Cold water conducive to hot crappie, saugeye bite
DNR Division of Wildlife fisheries survey teams have had tough luck trying to work on the Ohio River recently with higher than usual water levels, according to Debbie Walters, a fisheries biologist in southwest Ohio.
Elsewhere in Ohio, many smaller inland waters have at least a skim ice cover due to colder temperatures that moved across the state in early December. Waterfowl hunters in the south zone, which opened for the second split on Dec. 16, should find good shooting where they encounter open water. In central Ohio, mallards and geese have been pouring out of the sky in search of those few pockets of open water that remain after the freeze.
The cool temperatures might not stick around for long, however. Temperatures for the extra weekend of firearms deer hunting on Dec. 16 and Dec. 17 were expected to be warm again, particularly in the central and southern portions of the state.
Here’s a regional look at the fishing prospects throughout the state.
Deer Creek Lake (Madison, Fayette, Pickaway counties) - Anglers are catching saugeye near the spillway as will be the case throughout the winter months, reports Jack McKirgan of Mary’s Bait Shop in Washington Court House. Boating anglers can still access the lake from the east side ramp, the winter pool levels make it difficult to fish most places. The saugeye bite near the spillway has been super as of late, McKirgan said. Edgar Rawlins Jr. on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 caught four fish, all of which were better than 4 pounds. Rawlins’ fishing partner, whom McKirgan didn’t know, caught a limit of six saugeyes on Dec. 12 with the smallest of the bunch at 4 pounds, McKirgan said. The catches all came on jigs and Twister Tails. McKirgan said anglers either use jig and Twister Tail combos in the winter or tip a jig with a minnow. The larger fish seem to bite on the artificial presentation, but quantities tend to be better using live bait, McKirgan said.
Mary’s Bait Shop, 740-869-3597
Buckeye Lake (Fairfield, Licking and Perry counties) — Prior to the recent cold snap, anglers were catching crappies on jigs tipped with bass minnows, reports Bob Mathie of Bob’s Outdoor Supply. Size ranged from 10 to 12 inches. The most productive area has been Heron Bay. If the lake gets some wind in the near future, the 1 to 1 /2-inch of ice cover should come off. Anglers should be prepared to search for the crappie bite, Mathie suggests. “At this time of year, you can go a long time without getting a bite,” he said. “But, when you get on them you can just pound them. It might be just a small area where they’re biting, so you have to move around.” Saugeye has been biting on floating jig and minnow combinations.
Bob’s Outdoor Supply, 740-349-0992
Grand Lake St. Marys (Mercer and Auglaize counties) — Prior to a brief ice up in early December, anglers had been catching crappies in the 10-12-inch range, and some bluegills as well, reports Jeff Toben of the Outdoorsman. Jig and minnow combinations or simply minnows fished under a bobber were the baits of choice. The ice that St. Marys did have was thin enough that anglers were busting through it around docks to fish open holes, Toben said. A few walleyes were also being caught around the spillway on blade baits. Temperatures were warming with rain in the area as of Dec. 12, Toben reported.
Outdoorsman, 419-394-5769, www.eastbankmarina.com, click on “Outdoorsman”
Indian Lake (Logan County) — The lake was ice free as of Dec. 13 and anglers were catching saugeye at a fairly good pace, reports Louise Williams of Lakeside Pro Bass Shop. The popular spot has been Moundwood with the best bite coming in the evening or under overcast skies, Williams said. In the spillway, an angler on Dec. 12 caught a saugeye that tipped the scales at 7 pounds, 13 ounces. Most anglers are using blade baits such as the Vib-E or short bill crankbaits to produce the bite.
Lakeside Pro Bass Shop, 937-843-2488.
Punderson Lake (Geauga County) - This 82-acre lake in Punderson State Park on State Route 87 is providing excellent bluegill and channel cat fishing. Catfish stocked in 2001 are providing good opportunities to catch 16- to 18-inch fish while over 2,000 yearling catfish, stocked in 2003, are also providing good fishing. Also to note: a total of 2,052 yearling channel catfish were stocked in 2005. The daily bag limit on channel catfish at this lake is six fish per person. Surplus broodstock rainbow and golden-strain rainbow trout (averaging 16 to 24 inches) are stocked generally on the Tuesday (afternoon) before Thanksgiving. The bag limit for trout is five fish per person daily. Electric motors only.
Mosquito Creek Lake (Trumbull County) — Anglers are catching a few walleyes just before dark while casting jig and minnow combinations or crankbaits. Before what appears to be a temporary ice up, wading seems to be the best since water levels are low. Prior to the cold snap, boating anglers were catching crappies vertically jigging tube jigs or jigs with Twister Tails a foot or two off the bottom, reports Oscar Kachenko of Causeway Sporting Goods. Look for old roadbeds for the best crappie bite. Walleyes are being caught primarily near the dam off the rocks. Kachenko said the most popular bait is a No. 11 Rapala.
Causeway Sporting Goods, 330-637-7076
Rocky Fork Lake (Highland County) — A few lucky anglers have been catching crappie off Christmas trees and brush piles near shore, reports Leon Cole of Cole’s Bait and Tackle in Bainbridge. The crappies are hitting jig tipped with minnows fished under a bobber in 12 to 14 feet of water. Crappies are being caught in the main lake at depths of 18 to 19 feet. Cole also reports large numbers of Canada geese and coots on the lake just prior to the second split waterfowl opener in the south zone.
