Thursday, January 26th, 2023
Thursday, January 26th, 2023

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Ohio Lake Profile – Cowan Lake, Clinton County

Crappies, saugeyes plentiful at southwest Ohio’s Cowan


By Mike Moore


Cowan Lake, in a state park of the same name outside of Wilmington, is a scenic lake in southwest Ohio and the fishing is fairly good as well.


And, the angling should only get better in the ensuing years, said Kipp Brown, a fisheries biologist in Xenia for the DNR Division of Wildlife.


At 695 acres, Cowan is in the middle of the road size-wise for all Ohio lakes. Not too big and not too small. One thing it has going for it that is pleasing to anglers is that there is a 10 horsepower limitation on boat motors. Recreational traffic, therefore, is fairly minimal.


The DNR Division of Parks and Watercraft “provides several boat ramps, campgrounds, and beaches,” Brown said. “Very good access to the lake.”


“It’s a very laid back lake,” Brown said. “A lot of wooded shoreline. The upper end has a lot of water lily and lotus. And, there’s a pretty good finger off the campground beach, and it will also get a lot of lotus in it.”


It might seem counterintuitive, but there’s never been a 9-inch keeper limit on crappies at Cowan Lake.


“We did not impose it when we expanded our number of lakes (with the restriction) and the reason was because all of our data up to that point suggested that Cowan Lake had an overabundance of crappies,” Brown said. “So, implementing a 9-inch limit would just potentially stunt that population.”


Since then, Brown said, growth rates have been better, causing the biologist to term Cowan as “one of the best crappie lakes in our district, especially given its size.”


Cowan was previously stocked with muskies, but that program was discontinued in 2007.


“We stocked them for a very long time in there,” Brown said. “But, we never really heard much in returns and never really saw much.”


Saugeyes have been stocked at Cowan since 2001. Last year, 141,972 fingerlings were stocked out of the division’s hatcheries. The lake also received a bonus stocking of 950, 320 fry, according to Brown.


“What we generally think is that 1-2% of those (fry) will make it,” he said. “For fry especially, you stock it super heavily.


“My guess is that in about another year or so we’re going to see phenomenal saugeye fishing there,” Brown continued. “From our data, a saugeye at age 2 is about 15 inches. At age 3, which are fish that have been in the lake four years, they’re hitting about 22 inches … It should be a banner fishery.”


Largemouth bass were sampled by the Division of Wildlife two years ago. During that survey, during one night of electrofishing, crews collected 677 bass, according to Brown.


“The lake is very much set up for bass – shallow upper end, very nutriently active, lots of structure on the shoreline,” he said. “It’s just a very good place for bass, and most sunfish, to live.”


The median size of those bass collected was 14 inches. Fifty-two percent of the 677 bass sampled were between 12 and 15 inches.


“What we were seeing with our growth rates there is that a bass that has been in the lake for three years is a little over 12 inches,” Brown said. “ … So, what it really reminds me of is like an Acton Lake. Really healthy, good looking group of fish.”


On the catfish side of the ledger, there are some nice shovelheads in Cowan, according to Brown.


“Some are up to 20 to 30 pounds, good, healthy looking fish,” he said. “There’s also a strong channel cat population as well.”


Bluegills are also numerous, but the fish will run in the smaller range of 7 to 9 inches, said Brown.


The Division of Wildlife early this year installed some artificial fish attractors in Cowan Lake among others. Six individual tree piles of 25 trees per pile were set in the lake, according to Brown. To print a map of the fish attractor locations, go to the fishing section on


In the southeast corner of the lake, which would be the upper end, there is a youth fishing pond that is stocked by the Division of Wildlife. There’s a fishing pier there that is surrounded by fish attractors.

Cowan Lake

Nearest town Wilmington

Surface area 695 acres

Maximum depth 42 feet

Shore length 14 miles


Fish species present:

Saugeye, bullhead catfish, channel catfish, black crappie, white crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, carp, shovelhead catfish.


For information:

DNR Division of Wildlife District 5: 937-372-9261; Cowan Lake State Park office: 937-289-2105.

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