Ohio's fishermen can enjoy year-round angling action right here at home, where a variety of game fish will bite at various times of the year. Here is a month-by-month guide to where to find some top angling for some of the Buckeye State's favorite game fish — and some options to explore.
Western Basin Lake Erie Walleyes
Walleyes are staging for the spring spawn around the shallow reefs of the Western Basin, putting them in range of ice anglers venturing off of the mainland at Marblehead and Catawba peninsulas or from the Bass Islands. Anglers use jigging Rapalas and spoons such as Swedish Pimples, and add emerald shiners to one or more hooks on their rigs. They also work bladebaits such as Vibe-Es and Cicadas, or drop emerald shiners impaled on a plain hook on a weighed line, and fish near the bottom over 20 to 40 feet of ice and water.
Ice fishing guides offer trips out of all the popular areas and are recommend for anglers with minimal experience ice fishing on Ohio's Big Lake. For a listing of ice guides offered by the local tourism office, as well as area accommodations for anlgers, visit www.shoresandislands.com.
Other Options: Dropping water temperatures trigger saugers' winter spawning process in the Ohio River/Greenup Dam Tailwaters. The result is hungry pre-spawn fish that can be found below all nine Ohio River lock and dam structures. Greenup Dam, which offers shore access for anglers east of Portsmouth along us route 52 in Scioto County, is famous for its winter sauger fishery. Meanwhile at the 5,000-acre Indian Lake in Logan County, hybrid sauger/walleye offspring called saugeye are caught through the ice. The Dream Bridge and Lucy's Pond areas are good bets. Indian Lake is 10 miles northwest of Bellefontaine off US route 33 via state Routes 708, 117, 366 and 235.
Lake Erie Yellow Perch
When frigid conditions create hard water, ice fishermen know to head to practically any protected bay along the Lake Erie waterfront in search of yellow perch. Sandusky Bay, Put-in-Bay and most harbor areasthat hold weedbeds will surrender perch. Anglers typically fish with tiny jigs tipped with larval baits or emerald shiners. Some anglers sight fish from darkened shanties that allow them to peer into the holes and cherry-pick the jumbos from the crowds of perch that respond to the baits when the action is hot.
Other Options: Inland, thriving populations of yellow perch are found in practically all the upground reservoirs that dot the "419er" landscape. Once safe ice has formed perch will to take any small, natural baits presented by anglers. Findlay Reservoir No. 2 is a popular one for perch, but contact the Wildlife District Two Headquarters at 419-424-5000 for maps and more information on other upground reservoirs that allow ice fishing in the district — some of which may offer walleye as a bonus catch.
Maumee River Walleyes
Beginning in mid- to late March, the annual walleye spawning run gets underway in the major western basin tributaries. A portion of the Lake Erie population migrates up the Maumee River in the direction of Toledo, resulting in one of the most famous fisheries in the Midwest. A popular public access is Maumee's Side Cut Metro Park (find fishing maps at www.metroparks.com) where anglers cast floating jig-heads rigged Carolina-style and tipped with twister-tails.
Other Options: Off Ohio's other coast, blue cats remain active through the winter and early spring in the depths of the Ohio River in southwest Ohio. Anglers targeting blues anchor their boats over deeper holes and cast cut skipjack that is held to the bottom of the current flow with heavy sinkers.
Sandusky River Walleyes And White Bass
As in the nearby Maumee River, annual walleye runs usually peak during the early April on Western Basin Lake Erie tributaries such as the Sandusky River. The most popular places areas for catching Sandusky River walleyes are from the State Street Bridge in Fremont upstream to the Ballville Dam area. White bass follow with a famous run of their own, and are caught by anglers tossing small spinners, spoons and jigs into the (often roiled) flow.
Other Options: East along Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline, from Cleveland to the Pennsylvania Line at Conneaut, the steelhead fishing action can be hot in all the Lake Erie tributaries. Once the weather warms, fish start moving up and down the rivers this month. The new "Creek Road Access," which opened last fall, complements the Woodworth Road Launch Ramp south of Conneaut and upstream at Lakeville Park. Reference ODNR's Conneaut Creek Steelhead Fishing Map — which can be found at ohiodnr.com/Portals/9/pdf/conneaut.pdf — for more access information.
