Right now is a great time to plan your upcoming fishing seasons. Here are 36 of our top picks for fishing throughout the year in Ohio.
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With so many excellent places available to wet a line and so many fine fish species to choose from, the biggest problem facing anglers this year are where to fish and how to steal away for that many hours!
Regulations vary by waterbody in Ohio, so always check the current Ohio Department of Natural Resources fishing digest before heading out. Here's a roundup of some best-bet destinations for productive fishing forays in 2011.
Saugeyes - Buckeye Lake
This popular 2,850-acre lake is one of Ohio's oldest impoundments. Assuming Mother Nature provides safe ice, hardwater anglers have good success pulling saugeyes up through the auger holes here. Access is off state routes 79, 13 and 204.
Yellow Perch - Paulding Reservoir
This 67-acre water in Paulding County boasts an excellent population of yellow perch 8 inches and larger. Ice fishing is allowed provided winter temperatures allow for safe ice. Yellow perch are a staple of winter angling and bite well throughout the season.
Bluegills - Kiser Lake
This 394-acre lake in Champaign County is known for having good numbers of quality-sized bluegills. Fish can be hanging close to bottom structures or suspended near the surface at this time of year, so vary line depths to find out where they're hiding.
Yellow Perch - Wauseon Reservoir No. 2
This 45-acre impoundment in Fulton County has good numbers of yellow perch over 8 inches and is open for ice fishing. Access is located off State Route 108.
Bluegills - Portage Lakes
This series of lakes south of Akron was created as part of a larger network of canals and reservoirs to provide water to the canal system. These lakes are a popular destination with hardwater anglers hoping to pull bluegills and crappies up through the auger holes.
Black Crappie - Pleasant Hill Reservoir
This impoundment was created by damming the Clear Fork Branch of the Mohican River, which flows into the western end of the lake. Best-bet crappie fishing can be found in the small coves along the southern reaches of the reservoir. There is a boat ramp and marina on Covert Road off State Route 95 in Loudonville.
Rainbow Trout - Dow Lake
This 171-acre lake situated within Stroud's Run State Park is spring stocked with catchable rainbow trout. This is a put-and-take fishery, so get 'em while the getting is good! There's a boat ramp off Stroud's Run Road.
Northern Pike - West Branch Reservoir
This 2,650-acre reservoir, also known as the Michael J. Kirwan, is situated within West Branch State Park Wildlife Area in Ravenna. Pike are looking for good spawning grounds as soon as the ice goes out, so target shallow bays along the north and east shorelines where water warms fastest. Access is on the eastern shore.
White Bass - Ferguson Reservoir
This 305-acre lake in Allen County gives up good numbers of white bass ranging from 8 to 10 inches through the auger holes. White bass angling is also good here during May and June just off the shoreline.
Saugeyes - Paint Creek Lake
This 1,190-acre impoundment features a 118-foot-high dam that is 800 feet long. That makes it easy for anglers to find saugeyes, as best fishing is within the tailwaters below the dam. There are three state-run boat ramps around the lake.
Rainbow Trout - McKarns Lake
This 40-acre abandoned stone quarry is 75 feet deep and cooler than many of Ohio's waters. McKarns is stocked with rainbow trout each spring. The lake is located within the St. Joseph River Wildlife Area. There's a public boat launch on the northwest corner of the lake off County Road J in Montpelier.
Walleyes - LaDue Reservoir
This 1,475-acre lake in Geauga County is stocked annually with fingerling walleyes. The best spring fishing for this species is over submerged humps or bars. Come fall, anglers will have better success fishing the weed beds. Access is off U.S. Route 422 about 30 miles east of Cleveland.
Largemouth Bass - Dillon Lake
This man-made flood-control lake spans 1,376 acres. Bucketmouth bites are at their peak this month, especially in the Big Run and Poverty Run embayment areas. Dillon is also a good destination for crappies, bluegills, bullhead and carp. Access is off State Route 146 about six miles northwest of Zanesville.
Muskellunge - Lake Milton
This reservoir once served as an industrial water supply for Youngstown steel mills. These days, it's a fishery stocked by the state with surplus muskellunge. Highest rates of angler success for this species take place in May and June. Access is via Lake Milton State Park off State Route 534.
Channel Catfish - Alum Creek Lake
Fish north of Howard Road at this 3,192-acre impoundment in Delaware County for big channel cats. Access to the western shore is via Alum Creek State Park, with multiple boat launch areas located along the south, east and in Alum Creek to the north.
Smallmouth Bass - Maumee River
This Lake Erie tributary is one of Ohio's best bass fisheries. There are multiple access sites along the 130-mile-long river.
Muskellunge - Caesar Creek Lake
This 2,607-acre multi-purpose impoundment is the deepest lake in Ohio, with depths up to 115 feet near the dam. There are several bays around the lake which provide excellent habitat for stocked muskies. Access is off State Route 73.
Brown Bullheads - Bresler Reservoir
This 582-acre lake in Allen County offers anglers a shot at bullheads measuring 9 to 12 inches. These small catfish can be tempted with worms and grubs. Access to Bresler is off Kemp Road.
