No ice in sight, but open water anglers still fishing
Mild temperatures have continued through much of January, but that hasn’t translated into good fishing at most places surveyed by Ohio Outdoor News. Fishing pressure has been light to non-existent, report many bait shop operators. With that said, here’s a look at a handful of Ohio fishing destinations, region by region:
Buckeye Lake (Fairfield, Licking and Perry counties) — The saugeye bite has been strong with fish all the way up to 14 to 19 inches and larger, according to Bob Mathie at Bob’s Outdoor Supply in Newark. Mathie said the saugeye bite has been coming on Smithwick Rogues and Husky Jerks retrieved slowly. Some anglers are also using bass minnows tipped on floating jigs. The best areas have been around the old park, Sellar’s Point, and Fairfield beach at night. The crappie bite has been decent as well, but Mathie said fishing pressure has been light.
Bob’s Outdoor Supply, 740-349-0992.
Deer Creek Lake (Fayette, Pickaway, Madison counties) — Randy Sheets of Mt. Sterling recently hauled a 4-pound, 9-ounce saugeye out of the spillway at Deer Creek Lake in central Ohio. The fish hit a pink tube bait, according to Jack McKirgan at Mary’s Bait Shop in Washington Court House. McKirgan said fishing pressure has been light due to windy and cold weather. Some boating anglers have been fishing for crappie, but there were no reports of good hauls, McKirgan said.
Mary’s Bait Shop, 740-869-3597.
Grand Lake St. Marys (Mercer and Auglaize counties) — Before a brief cold weather snap in mid-January, anglers were catching good numbers of crappies and bluegill, primarily around docks, reports Jeff Toben of the Outdoorsman bait and tackle shop. The popular set up was jigs tipped with minnows or wax worms. The Outdoorsman runs a year-long big fish contest and the current crappie leader is a 11/2-pound fish caught in January, said Toben.
Outdoorsman, 419-394-5769, www.eastbankmarina.com/outdoorsman.htm
Indian Lake (Logan County) — Good numbers of saugeyes are being caught on a variety of baits, reports Tim Harshbarger of Lakeside Pro Bass Shop. Suspending stick baits have been popular fished on bottom. Blackhawk, Dream Bridge, and Moundwood have been the most productive areas. Crappies and bluegills are biting on small ice jigs tipped with minnows. Blackhawk has been a productive area for panfish. Anglers are employing crappie rigs or spreaders to pick up some yellow perch near Paradise Island.
Lakeside Pro Bass Shop, 937-843-2488.
Tappan Lake (Harrison County) — The DNR Division of Wildlife on Jan. 4 sunk Christmas trees in parts of this 2,131-acre reservoir as artificial habitat. Tappan is known for opportunities for bass, crappie, saugeye, yellow perch, and channel catfish.
Division of Wildlife, District 3, 330-644-2293.
Mosquito Creek Lake (Trumbull County) — Fishing on Mosquito Creek Lake has been just fair to poor, reports Oscar Kachenko of Causeway Sporting Goods. It hasn’t been cold enough to form any ice on the lake and intermittent periods of rain are keeping anglers off the lake for the most part.
Causeway Sporting Goods, 330-637-7076
Clendening Lake (Harrison County) — This 1,800-acre Muskingum Watershed Conservancy lake is known for big saugeyes. The popular method for catching these hybrid walleye cousins at this time of year is vertically jigging blade baits from bridges in the area, said Tom Sikora of Pitstop/Star Fire Express in Martins Ferry. Sikora said, however, that this method of fishing hasn’t been employed all that much this winter with water levels being about five feet below normal. When conditions permit, Sikora said he’s seen saugeye up to 10 pounds being caught using this method.
Pitstop/Star Fire Express, 740-633-3170
Leesville Lake (Carroll County) — Leesville, another Muskingum Watershed Conservancy Lake, was the best spot in Ohio to catch big muskies last year, according to the Ohio Husky Muskie Club. Anglers are still chasing muskies through the winter at this 1,000-acre impoundment but without many positive results, reports Tom Sikora of Pitstop/Star Fire Express.
Pitstop/Star Fire Express, 740-633-3170.
Rocky Fork Lake (Highland County) — Some crappies are being caught near the restaurant and the docks in shallow water areas, reports Leon Cole of Cole’s Bait and Tackle. Saugeyes have been caught in the south beach area with the most popular bait being a 1/4-ounce lead head jig in chartreuse.
Cole’s Bait and Tackle, 937-365-1436
Paint Creek Lake (Highland and Ross counties — Water levels remain high, but some crappies are being caught in the campground area on jig and minnow combinations, reports Leon Cole of Cole’s Bait and Tackle. Saugeyes are being taken below the spillway on chartreuse or pink jigs.