AEP ReCreation Lands Largemouth Bass
Some of the 600-plus ponds in the AEP lands in southeastern Ohio south of Zanesville are rarely fished and can offer excellent fishing for largemouth bass - if you are willing to hike into the more remote flooded quarries and slag pits. Consider packing-in a float tube to be able to fully fish some waters that may offer some limited shore action. Some of these fisheries do not see a float fisherman all season long. Anglers need a free permit to fish and camp on the area's 60,000 acres of reclaimed mining lands.
Other Options: Big bluegills and redear sunfish reward anglers visiting several lakes on the 2,430-acre Lake La Su Ann Wildlife Area in the northwest corner of Williams County. Special fishing regulations are in place and new walk-in fishing opportunities offer anglers impromptu access to trophy-sized sunfish. Call the fish check station at (419) 636-6189 or the Wildlife District Two Office at (419) 424-5000 for details.
Delaware Wildlife Area Sunfish
Small bass and lots of bluegills can be found within casting distance of shore around more than a dozen ponds among nearly 50 that can be found at the 4,700-acre Delaware Wildlife Area in Delaware, Morrow and Marion counties in north-central Ohio. Stop by the new area headquarters on US route 23 north of Delaware or visit www.wildohio.gov to get a map (publication 5107) and information on where the productive ponds are located. Larval baits, pieces of nightcrawlers, whole red worms fished under a bobber, and small jig and spinner baits cast around cover are deadly on these hungry farm pond panfish, which may be on the spawning beds and offer sight-casting throughout the month.
Other Options: Mosquito Lake's 7,241 acres in Trumbull County offer inland walleye action that often peaks each June. Active fish may be found both near shore and offshore; cast the weed-lines with crankbaits or troll crawler harnesses in depths between 15 to18 feet. Sauger can also be caught by the stinger-full from the Ohio River at Belmont County's Pike Island Lock and Dam, where anglers target them each June using jigs and minnows or jig and twistertails combos in white, chartreuse or pearl. Early mornings are best and anglers have the most success by wading off the gravel bar below the fishing pier and casting into the current.
Walleyes At C. J. Brown Reservoir
The past few seasons have seen a dog days walleye bite at "CJ" that is earning an annual look from anglers around the state. Fishermen troll crankbaits or drift crawlers over mid-lake humps and the original creek bed at the north end of the reservoir. The fishing here for inland walleye can surpass that found in Lake Erie this month. Access 1,970-acre CJ at the launch ramp at host Buck Creek State Park.
Other Options: The Stillwater River, flowing through Miami County in southwest Ohio, is a big draw among wading anglers who want to cool off and catch plenty fish. The bronzebacks may not be big but will be biting by day in the deeper holes and on the surface early and late in the day. Big rock bass are a bonus catch. Another good option is Muskingum River system, which holds more than its share of channel cats and flatheads. The fish concentrate below the lock and dam structures that the interrupt the flow between Zanesville and Marietta. The mid-summer fishing here can be excellent. For shovelheads, use live baits such as small bluegills, chubs or big goldfish; channel cats will take fresh cut bait, shrimp, nightcrawlers or prepared baits. Fish all baits tight to the bottom at night with heavy tackle — and hold on.
Hybrid Striped Bass at East Fork Reservoir
One of several Ohio impoundments stocked with the hybrids each year, and annually one of the best producers of 'wipers' in the state, East fork offers anglers 1,971 surface acres of water and is located 2 miles south of Batavia in Clermont County. The upper end of the main tributary to the lake is the most popular with August wiper anglers, who use chicken livers on the bottom or troll crankbaits to fool the hearty hybrids.
Other Options: Diving gulls signal the locations of Lake Erie white bass schools that often cruise within casting distance of shore anglers on the Eastlake CEI, Mentor Headlands break walls and several piers off Cleveland. Anglers cast agitator rigs with white jigs and twister tails or flashy spoons into the water below the birds to catch white bass feeding on the baitfish that they have chased to the surface.
Lake Erie Island Perch
Each September yellow perch start to school in 20 to 30 feet of water off Kelleys Island and the Bass Island chain in Lake Erie's Western Basin. Prime "perch-jerking" can occur anywhere around the islands this month, but when in doubt, head for the packs of anchored boats, anchor a discreet distance away and drop some lines baited with live emerald shiners within a few reel-cranks of the bottom.