Walleyes - Mosquito Creek Lake
This 7,241-acre lake within Mosquito Lake State Park is stocked annually with walleyes. It is considered to be on par with any inland walleye water in the state.
Largemouth Bass - Knox Lake
When this 469-acre lake was developed, the upper section was left full of standing timber and trees were felled along the lower basin for additional fish cover. Excellent habitat puts Knox high on the
list of Ohio's best-bet bass waters. A marina and the main boat ramp on the lower section of the lake are off Armentrout Road. Other ramps are located off County Road 5 along the upper reservoir. The lake is situated about 1.5 miles northeast of Fredericktown.
Bluegills - Willard Reservoir
This 194-acre lake in Huron County has excellent numbers of bluegills with fish up to 8.5 inches common. A boat launch and fishing dock are available. Access is off State Route 61.
Hybrid Striped Bass - Charles Mill Lake
This 1,350-acre impound is stocked with hybrid stripers. These fish also escape the main reservoir and provide good angling in the tailwaters below the dam. There are two boat launches available, both off State Route 430.
White Bass - Lake Erie
While it can be hard to predict when white bass will move in toward shore in this big lake, August anglers last year reported good success off Eastlake CEI and Fairpoint piers. Try fishing agitators and small yellow or white jigs along with small shiners early or in the evening.
Channel Catfish - Aquilla Lake
Alternate year stocking of channel catfish into this 27-acre Geauga County kettle pond has resulted in a healthy fishery. Summer fishing for big channel catfish can be excellent, especially at night when these fish come shallow to feed. Access is off U.S. Route 322 in Claridon.
Steelhead - Rocky River
From May to October, anglers search Lake Erie tributaries for migrating steelheads. The minimum length is 12 inches, with a daily limit of two fish. The stretch of Rocky River from the Metroparks marina up to the Lagoon Dam yields good angler success.
Carp - Dillon Lake
Bow hunters target big carp in the backwater and marsh areas of this 1,136-acre impoundment near the Irville boat launch. Anglers catch carp in the upper two thirds of the lake with worms or doughballs. The lake is located at Dillon State Park and Wildlife Area, 4 miles northwest of Zanesville on State Route 146.
White Crappie - Madison Lake
This 104-acre lake three miles north of London has an under-utilized population of white crappie. Many fish are 9 inches here, with some up to 12 inches. Fish woody cover along the old creek channel at the northern end of the lake
Brown Trout - Mad River
This Urbana area river is one of three in the Buckeye State stocked each October with brown trout. Because browns have a better survival rate than rainbow trout, these fish live for years and grow to catch-worthy sizes. There are five public access areas along the river: Hall-Fawcett Memorial Park, Lion's Club Park, via two state-owned wildlife properties, and from the U.S. 36 south to the abandoned railroad bridge.
Smallmouth Bass - Scioto River
Fall is peak season for hitting Ohio's rivers and streams for feisty bronzebacks. As waters cool, these fish spend more time in pools with good cover, making them easier to target with jigs or baitfish imitations.
Northern Pike - Cuyahoga River
As waters cool, pike put on the feedbag in preparation for the long winter ahead. Fish upstream from Cuyahoga Falls letting big, bright crankbaits bounce off bottom.
Rainbow Trout - Stonelick Lake
This 161-acre lake is stocked each spring and fall with rainbow trout. Public access and a boat ramp are located off State Route 727 about one mile southwest of Edenton.
Largemouth Bass - Tycoon Lake
This shallow impoundment within the Tycoon Lake Wildlife Area north of Rio Grande features submerged fence rows and tree stumps that provide perfect fish cover for big bass. Because of the high-quality fishery available in this premier bass water, there is an 18-inch length limit in effect on bucketmouths. Fish spinnerbaits, crankbaits or jig/pig combinations near submerged structures. Access to the Tycoon Lake Wildlife Area can be had from State Route 325 via Eagle Road.
Saugeyes - Tappan Lake
This 2,131-acre stocked lake is becoming increasingly popular with anglers targeting saugeyes. Fishing this species at Tappan is productive spring through fall. The bridge openings are where these fish congregate during the fall lake draw-down, which generally takes place from November 1 to December 1. Tappan is located in Stock and Franklin, with U.S. Route 250 following the main body of the lake for several miles.
Sauger - Ohio River
Naturally reproducing populations of sauger are plentiful in the Ohio River. This species is one of the most coveted by Ohio anglers.
Largemouth Bass - Mogadore Reservoir
The bucketmouth outlook is excellent on this 1,104-acre Akron-owned water. This species is plentiful, with fish over 15 inches not uncommon. Bucketmouths respond well to vertical jigging spoons and slow retrieval of jig/pigs during the winter.
Steelhead - Cowles Creek
Even though this Ashtabula County creek isn't stocked, there's a strong run of steelheads here from fall through spring. Public access is available within Geneva State Park upstream to State Route 534. Upstream outside of park boundaries is private land, and the stream is only accessible to anglers with written permission.