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Ohio's Winter Angling Smorgasbord

Ohio's Winter Angling Smorgasbord

The Buckeye State offers some of the finest winter fishing in the Midwest. Here's a sampling of proven lakes and ponds where species from bass to bullheads await! (December 2009)

While some Buckeye State fishing enthusiasts have put away their gear and hunkered down to wait for spring, avid Ohio anglers know there are countless destinations that offer great fishing year 'round. Trout, saugeyes, largemouth bass, yellow perch, walleyes, crappies and bluegills are swimming underneath frigid surfaces of Ohio waters, all looking for that next meal.

In addition to statewide general regulations, the Buckeye State has several site-specific and species-specific regulations. While there are no closed seasons on many popular fish species, creel and tackle limits do vary. Ice-anglers may not use more than six tip-ups and two rods per person.

As always, be sure to check the Ohio 2009-2010 Fishing Regulations booklet before heading out. Copies are available online at www.ohiodnr. com and wherever fishing licenses are sold.

There is just no way to talk hardwater fishing without a nod to Lake Erie. The Great Lake offers a diversity of fish species not found in many inland lakes and ponds. Hardwater anglers here can expect to take some exceptional walleyes ranging between 19 and 28 inches, left over from the 2003 and earlier hatches. More recent hatches will yield better numbers but smaller fish. Yellow perch are plentiful in the big lake, ranging from 7 to 13 inches. The central basin tends to give up larger yellow perch than other locations.

Lake Erie is also home to smallmouth bass, steelhead (primarily in tributaries) and white bass. Anglers can also expect to catch largemouth bass, panfish and the occasional northern pike or muskellunge.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife staff may be reached at (440) 352-4199 for additional information on the central basin. For western basin information, call (419) 625-8062.


When venturing out during the winter months, stick to the big lake's shoreline. Erie, the 11th largest lake in the world in surface area, usually remains open at its center year 'round.

Check DeLorme's Ohio Atlas and Gazetteer, maps 28, 31, 32, 33, 38 and 40 for details.

Hardwater anglers should not let Lake Erie's allure keep them from exploring inland waters this year. Findlay Reservoir No. 1, a 185-acre Hancock County water in the northwestern region of Ohio, has a fair-sized population of walleyes, most in the 14- to 21-inch range. This reservoir has been stocked with over 30,000 fingerling walleyes in recent years.

Fishing is also good for yellow perch, with the average being 9 inches and some fish up to 11 inches. Anglers targeting walleyes and perch will occasionally land a channel catfish. There's a good population of channel cats here in the 18- to 24-inch range. There are also good numbers of white bass.

At the 643-acre Findlay Reservoir No. 2, ice-anglers can expect to find an excellent population of white crappies in the 8- to 13-inch range. There's also good fishing for walleyes, with fish averaging 11 inches, and some bigger individuals measuring as much as 25 inches. Recent sampling by ODNR biologists showed excellent survival in the 2008 year-class. Those fish measured around 14 inches last fall.

Channel catfish here may tip the scales at up to 20 pounds. Findlay Reservoir No. 2 is also home to an excellent number of white bass, bluegills and a fair number of largemouth and smallmouth bass.

The reservoirs share a common dike about one mile long. Both waters are southeast of the town of Findlay. The No. 2 Reservoir may be reached by traveling 2.5 miles southeast from Findlay on state Route 37 to Hancock County Road 205. Go east one mile to county Road 234, and then north to township Road 207, turning east to a public access area.

To reach Findlay Reservoir No. 1, continue on county Road 205 one mile east past county Road 234. Check DeLorme's Ohio Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 36, for area details.

The 65-acre Van Wert Reservoir No. 1 in Van Wert County has hold­over stocked rainbow trout, yellow perch, channel catfish and largemouth bass. Access is off U.S. Route 127 south of Van Wert.

Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 44.

Nettle Lake in Williams County is one of only a few natural lakes formed by glaciers as they traveled across the Ohio landscape. Nettle is an on-stream lake, with Nettle Creek flowing into and out of the lake.

The 115-acre lake has a good population of largemouth bass ranging from 10 to 22 inches. The lake has a good number of channel catfish running from 14 to 24 inches, and was stocked with 2,074 yearling channel cats in 2007.

ODNR biologists report an excellent fishery for both white and black crappies up to 11 inches, and Nettle also has a fair number of bluegills.