Other Options: Along the Cuyahoga
River's winding route through Cuyahoga, Geauga, Portage, and Summit counties the action for northern pike picks up each September. That's especially true in areas such as Fuller Park in Kent, the Rt. 303 bridge near Shalersville, and in and around Mantua. Wade fish while casting large lures that mimic adult prey fish — lures such as shad, sucker, and chub imitations. It's always good to use a heavy leader to prevent bite-offs.
Lake Rupert's 327 acres in Vinton County surrender some big largemouth bass — as well as good numbers of fish — late each summer. Cast surface or shallow-diving baits around areas with lily pads or along the riprap on the dam in the mornings and evenings.
Brown Trout in Clear Creek
The stretch of Clear Fork River that flows through Mohican State Park and State Forest in southern Ashtabula County holds a good population of brown trout thanks to annual stocking efforts. Wading anglers use flies, minnows, small spinners or worms to catch the browns, and the section just downstream of the covered bridge is a popular spot for October efforts.
Other Options: Great Miami River
smallmouth bass fishing can be found in stretches where the river flows across Miami, Montgomery, and Warren counties. The fishing improves in October as the water temperatures cool and river conditions remain clear and stable. Target areas with water deeper than 4 feet around bridge pilings, submerged logs, and undercut banks. Anglers drift live nightcrawlers or minnows fished under a bobber or they cast plastic crayfish or crankbaits in crawdad patterns. October finds saugeye on the move in Piedmont Lake in Belmont County. The lake's population of fish move into the shallow areas of the lake as the temperatures start to cool in the 2,273-acre reservoir. Target the shoreline and roadbed in the lower basin of the lake near the dam using jerkbaits or crankbaits imitating minnows or shad. In the main lake, cast crankbaits around the shoreline or vertical jig with a minnow and chartreuse twister tail.
Lake Erie Walleyes Off The Huron Pier
Walleyes moving back west from the eastern basin along the lake's southern shore come within casting range of the shore in the evenings as they push baitfish against the shorelines from Huron Pier west to Toledo. Boat and shore anglers alike wait until dusk to troll or cast big crankbaits off popular late-fall fishing sites such as Huron Pier, Marblehead Lighthouse State Park and Mazurik fishing access .
Other Options: Late-fall steelhead fishing is productive on any of the half-dozen Lake Erie tributaries that are stocked with the popular lake-run rainbow trout. The Grand River offers some of the best access, and the late-autumn action can remain steady in the waterway as it flows across Lake and Ashtabula counties upstream to the Harpersfield Dam. At 171 acres, Dow Lake in Athens County is a late-season secret among area anglers targeting largemouth bass. Shore access is available from U.S. Route 50, and boat access is available from County Road 20 (Stroud's Run Road). From boat or shore, fishing around structure such as weed beds and fallen trees using spinner baits and crankbaits.
Mad River Brown Trout
A sizeable population of stocked brown trout inhabit Ohio's most popular trout stream. Anglers willing to brave the elements can fish with either flies or conventional tackle. The Mad River follows a 60-plus mile route through west central Ohio from West Liberty through Springfield to the Grand River. The upper reaches are best for trout fishing. Flies and small spinners fool plenty of fish, but live offerings such as minnows and worms drifted naturally with the current near any deep-water hole, logjam or river bend will draw attention from late-season browns.
Other Options: Anglers wading in the Grand River cast minnow- or maggot-tipped jigs to drift with the current under stick bobbers to fool big lake-run rainbows that run up the Grand each December. Borac's Landing in Eastlake offers easy, no-wading access for a small parking fee and often produces good catches for anglers fishing from the comfort of folding chairs.
Late-season crappie action can often erupt on the trophy "slab" fishery north of Columbus at Delaware Reservoir. Locate schools of crappie using sonar and use slip bobbers to keep minnows at or above where you see crappies or baitfish suspending. Focus on the open water off the dam rip-rap or woody shorelines — basically, off the bank from any area the fish will want to spawn in next spring.
That's a guide to year-round best bets and attractive angling options for fishing found across the Buckeye State!