Where in the Buckeye State can winter anglers go for some hot ice-fishing action this season? (January 2008)
Photo by Mike Gnatkowski.
Ohio's lakes and ponds offer plenty of angling opportunities beginning in January. No matter what's up with the weather, thousands of fishermen that take to the ice (or open water) each winter.
Winter angling opportunities can vary from one year to the next. Spots that were hot last year or even the year before may not make the list this season. Weather conditions can change from year to year, but Buckeye State anglers can always expect good fishing when they hit the state's top cool-season waters in winter.
Here's a look at what's in store for Ohio's 2008 ice-fishing season, based on reports by our state's fisheries biologists.
These lakes and rivers are certainly not the only good waters to fish in the state, but they're deemed the best!
Buckeye Lake invariably makes the list of top ice-fishing hotspots in District One. The lake is in Fairfield and Perry counties off state routes 13, 37 and 79, just 20 miles west of Columbus. It does receive a fair amount of angling pressure, but this should not deter new anglers. The fishing here is excellent, and there are plenty of opportunities available for everyone.
According to Elmer Heyob, an Ohio Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist, there are numerous species of fish anglers can target here.
"The lake averages only five feet deep," Heyob said, "allowing it to freeze up much quicker than many other lakes in Ohio."
Crappies and bluegills are a mainstay on the lake. Crappie populations are good, and big bull 'gills cruise the shallow stump-laden flats that are quite common on the lake.
The lake is also noted locally for its phenomenal saugeye bite. 'Eyes in the 2- and 3-pound range are not at all uncommon, and anglers often see much larger fish.
The area all around the lake has numerous boat launches, tackle stores and restaurants that are extremely easy to locate along the state routes into the region.
More information on Buckeye Lake may be obtained by contacting Ohio's District One office at (614) 644-3925.
You can also contact the Buckeye Lake State Park office at (740) 467-2690.
Some would argue that Indian Lake is the best ice-fishing lake in the district. It is definitely worth a visit this winter.
Strikingly similar to Buckeye Lake, Indian Lake is well known for its huge bluegills, yellow perch and fair largemouth bass fishing. But the lake's main draw is its incredible saugeye fishery.
Indian Lake, at 5,800 acres, has what many anglers would call the best saugeye fishing in all of Ohio. This opinion is hard to debate, since literally thousands of 'eyes are harvested from the lake every winter. Many of these fish reach weights approaching 10 pounds.
Up to 500,000 saugeyes are stocked in the lake every year. Their fast growth and hardy nature, coupled with optimal lake features, make this place a virtual smorgasbord for saugeye fishermen.
Many of Ohio's fishing clubs frequent the lake every season. The Western Ohio Walleye Club (WOWC) and the Western Reserve Walleye Association make forays to this lake every year.
According to John Clark, president of the WOWC, the members of his organization love fishing Indian Lake. "This is probably the club's favorite lake, and often yields the best catches," he said.
Indian Lake is 15 miles northwest of Bellefontaine and may be accessed off state routes 117, 235 and 366.
Good areas to target are shallow embayments with woody structure, the mouth of the North Fork Great Miami River and the many channels or dredged areas.
Areas where deep water meets shallow water are always good.
Biologists recommend targeting the shallow edge of these dropoffs, since that's where active fish will typically hold. Less active fish will be in the deeper water.
More information and lake maps may be requested by contacting the ODOW's District One office at (614) 644-3925, or by logging on to their Web site, where printable versions of their lake maps are available.
Pleasant Hill Reservoir
Pleasant Hill Reservoir is in Richland County. Though a relatively small lake at 850 acres, it offers huge opportunities. The outlook for crappies, saugeyes and largemouth bass is excellent here. Big 'gills up to 9 inches long may be caught and draw a fair amount of local attention.
The crappie population here averages about 10 inches, but fish up to 16 inches are frequently caught. Saugeyes reach weights of 8 pounds. Two- and 3-pound 'eyes are common.
Largemouth bass may be caught through the ice up to 18 inches. Though the lake's largemouth population is very healthy, state fisheries biologists have found that the size of bass available is more on the average side.
Saugeyes will be found on the flats near the dam and along the sandy beaches. Crappies and bluegills are usually found along the steeper banks. The best locations will be accompanied by submerged structure in the form of brushpiles, stumps and trees. Anglers may access the lake off state Route 95 four miles west of Perrysville.
More information on Pleasant Hill Reservoir can be accessed by contacting the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000. Maps may be found online at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife's Web site.
Lake La Su An Wildlife Area
Lake La Su An Wildlife Area and its 14 ponds offer the best bluegill fishing in all of Ohio. The potential to catch numerous fish Ohio bluegills couldn't be any better than it is here. Biologists' studies have shown that over 12,000 gills are harvested from this magnificent place every year. Of those 12,000 fish, 30 to 40 percent of them are eight to 11 inches long, while a whopping 98 percent of the bluegills are six inches or larger.
Redears and pumpkinseed sunfish over eight inches may be caught in lakes La Su An, Clem, Lou and Jerry.
uth bass fishing in the area is excellent. It's not uncommon for anglers to pull a few through the hole, either.
The majority of fish caught will be protected by law and fall under the mandated size requirements.
The La Su An WA is fishable by reservation only during ice-fishing season. Reservations may be made in advance by calling (419) 636-6189.
A permit is also required to fish the area. Permits are free and may be obtained from the check station on county Road R.
In the case of a mild winter or unsafe ice, the area's ponds will be closed to fishing.
For an information packet and map of the area, contact the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000.
Tappan Lake in Harrison County is an underrated 2,131-acre winter hotspot. The ODOW has indicated that the outlook is excellent for every species of fish that inhabits the lake.
