October 05, 2010
If you're looking for a summertime muskie over 40 inches long, these five biologist-recommended hotspots are the places to be. Troll slow and deep and be ready to tangle with a toothy lunker this month!
Photo by Pete Maina
Buckeye State muskie anglers know too well the effects that August heat can have on an angler. The heat has much the same effect on the muskies, driving them into deeper, cooler water and making them less eager to follow a moving lure. There are, however, still good opportunities to catch these fish in August on Ohio's top-rated muskie lakes. The keys to success lie in cultivating patience and fishing in the right places at the right times.
Over the past several decades, with help from various clubs and organizations such as the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club, the Buckeye State has positioned itself on the national map as one of the best places to pursue and catch trophy muskies. This title, however, has not come easy.
"We employ a strategic stocking program on several lakes scattered about the state," said Ed Lewis, and Ohio Division of Wildlife District Two fisheries biologist and muskie data recorder. "We have selected a handful of lakes around the state in which we stock muskies every year at a rate of one fish per surface-acre. The fish we stock are all approximately 9 inches long. Recent research has shown that the fish stocked at this length, opposed to the previous 4- to 6-inch range, have a much better chance of survival. This and other new adaptations in our stocking program are certainly in part responsible for the phenomenal fishery we enjoy today."
The ODOW asks that Ohio anglers record their muskie catches. To participate, anglers who catch a muskie are asked to carefully remove four to five scales from the fish and place them in an envelope provided by the ODOW. These envelopes may be found at most marinas on lakes where muskies are prevalent. No postage is necessary. All fishermen need to do is fill out the information on the front of the envelope, put the scales inside and drop it in the mailbox.
"It is imperative that anglers take part in this practice," noted Lewis. "We use the information we obtain from anglers' envelopes to help write the framework for our management programs. In addition, this data allows us to analyze how our past efforts have succeeded."
The Ohio Huskie Muskie Club has played a large role in getting anglers to cooperate with this practice. Anglers may become a member of the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club by mailing in four to five scales from a muskie caught in Ohio waters that is 42 inches or longer. Anglers are given honorable mention for catching a muskie between 30 and 42 inches. "We ask, however, that anglers send scales from fish of any size fish," said Lewis.
Elmer Heyob, the ODOW's District One fisheries biologist and an expert muskie fisherman of many years' experience, asserted that there is little angler traffic on muskie waters in August, and advised fishermen to target the early-morning or late-evening hours, as those who do this are, in his view, likely to have the whole lake to themselves.
Both Lewis and Heyob stress the importance of properly fighting and handling fish, especially in August. Almost all muskies caught in Ohio are released -- but merely throwing a fish back into the water does not ensure its survival.
Muskies should not be played to exhaustion, but should instead be brought to the boat or net as quickly as possible. Do not remove the fish from the water. If you decide to bring the muskie into the boat for a photograph, remove the hooks first and take the photograph quickly. Only touch the fish only after wetting your hands, and do not allow a muskie's body to touch any foreign surfaces such as the floor of the boat. August water temperatures are high and can threaten the survival of dried-out, injured or exhausted fish.
With all that said, here's a look at Heyob's and Lewis's top choices for Ohio's August muskie action.
ALUM CREEK LAKE
Alum Creek, a 3,269-acre reservoir in Delaware County, resembles a millipede featuring 70 miles of shoreline with dozens of arms and coves protruding from its main body. It is one of eight lakes in the state that are stocked every year at a rate of one muskie per surface acre of water.
Alum Creek Lake has no restrictions on motor horsepower. The lake may be accessed one mile west of Interstate Route 71 on U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37.
Anglers employ many successful techniques on Alum Creek throughout the year, but August turns a new page in muskie behavior, so anglers, too, must begin looking for fish in new areas.
"Fishermen do best targeting suspended muskies in deep water," Heyob said. "As the surface water warms it holds less oxygen. Muskies in turn relocate to deeper water near the thermocline, where temperatures are cooler and the water is richer in oxygen."
Good areas to troll for suspended fish include main lake points, necked- down areas and inlets. Areas where streams enter the lake may be cooler and should also hold fish.
