As the spring days grow warmer, more and more Ohioans will be venturing out to go fishing.
Ohio offers many fantastic opportunities for the public to fish, including 124,000 acres of inland water, 7,000 miles of streams, 2.25 million acres of Lake Erie water, and 481 miles of the Ohio River, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Here are a few areas in southwest Ohio anglers may want to check out.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife has numerous resources available to assist anglers, including lake maps, fishing tips by species, and fishing forecasts based on survey data. Anglers are also encouraged to use an online, interactive fishing map which allows users to select features in order to customize their own fishing maps for Ohio’s inland lakes.
This map and the selective features are even mobile-friendly so anglers can access information right on the water. For more information, click the “fishing tab” at wildohio.gov.
Caesar Creek Lake (Clinton and Warren counties) – Caesar Creek Lake has been stocked with advanced fingerling muskies since 1998. Muskies may be found throughout the lake depending on the season, with large fish up to 49 inches being reported by anglers.
Cast large spinners and crankbaits near troll points, drop-off edges, or standing or fallen shoreline timber.
Please remember to report your muskie catch to the Muskie Angler Log at wildohio.gov. The log helps the ODNR Division of Wildlife monitor the success of Ohio’s muskie stockings. You can also find detailed information about fishing locations, management, and stocking history.
Rocky Fork Lake (Highland County) – Rocky Fork Lake supports strong numbers of largemouth bass, with many 12-17 inches and some up to 21 inches. The lake also holds good numbers of two to four-pound fish. Some smallmouth bass are also present, with occasional smallmouth up to three to four pounds landed by anglers.
Try spinner baits, jigs, or plastic worms around weed beds, fallen shoreline trees, or rocky shorelines.
Rocky Fork Lake (Highland county) – Rocky Fork Lake has a strong population of channel catfish, with most between one and three pounds but fish over 10 pounds have been caught by anglers. The lake also has a good population of flathead catfish, some over 30 pounds.
A survey of flathead catfish conducted in 2013 found these fish averaged 19 inches. In 2018, these fish should be significantly larger and provide a challenge for catfish anglers.
C.J. Brown Reservoir (Clark County) – Stocked annually since 1975 with fingerling walleye, C.J. Brown Reservoir has become a destination walleye fishery. Fall 2017 netting surveys resulted in good catches of 17 to 23-inch fish and fish up to 28 inches. The lake currently ranks 5th in the state for numbers of walleye over 20 inches. May, June, and July are great times to seek walleye.
Anglers should try casting jigs along the dam in the spring months and transition to casting or trolling crankbaits and worm harnesses in the summer.
Rocky Fork Lake (Highland County) – Although reported angler catches were lower in 2015 and 2016, good numbers of larger fish (up to 24 inches) are present. Rocky Fork Lake ranks 17th in numbers of saugeye and 13th in numbers of fish over 20 inches. The best time to catch a big saugeye at the lake is between May and July.
Anglers report that trolling or casting crankbaits and drifting nightcrawlers along flats and drop-offs typically results in success.
Hybrid striped bass
East Fork Lake (Clermont County) – Millions of fry and thousands of fingerling hybrid striped bass have been stocked at East Fork Lake since 2010. In 2017, hybrid striped bass anglers had good catch rates and harvested fish up to 21 inches. The lake ranks 3rd in the state for numbers of hybrids and 1st in numbers of large hybrids over 18 inches.
Drift fish with live shad in open water or fish softcraws at depths of 10-20 feet. Cast jigs or surface plugs when hybrids chase shad at the surface. Anglers are encouraged to cut the line on deeply hooked hybrids that are to be released alive back into the lake.
Rocky Fork Lake (Highland County) – Rocky Fork Lake ranks 2nd statewide in numbers of white bass and in number of large white bass over 12 inches. The 2017 fall netting survey results showed good numbers of large fish, with some up to 16 inches.
Try casting small spinners or small jigs with twister tails. In the main lake, try trolling small silver crankbaits or casting jigs, spinners, and blade baits from July through September. In May, try Rocky Fork Creek near the SR 124 bridge for spawning fish.
Grand Lake St. Marys (Auglaize and Mercer counties) – Grand Lake St. Marys ranks 4th in the state for numbers of crappie and 8th in numbers of crappie over nine inches. Black crappies are more common than white crappies, with good numbers of fish caught between seven and eleven inches. A fall 2017 net survey found that 53% of the crappie sampled were larger than nine inches, with some fish up to 13 inches.
The best fishing at the lake is between March and May. Anglers fishing around docks and brushy shoreline using minnows, small twister tail jigs or tube jigs have good success.
The lake’s large size and relatively shallow depth can become very rough in bad weather. Always let someone know your itinerary before embarking on a fishing trip and ensure your watercraft is up to code.
Grand Lake St. Marys (Auglaize and Mercer counties) – Anglers can find good numbers of crappie here, many between five and eight inches or larger. Concentrate fishing in areas with boat docks, sea walls, rip-rap, and brushy structure using jigs, red worms, or wax worms.