February 15, 2017
For several weeks each spring, Ohio crappie fishing probably gets more anglers excited than any other fish.
Crappie fight well for their size. They taste good at any size. Those two reasons are more than enough to make them very popular. But add to that they are widespread and abundant. Add to that the fact that during the spring they are concentrated in relatively shallow, well defined areas, making them relatively easy to find.
Volumes could be written about locating crappie in individual lakes. But the reality is that crappie are so popular they attract clusters of boats wherever anglers find them, and they tend to be in the same places year after year. So very few crappie anglers put a lot of effort into locating these fish. There is no need.
Probably the major challenge in deciding where to fish for crappie is choosing from many very good crappie lakes. Crappie enthusiasts in Ohio do not find this a distressing challenge.
Delaware Lake probably is the best District 1 crappie lake. It has long been a consistently good fishery for both black crappie and white crappie. Size tends to be good.
Surface area is 1,215 acres. Depths of 15 feet extend about halfway up the lake in the sunken creek channel. Maximum depth is about 30 feet. Delaware Lake has a serpentine shape from north to south, with one large bay and several smaller bays.
Gas motors are not allowed.
Delaware State Park lies along most of the western shore. The remainder of the lake is bordered by Delaware Wildlife Area. It lies just to the east of U.S. Route 23 in northern Delaware County, with just a small upper tip in Marion County.
Look for woody cover in the larger bays or cuts. When cold fronts drive crappie from the shallow water, try slip bobbers or vertical jigging in adjacent deeper water. Watch the sonar screen for suspended fish.
Indian Lake had good crappie fishing last year, and this should continue, except with some larger fish a possibility. It is located in Logan County about 10 miles northwest from Bellefontaine.
Originally several small glacial lakes, Indian Lake incorporated them when its dam flooded those small lakes. The natural "lakes" are still evident in sonar graphs — they appear to be deeper holes that may seem out of place. The surface area of Indian Lake is now 5,157 acres.
Crappie-fishing pressure gets heavy when the bite is on. But this is a large lake so there are opportunities for anglers who prefer to find their own crappie. Look for brush piles, fallen trees and stumps.
One tip on crowded days: Cover that can not be seen at the surface does not attract as many crappie anglers, but it will attract fish.
District 2 Fish Management Supervisor Mike Wilkerson suggested Pleasant Hill Reservoir for the best crappie fishing in the district. The lake lies across the border between Richland County and Ashland County, about 2 miles southwest from Perrysville. To reach the boat ramp and marina, turn off State Route 95 onto Covert Road.
Mohican State Park lies adjacent to the lower end of the lake. The lake itself is owned by Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, and the dam is operated by the Corps of Engineers.
Pleasant Hill Reservoir has a surface area of 783 acres. The upper (western) portion of the lake in Richland County is shallow and broad. Maximum depth is a little more than 15 feet. Weed growth is mainly near the inlet of the Clear Fork of the Mohican River. The lower end of the lake bends southward and gets steeper and deeper, to a maximum of about 35 feet. Look for fallen trees in this area.
Water color is typically muddy in spring, then somewhat clear during summer.
Spring crappie fishing should be best along the southern shore of the western half of the lake. Then as the season progresses hot spots move eastward. Crappie numbers are classed as excellent, and size is excellent. Both white crappie and black crappie inhabit the lake. White crappie get larger.
Try jigs with plastic bodies that have contrasting colors on bright red heads, tipped with grubs or minnows.
Veterans Memorial Lake, in Hancock County, is another good crappie lake in the northwest corner of the state. It is situated a couple miles southwest from Fostoria just off State Route 12. An upland reservoir, it is filled with water pumped from the East Branch of Portage River.
Recreation was high on the priority list in the design of this reservoir. Several fish habitat structures were incorporated, including a stump bed and reefs. Surface area is just 157 acres. Most of the crappie are white crappie.
Veterans Memorial Lake is a good place for shore fishing.
Another place worth pursuing crappie is Ferguson Lake. It and sister lake Metzger Reservoir are located in Allen County, on the east side of Lima on Reservoir Road.
This is another upland reservoir, using water pumped from the Ottawa River. Surface area is 308 acres. Maximum depth is 33 feet.
District 3 has several very good crappie lakes. A good mix of lakes are situated here in the northeast corner of the state, about as good as can be found in Ohio or any other state in a similarly sized area. Some lakes are relatively large.
"Our usual good crappie lakes are always good crappie lakes," said biologist Matt Wolf.
Mosquito Creek Reservoir, in Trumbull County, is one of the best. A large impoundment, 7,199 surface acres, it is aligned on a north-south axis, damming Mosquito Creek. It is located in Mosquito Lake State Park, about a mile west from Cortland. State Route 46 lies along the east side. State Route 88 crosses mid-lake.
"Mosquito has been a really good one in the past two years. It seems to have big crappie every year," Wolf said.
Maximum depth is 24 feet. North of the Rt. 88 causeway the lake is under a 10-mph speed limit, and a no-wake zone extends 300 feet from shore. Check the area north of the Rt. 88 causeway during spring. In muddy water, add a fluorescent red spinner blade in front of bait. This can make the difference between no crappie and a good day — and a good day can include some large white crappie.
Both white crappie and black crappie inhabit Mosquito Creek Reservoir.