In 2004, muskie survey returns from Alum Creek showed nine Ohio Huskie Muskie Club qualifiers were caught, (muskies over 42 inches long), 51 honorable mentions, (muskies between 30 and 42 inches long) and 29 muskies under 30 inches.
"These numbers are not entirely accurate, because not every angler turns in their catches. These figures are only a reflection of the number of scale samples we receive and nothing else," Lewis explained. "In our estimation, the fishery is on track and will continue to improve, and provide fishermen with yet another great angling year in 2005. Anglers targeting Alum Creek in August can expect a chance at some beautiful fish -- maybe even a Huskie Muskie qualifier."
For more information on the muskie fishing at Alum Creek Lake, contact the ODOW's District One office at (614) 644-3925, or write them at 1500 Dublin Rd, Columbus, OH 43215.
For travel information and accommodations, the Alum Creek State Park office may be reached at (740) 548-4631.
CLEAR FORK RESERVOIR
The reputation as one of Ohio's finest muskie fisheries that Clear Fork Reservoir has long enjoyed is a well-earned one. This 971-acre reservoir has 14 miles of shoreline in Richland and Morrow counties. It has no motor restrictions in effect, but does have an 8 mph speed restriction. The lake may be accessed off state routes 97 and 314 northwest of Lexington.
Clear Fork is stocked every year with one 9-inch muskie per surface-acre of water. It's from Clear Fork that the
ODOW obtains fertilized eggs to stock other Ohio muskie lakes.
According to biologists Lewis and Heyob, Clear Fork is one of the best muskie lakes in the state. "Anglers who are going to fish Clear Fork in August should arrive at the lake early in the morning," Heyob offered. "Good locations to target are the spring holes on the north end of the lake. Many successful anglers cast thoroughly to these areas.
"Water temperatures often dictate the depth at which anglers will find fish. And with every passing year, fishermen are faced with different weather patterns. Be adaptable and patient on Clear Fork. The fish are there, and diligent anglers stand a good chance of catching them."
Because Clear Fork does not stratify (develop a thermocline), anglers enjoy favorable casting conditions year 'round.
August hotspots on Clear Fork Reservoir include the islands and underwater humps in the middle of the lake and the steep ledges on the north shore by the spring holes.
According to Lewis's data, there were 41 Ohio Huskie Muskies, 212 honorable mentions and 12 muskies under 30 inches caught from Clear Fork in 2004.
"There is no reason why 2005 should not produce as many if not more fish," Lewis claimed, "and August anglers always have a good shot at some action."
For more information on Clear Fork Reservoir muskie fishing, contact the ODOW's District Two office at (419) 424-5000 or write them at 952 Lima Ave, Box A, Findlay, OH 45840.
Leesville Lake is a 1,000-acre muskie smorgasbord in Carroll County. The lake may be accessed two miles southeast of Sherrodsville off state Route 212. There is a 10-horsepower motor limit in effect.
Leesville is one of eight reservoirs in the state that receives an annual stocking of muskies. The ODOW stocks Leesville at a rate of one 9-inch muskie fingerling per surface-acre of water.
Leesville has a longstanding and widespread reputation as a phenomenal muskie lake. In biologist Lewis' estimation, Leesville Lake is the best in the state, continually producing high numbers of large fish. "Many anglers view Leesville as a casting lake," he noted, "but there are great trolling opportunities as well," he noted.
In ODOW biologist Ed Lewis' estimation, Leesville Lake is the best in the state, continually producing high numbers of large fish.
Anglers should fish around cool-flowing tributaries or troll near the thermocline in deep water. Many successful fishermen troll continuously around the dam area, targeting both the eastern and western shorelines, typically running lures at depths of 12 to 15 feet, which is where the thermocline normally develops at Leesville. When passing good muskie cover, stop and cast for a while. "Some anglers have found night fishing to be for muskies in August," Lewis remarked.
Leesville leads the state almost every year in the number of muskies caught. In 2004, Leesville Lake anglers reported catching 83 Huskie Muskie qualifiers, 439 honorable mentions and 26 muskies under 30 inches. "This exceptional lake should be another top producer in 2005," Lewis said.