The lake is off state Route 49 about four miles northeast of Cooney. Public access is available on the southwest corner of the lake off county Road 4.75.

Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 24, for details.

Hancock County's 133-acre Lake LeComte should be an excellent destination for saugeyes up to 25 inches this year. The lake was stocked with 19,566 fingerling saugeyes in 2007.

LeComte is also a good place to catch channel catfish up to 23 inches long, and more are coming along each year because in 2008 another 3,352 yearling channel catfish were added to the fishery. Biologists report a good number of crappies in the 9-inch range and a fair number of largemouth bass, yellow perch and bullheads.

Access is off Route 5 east of Ravenna. Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 42, for details.

Harrison Lake, five miles southwest of Fayette, was originally built in 1939 with anglers and hunters in mind. By 1950, Harrison Lake State Park had grown up around the lake.

The maximum depth here is 15 feet, with the deepest point by the dam. Harrison has plenty of underwater fish structure, including stumps, downed trees and Christmas trees sunk there by the ODNR Division of Wildlife.

The ODNR fishery biologists are calling for good action this year for largemouth bass in the 12- to 20-inch range. The lake was stocked in 2008 with 2,636 ye

arling channel catfish, and biologists are calling for good catches of that species in the 12- to 20-inch range, as well. Fishing should also be good for bullheads up to 10 inches long, white crappies and a fair number of bluegills in the 5- to 7-inch range.

Access is available at several sites within Harrison Lake State Park. Visit for directions from several major Ohio cities. Also, check DeLorme's OAG, Map 25.

Alum Creek Lake in central Ohio covers 3,629 acres at full pool to a maximum depth of 60 feet near the dam. The high shale bluffs, three rock-covered causeways and deep coves with standing timber provide excellent fish habitat. This Delaware County lake is stocked annually with saugeyes and muskellunge.

This lake, which sits about seven miles north of Columbus, should be a standout water for muskies this year. Alum Creek boasts good numbers of the fish with catch rates above the state average. The growth rate is good, too. Muskies can grow to more than 30 inches over a three-year span.

The fishing should also be good for saugeyes, largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish and crappies. There is a 12-inch minimum length limit in place for bass here. Alum Creek Lake, like many other Ohio waters, is subject to site-specific regulations in addition to statewide general regulations.

Interstate Route 71 parallels the lake to the east. The state Route 36/37 exit provides access. State routes 521, 36/37, Cheshire Road, Hollenback Road and Lewis Center Road provide access from state Route 23 on the west side of the lake.

Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 58, for details.

The 5,040-acre Indian Lake in Logan County was originally constructed in 1851 to supply water for part of the extensive canal system in place during that time. "Old Indian Lake" eventually became Indian Lake, a popular destination with an amusement park, rail passenger service and abundant fish and wildlife. By 1949, Indian Lake State Park was managed by Ohio's new Department of Natural Resources.

Biologists report that the outlook for saugeyes this winter is excellent. According to the ODNR, Indian is one of the best lakes in the state for anglers seeking good numbers and sizes of saugeyes. In fact, Indian Lake was the number one lake in the state for Fish Ohio awards back in 2004. Fingerlings have been stocked here annually since 1990.

The outlook is good for largemouth bass (12-inch minimum size limit), crappies and bluegills. The lake also holds a fair number of channel catfish, which biologists said is an underutilized fishery at Indian Lake. The lake is also home to white bass, yellow perch and bullheads.

Access is at Indian Lake State Park off U.S. Route 33 about 10 miles northwest of Bellefontaine.

Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 46, for details.

Kiser Lake in Champaign County offers anglers 394 acres of opportunity, especially for hybrid striped bass. The lake was stocked from 1992 until 2004 and many large individuals remain. During biologist surveys in 2008, several hybrids over 28 inches long and 15 pounds were found.

ODNR biologists are also calling for good fishing for largemouth bass and crappies this year, with an excellent fishery in place for bluegills in the 6- to 8-inch range. The lake is also home to striped bass, yellow perch and bullheads.

Kiser Lake is about four miles northwest of St. Paris and 34 miles north of Dayton on state Route 235. To get there from Route 235, take Possum Hollow Road to Lake Road to access the southern end of the lake.

Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 56, for more information.

