Ohio's Muskie Management Plan
October 05, 2010
How are our state fisheries managers doing when it comes to increased opportunities for muskies? We asked the experts and here's what they had to say! (April 2009)
The Ohio Division of Wildlife first began stocking young muskies into Ohio's lakes and streams in 1953. Anglers and muskies both responded well. It wasn't long before a dedicated number of muskie hunters organized into clubs and organizations that supported the ODOW's efforts.
Today, state hatcheries are producing thousands of 9-inch muskies every year to stock into several Ohio lakes, said Elmer Heyob Jr., the state's fish hatchery administrator and the ODOW's liaison to muskie anglers.
The hatchery program ran into a glitch in 2007 when viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) was found in the ovarian fluid of female muskies in Clear Fork. The virus affects fish but isn't a threat to humans. One of the hatcheries was temporarily quarantined and so the ODOW fell a little short of its target production of 19,634 fish.
The division keeps a sharp eye on its program lakes and has the ability to adjust management efforts as conditions dictate. In fact, stocking at Cowan Lake was discontinued in 2007 because of a lack of angler success.
On the positive side, muskies have been stocked into East Fork and Milton lakes for the first time. Last year, the ODOW released muskies into those lakes after deciding the habitat is right and it will keep local muskie hounds from having to travel far. Muskies from 20 to 25 inches should be caught in East Fork this year and most of the good fishing will start in 2010 or 2011.
HUSKIE MUSKIE CLUB
An important component of the ODOW's muskie management program since 1961 has been the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club. The club was started by the ODOW and became a success story almost overnight.
Scale samples from member angler catches allow fisheries managers to age fish and gain other biological insights.
Today, the club recognizes angler success with banquets and certificates. Anglers can become Associate Members even if they've never caught a muskie. Membership in the club is a great way to get in on organized outings and pick up a few fishing tips. The Honorable Mention Membership includes anyone who has caught and released a muskie. Regular Membership is reserved for those who have landed a 42-inch-plus fish.
Visit the ODOW's Muskie Angler Log at www.ohiodnr.com to record catch information and check on current catch rates. Click on "Programs and Activities" and then onto the log.
Ohio's two-fish daily bag and no minimum size limit are fairly liberal when compared with some states, but there's no reason it shouldn't be. Some 90 percent of the fish caught are released.
The success of any fisheries program is always at the end of the line. Here's a look at what's happening across the state:
Leesville Lake is always one of the state's top muskie destinations.
The lake's icon is Don Weaver, past president of the OHMC, and if anyone has the lake figured out, it's Weaver, who caught 13 muskies in 2007 and raised his all-time total to 753 fish.
But Weaver isn't the only one catching fish at Leesville. The lake is always at the top of the list of Buckeye State lakes based on the total numbers of muskellunge reported through the OHMC.
Leesville covers 1,045 acres in Carroll County five miles south of Carrollton. Access is from state routes 39 and 212.
For more information, contact the ODOW at (330) 644-2293.
CAESAR CREEK LAKE
Caesar Creek Lake is southwest Ohio's premier muskie water, according to fisheries biologist Doug Maloney. Angler success is high and the chances of tangling with a trophy-class fish are good.
Most of the muskies caught in Caesar Creek are from 30 to 38 inches, but there are larger ones in the depths.
Over the last two years, good numbers of 40- to 45-inch fish have been seen, with some reaching 49 inches, said Maloney.
Muskie habitat on the lake includes flooded timber, dropoffs into deeper water, rocky shorelines that stack up with shad in windy conditions, humps and points. Finding muskies on a lake where they can roam anywhere they want to can be a challenge.
Caesar Creek is four miles east of Waynesfield on state Route 73 and covers 2,723 acres.
For additional information, contact the ODOW at (937) 372-9261.
CLEAR FORK RESERVOIR
Clear Fork Reservoir is surging ahead again in 2009 with three strong year-classes of muskies pushing their way into anglers' nets this spring.
The majority of these muskies will be from 28 to 32 inches, but there are good numbers of older, larger muskies in the lake, according to fisheries biologist Larry Goedde, who said there will be a lot of 35- to 40-inch fish caught this year.
During spring, look for muskies in shallow water on the western end of the lake. The muskies will herd schools of shad onto the steep banks on the northern shoreline, and often frequent the islands and surrounding weedbeds between the islands and the ramp.
The lake will be dropped from its longstanding role as a broodstock lake because of VHS, but it won't hurt the fishing. Clear Fork received well over 1,000 fingerlings last year.
An important component of the ODOW's muskie management program since 1961 has been the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club.
Clear Fork is in Richland and Morrow counties northwest of Lexington on state routes 97 and 31.
Contact the ODOW at (419) 429-8370 for details.
Pymatuning Lake only gets an occasional stocking from the ODOW but produces excellent muskie catches. The reason is that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission annually contributes 7,000 muskie fingerlings.
The largest Pymatuning muskie that fisheries biologist Matt Wolfe has seen was a 50-inch fish found during an ODOW sampling.
Muskies are opportunistic and will follow baitfish into open water or wait for them to wander a little too closely to vegetation or rocky structure.
Pymatuning Lake is in Ashtabula County on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. It covers 14,650 acres. For more information, contact the ODOW at (330) 644-2293.
WEST BRANCH LAKE
There are excellent prospects for large fish in West Branch again this year. Forty-inch-plus fish are fairly common and there are bigger ones taken. The lake has the potential for 50-inch fish.
West Branch covers 2,616 acres in Portage County east of Ravenna on state Route 14.
Contact the ODOW at (330) 644-2293 for more information.
ALUM CREEK LAKE
Alum Creek Lake is one of the state's best fisheries and is on the doorstep of Columbus anglers. When muskie hunters like Elmer Heyob spend their free time here, the word gets out.
Muskies will be found in the lower basin between the Cheshire Road causeway and the dam. These rod-benders can easily reach 30 inches and top out at 50 inches.
Alum Creek Lake covers 3,387 acres in Delaware County seven miles north of Columbus. The lake is accessed off Interstate Route 71 and from the east by state routes 36/37.
For more information, contact the ODOW at (614) 644-3925.
SALT FORK LAKE
Salt Fork Lake always ranks near the top when it comes to big Ohio muskies. According to fisheries biologist Dave Bright, anglers shouldn't expect to catch many muskies here, but there are fish in the 50-inch class.
In spite of the lake's being top-heavy with lunkers, a lot of 30-inch fish are taken every year. Points, shallow coves with dropoffs into the main channel and sharp shoreline features are all spots to cast to or troll through.
Salt Fork Lake covers 2,952 acres in Guernsey County and has six ramps for boating access. Shoreline fishing is allowed wherever anglers can reach the water.
Call the ODOW at (740) 589-9930.
Lake Milton has received sporadic stockings in the past but has officially been added to the list of ODOW program lakes. Muskies are now being stocked on a regular basis and occasionally anglers produce a 50-inch fish. Most muskies will be smaller but there are plenty of them.
Lake Milton rates well on the OHMC charts year after year with consistent catches.
Lake Milton is in Mahoning County and covers 1,684 acres. Contact the ODOW at (330) 644-2293.