Cole’s Bait and Tackle, 937-365-1436
Seneca Lake (Guernsey and Noble counties) - Anglers are catching good numbers of crappie at this 3,550-acre lake near Senecaville, according to Tom Dodd at T&L General Merchandise. Sizes have ranged anywhere from 10 to 14 inches. The popular set up has been a jig and minnow combination, but the successful anglers are keeping the best locations a secret, Dodd said.
T&L General Merchandise, 740-685-2060
Salt Fork Lake (Guernsey County) - Water temperatures are hovering around the 40-degree mark. Saugeyes as heavy as 7 to 8 pounds have been caught recently, according to Bob Mathie of Bob’s Outdoor Supply. The key, according to Mathie, is to find suspended schools of shad and fish a blade bait beneath them. Crazy Blades and Vib-Es are producing the bite, he said. Salt Fork Outdoors reports that saugeye remain the most sought after fish. However, the larger fish that were being caught in past weeks are coming few and far between. Reports of limits of 15 to 20 fish are still coming in, however. Muskie trollers reported they were catching fish in the morning. Two 36-inchers, a 40-incher, and 44-incher were reported on Jan. 5. The white bass and crappie bite has been poor. Structure maps are available by calling the DNR Division of Wildlife District 4 office at 740-589-9930.
Salt Fork Outdoors, 740-439-4570, www.saltforkoutdoors.com
Division of Wildlife District 4, 740-589-9930
LAKE ERIE REGION
The walleye daily bag limit is six fish. A 15-inch minimum size limit for walleye remains in effect for the entire season. The Lake Erie daily bag limit for yellow perch is 40 fish. The daily bag limit for black bass (largemouth, smallmouth) on Lake Erie is five. The minimum size limit for black bass on Lake Erie is 14 inches. The steelhead trout bag limit is two. The minimum size limit for steelhead is 12 inches.
Lake Erie surface temperatures are in the upper 30s. With decreasing water temperatures, be sure to take extra precaution when fishing on Lake Erie, advises the DNR Division of Wildlife.
Lake Erie continues to produce rare January open water walleye fishing opportunities with some limit catches, including trophy fish up to and over 10 pounds. The best fishing recently has been around the Huron dumping grounds and near shore from Huron to Vermilion. Fish have also been caught along the Cleveland lakefront. Crankbaits have been the ticket for both numbers and size, and large fish are being taken on Reef Runners, Ripsticks (Blueberry Muffin, Blue Hawaiian, Wonderbread, and Mooneye), and Rapala Husky Jerks (Glass colors seem better). Most fish have been caught in the upper portion of the water column. Night fishing success from both piers and boats has been sporadic.
Steelhead: All rivers are high and muddy due to recent showers. Smaller creeks are also up. It may take several days of dry weather to clear the main tributaries; smaller streams will fish first. When ideal conditions existed, good numbers of fish were reported to be caught throughout the rivers, feeder creeks, in harbors, and on break walls, including on the Chagrin, Rocky, Vermilion, and Grand rivers.
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
OHIO RIVER REGION
As usual, anglers have had success fishing for catfish on the Ohio River in southeast Ohio using cut baits fished just off the bottom. For current river conditions, including depth and temperatures, check out the US Army Corps of Engineers Web site at http://www.lrd-wc.usace.army.mil/
In the Martins Ferry area, anglers had been catching decent numbers of saugeye in the Ohio River, reports Tom Sikora of Pitstop/Star Fire Express in Martins Ferry. High water levels with rains in recent weeks has shut that bite down for the time being, however.
In the Belpre area, water levels are high but a few anglers are catching some walleye and sauger, according to Hornbecks Bait and Tackle. The popular bait has been Yum walleye salty three-inch grubs in chartreuse and Bumble Bee.
In Clermont County, the Markland pool has been giving up a few channel catfish, reports Matt McKinney, an avid southwest Ohio river angler. McKinney said he’s averaging two to three fish per trip with at least one going over 15 pounds each time. He even boated a 31-pound blue cat Jan. 6 fishing in about 23 feet of water near New Richmond. All fish have been coming off shad fillets, or shad heads. Fishing has been inconsistent, however, reports McKinney, with this winter’s fluctuating weather patterns and warmer than usual temperatures.
In the Ironton area, Greg Holbert with the Tackle Box reports river conditions are high and muddy. Anglers are picking up a few sauger and white bass in the creek mouths using spoons or 1/8- to 1/4-ounce jigs with twister tails in yellow, orange, white, or chartreuse. Holbert said any color twister tail should produce fish.
Tackle Box (Ironton), 740-533-1187
Hornbecks Bait & Tackle (Belpre), 740-423-1949.
Pitstop/Star Fire Express (Martins Ferry), 740-633-3170.