Cole’s Bait and Tackle, 937-365-1436
Paint Creek Lake (Highland and Ross counties — The crappie bite has been good at this lake, which is well known in the region for its sizeable population of panfish After a brief ice up, most of the lake was open water as of Dec. 13 Successful anglers have been fishing near the campground at depths five to seven feet, reports Leon Cole of Cole’s Bait and Tackle. The popular set up has been jigs tipped with minnows. In the tailwaters, anglers are catching some saugeye and crappies on jigs with Twister Tails.
Cole’s Bait and Tackle, 937-365-1436
Forked Run Lake (Meigs County) - Anglers fishing for bluegill have been successful fishing below the spillway. Bluegill up to seven and a half inches have been caught while fishing wax worms or meal worms under a bobber.
Seneca Lake (Guernsey and Noble counties) - Angler success for crappie, bluegill, and white bass have recently been improving. Fish minnows under a slip bobber or with jigs over submerged structure throughout the lake. Submerged structure is marked along the shoreline with florescent paint on nearby trees. Maps including the location of submerged structure are available by calling the DNR Division of Wildlife District 4 office at (740) 589-9930. There is a nine-inch minimum length limit for crappie in effect on this 3,508-acre lake.
Salt Fork Lake (Guernsey County) - With the water temperature just above 40 degrees, saugeyes are being caught by using Vib-E and Lil’ Nitros with “clown” color being the most popular. Old favorites of silver and gold are still working as well, reports Salt Fork Outdoors. A 6 1/2-pound saugeye was brought in on Dec. 10. A few crappies are being taken but it has slowed down from a week ago. White bass seems to have slowed also. With deer gun season over, anglers are starting to work the waters again. The area between Sugartree Marina and North Salem ramp seems to be the hot spot for white bass. Cabin Bay is also producing a few fish. Vib-Es and Lil’ Nitros in the “clown” color seems to be the top bait.
Salt Fork Outdoors, 740-439-4570, www.saltforkoutdoors.com
LAKE ERIE REGION
Field reports from the DNR Division of Wildlife indicate ice covers much of the Lake Erie marshes and dabblers are fielding in fields. There were no big rafts of divers indicated on the last Division of Wildlife aerial survey flown on Dec. 6. The Ohio north zone second split season runs from Dec. 23 to Dec. 31 for ducks and Dec. 23 through Jan. 7 for geese.
Weather conditions have limited Lake Erie fishing opportunities. The fishing report from the week of Thanksgiving is listed below, since no new information is available. If temperatures recover and the wind decreases, the walleye fishing should continue to be good in the same areas listed below.
Walleye fishing remains hot from Cedar Point to Vermilion, as well as in Cleveland. Water depths have ranged from 25 feet to 45 feet, with some fish coming in shallower water. Crankbaits have been the ticket for both numbers and size, and large fish are being taken on Reef Runners, Ripsticks (try Blueberry Muffin, Blue Hawaiian, Wonderbread, and Mooneye), and Rapala Husky Jerks (Glass colors seem better). Most fish have been caught in the top 10 to 15 feet of water. Night fishing success from both piers and boats has been sporadic.
Yellow perch fishing has been spotty. Few catches have been reported as most anglers have either switched to walleyes or finished for the year. Try traditional areas from Catawba to Cleveland. Be prepared to search for fish.
Steelhead: All Lake Erie tributaries are near flood stage and muddy. Smaller rivers are also high. Good numbers of fish were reported to be caught in the lower to middle sections of the rivers, in harbors and on break walls. Fresh fish are in; many fish are now up into the upper reaches of the streams. The Vermilion and Rocky rivers were reported to be the best spots over the past couple of weeks when the weather cooperates. Snow melt and rain in northern Ohio will make area rivers challenging for the near future.
For recent updates on the steelhead fishery, visit the Division of Wildlife steelhead web page at: http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/wildlife/fishing/fairport/steelhead.htm To view the predicted weather forecast for Lake Erie visit: http://weather.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/fmtbltn.pl?file=forecasts/marine/great_lakes/le/lez160.txt
Lake Erie surface temperatures range from 35 to 46.
OHIO RIVER REGION
Brown County: The crappie bite has been good below Higginsport at the mouth of White Oak Creek, reports Leon Cole of Cole’s Bait and Tackle in Bainbridge. Cole boated a few slabs during the week of Dec. 11 using tube jigs.
Ironton: With water levels stabilizing, anglers are catching a few sauger in the eight- to nine-inch range but a few bigger ones up to 13 inches are starting to mix into the bag, reports Greg Drown of the Tackle Box in Ironton. The popular set up has been jigs tipped with grubs while a few are producing the bite on spoons. Some walleye and white bass are being caught although the bite has been sporadic, Drown said.
Clermont County - Meldahl Dam Pool - Sauger are being caught near the dam. Successful anglers are using minnows baited on a floating jig head. Anglers are also catching crappies by fishing a minnow. The best spots to cast are into the creeks that enter the Ohio River.
Tackle Box (Ironton), 740-533-1187