from county Road 2 or state routes 800 and 145. Covering only 39 acres, the lake is relatively small, but its shallow depths make it a great natural fish hatchery.
For more information on ice-fishing destinations in Wildlife District Four, contact the district headquarters, 360 East State Street, Athens, OH 45701; or call (740) 594-2211.
Doug Maloney a fisheries biologist for District Five, noted that ice-fishing in District Five can be an "iffy" situation.
"We are so far south that often we don't get much ice," Maloney said. "Our most reliable ice-fishing producers are in the northern part of District Five.
"Grand Lake St. Marys is usually a good choice for ice-fishing," he added. "Often the channels freeze up before the main lake does, and anglers can take crappies, bluegills and perch."
Grand Lake St. Marys lies in Auglaize and Mercer counties. It is easily accessed via state routes 703, 127, 219 and 364.
The lake covers 12,680 acres, with an average depth of about six feet.
Lake Loramie is Maloney's second pick for District Five ice-fishermen.
"Saugeyes are the target of choice for ice-fishermen here," he noted. "Last year was a really good year for saugeyes, and many ice-fishermen did well. Ice-fishing for crappies and bluegills has been great on Lake Loramie, as well."
Lake Loramie is on the border of Auglaize and Shelby counties. State Route 119 runs along the lake's north shore and provides access via state Route 363 and county Road 2, which run south to the lake.
County Road 27 parallels the lake to the south and provides access to county Road 89 and township Road 53 running north to the lake.
Lake Loramie has 1,500 acres of water, with the deepest sections near the western end. Water depths reach about 8 feet, with much of the lake averaging four feet deep with some deeper pockets and channels.
For more information about ice-fishing opportunities in Ohio's Wildlife District Five, contact the district headquarters at 1076 Old Springfield Pike, Xenia, OH 45385; or call (937) 372-9261.
LAKE ERIE HOTSPOTS
No roundup of Ohio's best ice-fishing hotspots would be complete without mentioning Lake Erie. Thought of by many as the pinnacle of ice-fishing opportunity in Ohio, Lake Erie offers a bounty of great fishing, from jumbo yellow perch to wallhanger walleyes and hand-sized bluegills, Lake Erie has it all.
Jeff Tyson, a fisheries biologist with the Sandusky Fisheries Research Unit, said that winter fishing on Lake Erie will vary from year to year -- not based on the presence or absence of fish, but on the existence of safe ice.
"If we get the ice," he said, "the fishing will be great."
yson noted that the lake's island complex is among the best places to go for hot winter action.
"The Camp Perry-area reefs are also great spots," Tyson said. "And given the right conditions, the fishing can be phenomenal.
"Sandusky Bay can also produce good fishing," he added. "If we have good, cold weather, the fish will stack up in the warmer water of the channels in the back of the bay. We need hard freezes, however, to form safe ice over those channels."
With good ice, anglers can use ATVs to cross over to the islands. Or they may even charter a small plane to take them out to islands or reefs where the fish will be stacked up.
For the most part, there are no special seasons or limits for ice-fishermen. Bag limits are in force under the general rules enforced throughout the rest of the year.
Small ponds and lakes may have site-specific regulations posted at launch sites. Anglers unsure of the regulations governing a specific lake or pond should contact the appropriate district office for more information.
In general, ice-anglers in Ohio, including on Lake Erie, may cut holes no larger than 12 inches in diameter. Ice-anglers may not use more than six tip-ups and two jigging rods per person. All shelters and tip-ups must display in English the name and address of the owner or user.
For more information about ice- fishing opportunities in Ohio, contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife at 1-800-WILDLIFE, or visit the agency's Web site at DNR.Ohio.gov. Maps of area lakes are also available online.
The Ohio Division of Tourism at 1-800-BUCKEYE offers travel and accommodations information, or you can try the agency's Web site at DiscoverOhio.com.
Find more about Ohio fishing and hunting at: OhioGameandFish.com