This lake led all others in the state for entries in the Fish Ohio Program, which awards pins to anglers who catch crappie measuring at least 13 inches.
Pymatuning Lake, appropriately shaped like a giant, upside down fishing hook, was second to only Mosquito Creek Reservoir for Fish Ohio crappie entries. This is an excellent destination for crappie enthusiasts who want a 15-inch-plus crappie for the wall. Some of the black crappie here are huge. Muskellunge propagation trap nets set in Pennsylvania often catch hundreds of slabs.
This is a very large lake with a surface area of 16,349 surface acres. Maximum depth is about 30 feet near the dam.
Pymatuning Lake, in Ashtabula County, and Mosquito Creek Reservoir are neighbors, only about 14 miles apart. Pymatuning Lake lies just east from U.S. Route 6, and it is crossed by State Route 85. The Rt. 85 causeway is a popular place to fish for crappie.
Pymatuning Lake is shared with Pennsylvania, and it has a reciprocal fishing agreement. Boats may fish anywhere on the lake no matter where they are launched. Shore anglers are limited to fishing in the state where they hold a license. Seasons and bag limits are the same in both states. There is a maximum boat motor limit of 20 horsepower.
Each state has a Pymatuning State Park that includes large sections of shoreline, making access very good.
During spring, concentrate your fishing in bays and at the north end of the lake.
Berlin Reservoir is rated excellent by the Division of Wildlife for both good numbers and good size of crappie.
This is one of our larger lakes, with a surface area of 3,341 acres and many miles of shoreline. Average depth is 23 feet, maximum depth about 55 feet at normal pool. However, the water level may be higher during early spring. Typical of Corps of Engineers water control reservoirs, water level varies as much as 20 feet.
The dam is on the Mahoning River where Stark County, Mahoning County and Portage County meet. It can be reached by U.S. Route 224, which crosses the lower end of the lake, State Route 14, which crosses near mid-lake, or State Route 225, which crosses toward the head of the lake.
Common to so many lakes, a good strategy here is to look for crappie during spring by sunken brush, fallen trees, stumps and brush piles, primarily in the upper end of the lake. Hot spots tend to move down the lake as spring progresses when the weather pattern is steadily warming.
Do not overlook Tappan Reservoir, in Harrison County. White crappie dominate this crappie fishery.
This is different terrain, and a different crappie situation in District 4, where District Fish Manager Michael Greenlee said that based on both the numbers and sizes of crappie, "It's either one of two lakes, Seneca and Piedmont."
Both of these lakes are owned by Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. Both have forage bases of gizzard shad. Christmas trees have been placed as fish cover. Maps locating the trees are available at the District 4 office in Athens.
At Seneca Lake, one of several lakes with a 9-inch size limit on crappie, expect a lot of crappie in the 8-inch to 10-inch bracket. Crappie density is superior to Piedmont Lake.
This lake straddles the border between Noble County and Guernsey County. Primary boat access is along State Route 313 a couple miles east of Senecaville, and not much farther from Interstate Route 77 at Buffalo.
With a surface area of 3,585 acres, it is the largest of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District chain of lakes. Most of the lake is less than 18 feet-deep.
Piedmont Lake also has a 9-inch size limit on crappie.
"We've got a good mix of blacks and whites at Piedmont," said Greenlee.
Piedmont Lake shows better crappie growth than Seneca Lake. In a survey 22 percent of black crappie were longer than 9 inches, and 35 percent of white crappie were longer than 9 inches. But do not expect great numbers of crappie.
This lake has more rocky shoreline than most Ohio Lakes. It lies in forested, hilly terrain. Crappie seek cover in fallen trees and other woody debris. There is some aquatic weed growth. Surface area is 2,368 acres and maximum depth is about 38 feet.
Long and slender, Piedmont Lake meanders through three counties, Belmont, Harrison and the tip of one bay in Guernsey. It is situated about 10 miles north of Interstate Route 70 off State Route 800, and U.S. Route 22 passes very close to the dam.
Piedmont Lake has a 10-horsepower motor limit.
According to District 5 Fish Management Supervisor Debbie Walters, Grand Lake St. Marys has a good population of big black crappie, some better than 13 inches. Though formerly white crappie dominated the fishery, black crappie now are more abundant in this lake.
Built to supply water for the Miami-Erie Canal, this is the biggest lake completely in Ohio with a surface area of 12,896 acres. Most of the lake is less than 7-feet deep, except for a hole near the outlet than drops below 16 feet.
Highways run close to all sides of the lake: State Route 703 to the north, U.S. Route 127 to the west, State Route 219 to the south and State Route 364 to the east. The lake sits on the border between Mercer County and Auglaize County.
Cast baits or lures by docks, shoreline brush and fallen trees.
East Fork Lake is the second deepest lakes in Ohio, dropping to 113 feet near the dam. Its 2,107 surface acres are situated in Clermont County about 25 miles east of Cincinnati, off State Route 222 about 2 miles south from Batavia.
Crappie make use of a lot of good woody cover in the form of standing timber and fallen trees. There is about an even mix of black crappie and white crappie over 10 inches.
Check your fishing and boating regulations before fishing any lake. Get this and other information from the Division of Wildlife web site, wildlife.ohiodnr.gov.