Try these biologist-recommended lakes for your shot at a 40-inch Ohio Huskie Muskie Club qualifier in 2007. (April 2007)
Photo by Pete Maina
The muskellunge is often referred to as "the fish of 10,000 casts." Patience is certainly a key element in muskie fishing. However, three major ingredients for success are location, location, and location.
Thankfully, muskie hotspots aren't that hard to find in Ohio. When it comes to knowing where to find Buckeye State muskies, few are better versed on the topic than Elmer Heyob, the Ohio Division of Wildlife's District One fisheries manager.
He had no trouble recommending five great muskie hotspots, but tempered his remarks with his forecast on Ohio's muskie fishing this spring.
"Conditions for spring fishing are great," Heyob said. "If you can find semi-clean water with vegetation, you'll find muskies."
He cautioned that unstable climatic conditions could negatively impact muskie fishing for the spring 2007.
No matter the weather, the continued stocking of advanced fingerlings and high catch-and-release rates should help in the quest for a Huskie Muskie. As of August 2006, 97 percent of muskies caught in Ohio waterways had been released, according to data from the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club.
Once an angler finds the right body of water, only a fraction of those 10,000 casts are needed to catch a trophy fish. Here are the top five bodies of water in Ohio for muskie fishing this spring:
Leesville Lake in Carroll County has been the pinnacle of muskie fishing in the Buckeye State for years and should be among the top lakes once again this spring.
Matt Wolfe, an ODOW District Three fisheries biologist, said Leesville Lake should produce a high number of fish this season.
"Leesville has led the state in muskies caught, year in and year out, for a long time now," Wolfe said.
As to be expected, this great fishery comes with heavy angling pressure. Wolfe said that even in spite of this, anglers should still be pleased with the results of their efforts.
As of August 2006, anglers reeled in 289 muskies on Leesville. In 2005, anglers recorded 585 muskies on the lake. Through only the first eight months of 2006, 112 Huskie Muskies were recorded. Because these numbers are generated by anglers sending in scale samples to the ODOW, Wolfe said this might be only a fraction of the total number of fish caught on Leesville.
He added that a number of anglers have had great results fishing the large arm of the lake that extends north to south. However, the arm of the lake running west to east shouldn't be neglected. Anglers can often find submerged patches of vegetation in these areas, which are muskie magnets.
In addition to natural submerged vegetation, trees have also been dropped into the lake for muskie cover, Wolfe noted.
On Leesville Lake, motors are restricted to 10 horsepower and two public launch ramps are available to accommodate them. Leesville Lake may be accessed from state Route 212 about two miles southeast of Sherrodsville.
For more information on Leesville Lake or to request a map of it, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Three headquarters at (330) 644-2293.
SALT FORK LAKE
If you're looking to land a 50-inch muskie, Salt Fork Lake is a good place to start. In 2005, anglers landed four muskies that measured 50 inches plus, and two more were recorded through August 2006. While Salt Fork doesn't have the state's highest volume of muskies, August 2006 returns indicate that an incredible 37 percent of all fish caught on this lake were Huskie Muskie Club qualifiers.
Additionally, Salt Fork Lake in Guernsey County is expected to increase muskie yields this spring after completion of dam renovation and a return to normal water levels.
Biologist Heyob said next year will probably be the optimal year for fishing Salt Fork, and spring is a great time to hit the water there.
The best fishing may be found near the Old Stone House, the water treatment plant and Two Fingers areas. Also, anglers should fish around Cabin Bay and the Sugar Tree marina. Focus on areas approximately 4 to 10 feet deep. Woody structure is a plus.
Salt Fork Lake has no horsepower restrictions and features six launch ramps. The lake may be reached by following U.S. Route 22 six miles east of Interstate Route 77, or off county Road 35 running north and south between Cambridge and North Salem.
East of Salt Fork Lake on U.S. Route 22, Belmont County's Piedmont Lake is home to some of the largest muskies ever caught in Ohio. The state-record fish, a 50 1/2-inch, 55-pound, 3-ounce monster, was reeled in on an April day in 1972.
In 2005, anglers pulled 176 muskies from the lake, and through August 2006, 82 fish had been caught, 10 of which were Huskie Muskie Club qualifiers.
Anglers should be aware that more than likely, the best opportunities to find muskies will be in shallow bays earlier in the season and around the dam area as the summer nears.
Piedmont Lake offers anglers approximately 2,273 acres of water and 37 miles of shoreline. There is a 10- horsepower limit at Piedmont. Boaters may choose from one of two public access points on the lake.
Piedmont Lake is one mile northeast of Smyrna, directly off U.S. Route 22.
For more information on fishing Piedmont Lake and/or Salt Fork Lake, or to request a lake map, call the ODOW's Wildlife District Four office at (740) 594-2211.
CLEAR FORK RESERVOIR
Clear Fork Reservoir, in Richland and Morrow counties, consistently provides a high yield of muskies and serves as the ODOW's brood stock lake. Recently, however, the number of brood fish has been declining.
In 2005, the ODOW began using leftover fingerlings to double-stock the lake to increase those numbers. The agency continued the double-stocking procedure in 2006, according to Ed Lewis, a District Two fisheries biologist.
Muskie anglers may find success on the lake by targeting the area around the confluence of Clear Fork Creek. North
Bay is always a great site for muskies, too.
Clear Fork has no motor restrictions, but the ODOW has mandated an 8 miles per hour rule that is strictly enforced.
Clear Fork Reservoir may be reached by taking state Route 97 northwest of Lexington.
For more information on Clear Fork Reservoir or to request a lake map, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District Two office at (419) 424-5000.
ALUM CREEK RESERVOIR
This promising muskie lake became more of a challenge last spring after January flooding washed debris into the reservoir. But barring further flooding this spring season, this Delaware County muskie hotspot should be back on top this year.
In biologist Heyob's estimation, there should be an abundance of 40-inch fish swimming the depths of Alum Creek this spring. Also, 50-inch fish are not uncommon in these waters.
The 3,269-acre Alum Creek Reservoir is huge, and trolling tends to be the preferred tactic of most seasoned anglers. But there are opportunities to cast into weedy flats. Target waters in the 4- to 10-foot range and shallow tributary inlets.
Alum Creek lies one mile west of Interstate Route 71 on U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37.
For more information or to request a lake map, contact the ODOW's Wildlife District One headquarters at (614) 644-3925.
JOIN THE CLUB!
Anglers are encouraged to send in a scale sample of every muskie they catch in Ohio waters. The ODOW provides pre-addressed, postage-paid envelopes at the boat-launching facilities of most muskie lakes, or you can request envelopes by phoning Lewis directly at (419) 429-8371.
Simply remove four to six scales from one side of the muskie and put them into the envelope. Fill out the information on the front of the envelope and drop it in the mail.
This data will help fisheries biologists determine how well their stocking methods are working on each lake in the stocking program.
Anglers who send their first scale sample to the ODOW will receive an honorary membership to the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club for the remainder of the year in which they caught their fish.