More information on Leesville Lake may be obtained by contacting the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293 or by writing them at 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319. Anglers may also contact Clow's Landing marina on the lake at (740) 269-5371 or the Petersburg Landing marina at (330) 627-4270.
Lake Milton has 23 miles of shoreline in Mahoning County and may be accessed off SR 534, 15 miles west of Youngstown. Milton has no horsepower restrictions.
This 1,684-acre lake often flies under the radar of Ohio muskie anglers. According to Lewis, 11 Huskie Muskie qualifiers, 70 honorable mentions and one muskie under 30 inches were caught from Lake Milton during the 2004 fishing season.
"These numbers are impressive because the lake is not even on the state's list of annually stocked muskie waters," Lewis noted. He added: "We only stock this lake if we have fish left over from our scheduled stockings."
Though there has been an excess of fish in the stocking program during the past four out of five years, and Lake Milton has received stockings on all of those occasions, a large percentage of its muskie population comes from neighboring Berlin Reservoir, which contains a natural population of muskies that often find their way into Lake Milton.
Berlin Reservoir is drained every winter, and the fish are able to make it through the dam and into Lake Milton. This yearly drawdown has helped Milton's fish populations tremendously.
"Anglers who elect to fish Lake Milton this August will, in all likelihood, find very few other muskie anglers on the lake," biologist Heyob noted.
That's a surprise, because Lake Milton features cold streams that feed the lake. Fishermen targeting the water near and even up into these tributaries should enjoy good success.
Another great area to try is around the dam on the north side of the lake. Troll lures down to about 15 feet and run them at 1 to 2 miles per hour. Nighttime and early mornings often prove to be good times to target muskies on Lake Milton.
To obtain more information on Lake Milton and its muskie fishery, contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293 or write them at 912 Portage Lakes Drive, Akron, OH 44319.
Pymatuning Lake covers 14,650 acres and has approximately 77 miles of shoreline in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ohioans enjoy a reciprocal agreement with Pennsylvania that make Ohio fishing licenses valid on both sides of the lake.
Ohio's portion of Pymatuning Lake is in Ashtabula County and may be accessed off state Route 6 two miles east of Andover. Unlike other Ohio muskie lakes, there is a 10-horsepower motor limit on Pymatuning.
The ODOW has not stocked Pymatuning for two years. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, however, continually stocks the lake with muskie fingerlings. Last year, ODOW returns showed 17 Huskie Muskie qualifiers, 55 honorable mentions and 23 fish under 30 inches.
When fishing at night, be sure to comply with all state boating laws, and to exercise extreme caution while on the water. You may not be the only one out there!
"These numbers, however, are most likely not a good reflection of the overall productivity of the fishery," Lewis noted. "T
he majority of the lake is in Pennsylvania and most of the anglers who fish it are probably from Pennsylvania, so we do not get returns on all the fish caught."
It is conceivable, then, that the number of fish caught in Pymatuning may actually exceed the number of returns from many other top-producing lakes in the state. In any case, Pymatuning is a great muskie lake.
Anglers can expect to find fish near underwater humps between the dam and Stocker Island. Try trolling lures down to 10 to 12 feet in this area and near other deep-water haunts, such as around the swimming area on the southeast shore of the lake.
For more information on Pymatuning Lake, contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293, or try the Pymatuning State Park offices at (440) 293-6329.
These great lakes are just a sampling of Ohio's phenomenal muskie fisheries. They are all great lakes that produce numbers of Ohio Huskie Muskies every year.
According to biologists Lewis and Heyob, August fishing is best in the early morning hours and can be great for anglers equipped to venture out after dark as well.
When fishing at night, be sure to comply with all state boating laws, to and exercise extreme caution while on the water. You may not be the only one out there!
More information on Ohio's muskie lakes and additional trip-planning assistance may be obtained by calling the Ohio Division of Wildlife Headquarter at 1-800-WILDLIFE or 1840 Belcher Drive, Columbus, OH 43224.
Information on the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club and the lakes discussed in this article may be found at
www.ohiodnr.com. Click on the Fish & Wildlife link, on Fishing Resources, and then on Ohio's Huskie Muskie Program. From that point you will be able to find links to maps of all of Ohio's lakes and data on its great muskie fishery.