While there's often more open water than ice most winters, the southeastern region of the state also offers some great fishing options this winter.

Dow Lake is an excellent destination for rainbow trout this year. The lake is in Strouds Run State Park in Athens County. It covers 171 acres at normal pool with a maximum depth of 33 feet.

ODNR biologists are predicting exceptional angling here for channel catfish, which are stocked on alternate years. The lake now contains multiple year-classes, including some fish up to 24 inches long weighing over 7 pounds.

Fishing at Dow Lake is also expected to be good for largemouth bass, some of which will measure up to 22 inches long and tip the scales at 6 pounds.

There has been a protective slot limit in place for bass here since 1988.

Dow Lake is a couple of miles east of Athens off county Road 20 (Strouds Run Road). Dam access is off U.S. Route 50.

Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 80, for additional information.

For largemouth bass action, anglers should head to the Fox Lake Wildlife Area. Fox Lake is relatively small at 53 acres, but a slot limit implemented in 1987 has created a decent fishery. ODNR biologists are hoping anglers will keep bass outside of the protected 12- to 15-inch slot limit to reduce competition and improve bass growth rates.

During a 2008 electro-shocking survey, catch rates for bass were moderate to high with 34 percent of the fish measuring between 15 and 19 inches. The largest taken was over 21 inches long and weighed 6 pounds.

Fishing should also be good in this Athens County lake for channel catfish, which have been stocked on alternate years since 1983. Most channel cats harvested here run 15 to 20 inches.

The lake also has a fair number of bluegills and redears of quality size.

The lake is about four miles west of Athens. Access is off township Road 29 or Fox Lake Road (county Road 81).

Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 80, for details.

Monroe Lake, part of the Monroe Lake Wildlife Area, is nearly as deep as it is wide. The 39-acre lake has a maximum depth of 33 feet. It also has a well-established population of largemouth bass. The species was stocked here in 2003. Electro-shocking surveys in 2006 yielded 165 bass per hour, the second highest catch rate in District Four that year.

In 2006, the majority of the bass sampled were on the small side, but they've had four years to grow since then. Fishing is also good here for rainbow trout, channel catfish and bluegill.

The lake is about five miles north of Woodsfield. Access is off township Road 1001 (Main Cross Street) or state Route 800.

Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 72, for details.

Seneca Lake's 3,509 acres lie mostly within Noble County, with a small northern portion spilling over into Guernsey County. Seneca is the largest of all the lakes under Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District control. The ODNR's Division of Wildlife leases public fishing and hunting rights here.

Biologists consider Seneca to be an excellent destination for largemouth bass, channel catfish, saugeyes and crappies. During electro-shocking surveys in 2008, catch rates for largemouth bass were good, with 64 percent of the fish caught measuring 12 inches or larger and 29 percent measuring 15 inches or larger. Several bass were more than 20 inches long and weighed over 6 pounds.

There is a 15-inch minimum length limit on black bass out of Seneca Lake.

The lake also has an extensive channel catfish population that consists of multiple year-classes.

Walleyes are slowly giving way to saugeyes here. Saugeyes were first stocked in 2001, replacing walleye stockings. By 2008, angler surveys revealed that catches of saugeyes in the 14-inch range were common. During trap netting studies that year, good numbers of adult saugeyes were sampled, as well as younger fish, which indicates good survival rates.

Fishing is also good here for crappies. Recent trap netting surveys yielded many fish measuring 8 to 9 inches. Anglers reported taking crappies over 12 inches, with the average catch being 9 inches.

According to ODNR biologists, Seneca Lake gives up some of the best sizes and numbers of crappies in District Four.

Fishing is also good for striped bass and bluegills. Occasionally, anglers will catch smallmouth bass, white bass or flathead catfish here, too.

The dam is about two miles east of Senacaville on state Route 313 or 12 miles southeast of Cambridge via I-77 and state Route 313.

Check DeLorme's OAG, Map 71, for more access details.

Anglers who catch brag-worthy fish may enter them in the Fish Ohio Angler Recognition Program. A fish qualifies for an award if it meets a minimum size requirement set for the program. Applications are available on the ODNR Web site and at local tackle and bait shops.

For more Ohio fisheries information, visit and select "fishing." For questions not answered on the Web site, call the Ohio Department of Natural Resources at (800) 945-3543, or e-mail them at

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