Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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A muskie fishing outlook for 2006

Ohio committed to muskie anglers’ unique
pursuit

By Greg Keefer Contributing Writer

Columbus — Muskie fishing is improving in the Buckeye state,
largely as a result of the efforts of the DNR Division of
Wildlife.

Not only are the numbers of these powerful gamefish increasing,
but their sizes are as well, a secret that hasn’t eluded the
growing number of muskie anglers statewide.

The DNR has designated eight program lakes that will receive
varying numbers of fingerling muskies this year. The initial
stockings of smaller muskies in years past produced fewer numbers
of catchable fish than the present stocking of larger fingerlings
now offers. Even muskies can fall to bass predation when they’re
small.

Program lakes were selected based on their size, habitat
considerations and location. The intention is to offer anglers
statewide the opportunity to catch fish measuring up to 50
inches.

“We now have lakes that we stock and the annual production of
muskie fingerlings is routinely above the production target, which
allows more to be stocked than expected. In 2005, the production of
advanced fingerlings was 21,639 fish,” said Elmer Heyob, the
fisheries biologist who serves as the liaison between the DNR and
the public in muskie matters.

“The fisheries outlook for all eight program lakes is very good
to excellent,” Heyob said. “Not only are the lakes consistently
receiving their full stocking compliment of advanced fingerlings
every year, the quality and vitality of these fish is better than
ever.”

But there has been a problem, said Heyob. The record wet seasons
over the last four years have contributed to muddy conditions and
turbidity that prevents good growth of submerged vegetation. Rising
water levels have allowed more fish to escape over the dams into
downstream areas as well, causing some difficulty for the
sight-feeding muskies.

But the problems haven’t slowed the progress of the statewide
fishery.

Each of the program lakes offers excellent fishing, some for
numbers, such as Clear Fork and Leesville, and others for
trophy-class fish, such as Salt Fork and West Branch.

As both a biologist and muskie hunter, Heyob knows muskies both
on and off the water. His favorite lake to tangle with the quarry
is Alum Creek in Delaware County.

“Alum is close. I help manage it and it has lots of structure,”
he said. “ The only drawback is that it hasn’t had a quality
weedbed since 1998. It does have a ring of musk grass around many
of the shallow areas and some very fine-leafed pondweed, but both
are poor muskie attractors.”

Central Ohio anglers visiting Alum will have to settle for
targeting rock structure and bottom contour changes.

The Salt Fork Reservoir dam in Guernsey County has had seepage
problems, so the water level is down about five feet. Muskie
hunters will have to look for submerged structure since shallow
hotspots are high and dry. A few monster muskies are taken every
year on this sprawling, 2,936-acre lake.

Caesar Creek is located in Warren and Clinton counties. Anglers
can target big muskies there.

Thousand-acre Leesville Lake in Carroll County is where Don
Weaver, president of Ohio Huskie Muskies, has caught well over 600
muskies. Extensive weedbeds produce both good numbers and sizes at
the same time.

“Clear Fork’s coontail beds have really struggled because of all
the rain and the Ohio Huskie Muskie scale samples show that the
fishery slipped this past year,” said Heyob.

Though big fish are caught, the large shad population supports
as many as two muskies per acre. They can be caught in the weeds
and sometimes along the shoreline.

West Branch is another big muskie lake. It may take awhile to
coax a strike, but it’s likely to be a good fish that takes the
bait.

“Anglers catch 50-inch fish there,” said Heyob.

Cowan Lake in Clinton County covers 681 acres and is better
known for largemouth bass. There aren’t a lot of muskies there but
some big ones are hooked.

The state record was caught in 1972 in Piedmont reservoir in
Harrison and Belmont counties. The fish weighed in at 55 pounds,
two ounces and measured over 50 inches.

Pymatuning Lake in Ashtabula County covers 14,650 acres and
portions are in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Ohio’s commitment to
provide the lake with 5,000 fingerlings annually has expired. The
Pennsylvania Game Commission still stocks muskies into the
lake.

“It’s a long drive for some anglers, but Pymatuning has some
quality coontail beds for guys who like to cast. May and June
always seem to be the best weedbed bites,” said Heyob.

According to Heyob, anglers will find excellent muskie fishing
in Ohio’s stocked lakes again this year.

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