Regardless if you're hunting for big bluegills, crappies, saugeyes or the prolific white bass, Tappan Lake is a place you should consider.
In fall 2006, the ODOW conducted a study showing that 71 percent of the crappie population was at least eight inches long. The study also indicated that 27 percent of crappies were a minimum of 10 inches. There is a minimum-length requirement of nine inches on the lake.
Electro-shocking results for the spring of '06 show that 55 percent of the bluegills in the lake were a minimum of six inches long. An '06 creel study indicated the average 'gill caught by anglers was approximately 7 1/2 inches long.
Most anglers target crappies and bluegills on shallow flats near submerged structure. Wax worms, maggots and small ice jigs have proven to be the most effective baits.
In 2006, the ODOW stocked 323,351 saugeyes in Tappan Lake. Biologists' studies show that 82 percent of the 'eyes in the lake were at least 14 inches, and 40 percent of them were a whopping 18 inches or more. Blade baits and tip-ups with live shiners or chubs are the most popular and effective ways to target saugeyes on Tappan Lake.
A slow subtle presentation and small lures are what people most commonly use through the ice. But Jim Corey, owner of Cripple Creek Bait and Tackle, uses half-ounce blade baits and large jigging spoons and a rapid jigging action.
For more information on Tappan Lake, contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293. For bait and tackle, stop by the Cripple Creek Bait and Tackle.
The store is at 29562 Cadiz-Dennison Road in Dennison, Ohio.
Mosquito Lake is a 7,241-acre lake in Trumbull County. Biologists have deemed this lake as being the most consistent inland walleye fishery in Ohio. In 2006, there were 10,754,908 fry stocked. The average harvested walleye measured 14.7 inches.
The bluegill fishing at Mosquito Lake is also a large attractant for ice- fishermen. 'Gills average about 7 1/2 inches long.
The crappie fishing is most popular on Mosquito Lake during the ice-fishing season. The most productive area to target is the causeway along state Route 88. The average harvested crappie is 11.7 inches long.
Access to Mosquito Lake is off state Route 305 one mile west of state Route 46.
Another District Three hotspot may be found at Portage Lakes. The most popular species here are bluegills and sunfish.
For more information on Mosquito Lake and the Portage Lakes, contact the ODOW's District Three Headquarters at (330) 644-2293.
DISTRICT FOUR AEP Recreation Land
The ponds and small lakes on American Electric Power Company's reclaimed strip-mine land have become a no-brainer decision for many District Four ice-anglers.
With almost 350 ponds, there is a little something for everyone. The main draws, however, are sunfish and largemouth bass.
According to Tim Parrot, an ODOW District Four fisheries biologist, anglers who like catching bass through the ice can do so here. The AEP lakes tend to be good producers in comparison to other lakes and ponds in Ohio during the winter months.
The best fishing may require some walking. Anglers willing to put a little more effort into their fishing extravaganza will be better enabled to boast larger stringers than those who fish the most accessible ponds. AEP waters freeze quickly due to their small size and almost always offer at least a couple of weeks of action for ice-fishing fanatics.
Indian Lake, at 5,800 acres, has what many anglers would call the best saugeye fishing in all of Ohio.
Use of the AEP's land and waters are open to the public by permit only. Permits to access AEP lands may be obtained at any AEP office by logging onto the AEP's Web site or by contacting the ODOW's District Four office at (740) 594-2211.
The AEP lands lie in Morgan, Muskingum and Noble counties nine miles northeast of McConnelsville on state routes 78 and 83.
The District Four section of the Ohio River provides excellent angling for numerous species throughout the winter months.
The best fishing is around warmwater discharges, which attract bass, crappies, bluegills, stripers, white bass, saugers, walleyes and catfish.
The discharges also attract thousands of baitfish in a variety of species. This makes these discharges a prime feeding area for predatory fish.
Ironically, some anglers have excellent success in targeting catfish, both channels and flatheads, in winter on this section of the Ohio and its tributaries. Live bait is necessary for flatheads, while channel catfish may be caught on cut bait, chicken livers, stinkbaits and live bait.
For more information on fishing the Ohio River this winter, contact the ODOW's District Four office at (740) 594-2211.
District Five is certainly the hardest portion of the state in which to identify the top ice-fishing hotspots. After interviewing numerous biologists, the general consensus was the same: The majority of winter fishing is done on open water. In the past 10 years, the only two lakes that have had safe ice to fish have been Grand Lake St. Marys and Lake Loramie.
The best winter fishing opportunities that anglers can count on will be found in the following top-rated winter lakes:
East Fork Lake
East Fork is in Clermont County and offers 1,971 acres of fishable wi
nter water. The best action here is the crappie bite.
In January, anglers can find fish in 10 to 20 feet of water around wooded bays and dropoffs. Such locations are not hard to identify.
Paint Creek Lake
This 1,150-acre reservoir offers great winter saugeye fishing and is rated to be excellent by the ODOW. The best bite in January will be found in the tailwaters. If you elect to fish on the lake, target main lake points and dropoff areas near deeper water. Start fishing the shallow end of the dropoff and gradually work deeper.
C.J. Brown Reservoir
C.J. Brown Reservoir in Clark County covers 2,022 acres. This is one of the few reservoirs in Ohio that has a healthy population of walleyes. The bite in January is excellent in the tailwater area. Blade baits, spoons and jigs tipped with live bait are the best options.
Unlike many northern states, Ohio doesn't always offer safe ice. Use extreme caution and always check with local bait shops to make sure the ice is safe. Just because the ice is thick along the shoreline doesn't mean it will be all over the lake.
Check ice thicknesses frequently, especially every time you venture onto the water.
Find more about Ohio fishing and hunting at OhioGameandFish.com