For blue catfish and more, try Caesar Creek Lake
Congress authorized Caesar Creek Lake under the Flood Control Act of 1938. Construction of the dam began in October 1971 and the gates were closed to start filling in January 1978. It encompasses about 2,830 acres at the normal summer pool level. With a depth of 115 feet near the dam, it is the one of the deepest inland lakes in Ohio.
“It’s got depths of over 100 feet, which is pretty unusual,” said Mike Porto, a fisheries biologist with the Division of Wildlife in southwest Ohio. “It makes it difficult to fish because it’s got a lot of steep drops. You can be fishing near shore and before you know it you’re in 20-30 feet of water. It’s just different from a lot of our lakes in southwest Ohio.”
The marina, which was opened in the spring of 2016, is built to float with the fluctuating water level due to the flood control requirement.
Five boat ramps offer convenient access around the lake. The Wellman Prairie Ramp at the south end near the dam is a favorite of fishermen. It is in a no-wake area that makes loading a boat easier. Parking is ample although there are no pull-through spots. The ramp at the campground is great when fishing the northern part of the lake. Many maps still show the Haines Road boat ramp on the northwest side of the lake. Haines Road has been renamed to Young Road so some map and GPS confusion may result. It provides access to the river at the north end of the lake. The channel winds its way to the main lake and often has significant vegetation growth especially in the summer months. The North Pool boat ramp is often very busy. The waves and boat traffic can make loading the boat a little tricky here.
The lake offers a variety of fish structure from the creek tributaries to steep shores and into the deeper water at the southern end of the lake. There are plenty of gravel and sandy areas that form small bays around the lake. The coves still have a large number of standing timber and brush. Fishermen should use caution as many trees have now rotted off just below the water’s surface. Caution should also be used in the spring following heavy rains as there will often be debris in the lake.
Crappie fishing is especially good in the spring during the spawn. The crappies will be in the abundant tree tops and brush lines that dot the lake. Division of Wildlife creel surveys indicate that the crappie catch rate has been steadily improving with 2017 the best year since 2005. The average length reported is about 10 inches for both white and black crappies.
“It’s a very stable population,” Porto said. “It produces big numbers of fish for a lot of people out there.”
The Division of Wildlife started stocking blue catfish at Caesar Creek two years ago, said Porto.
“… Our hatcheries have been able to produce (blue catfish) every year so we’ve expanded that program,” he said. “ … (Caesar Creek) is a big, deep lake and a lot of those (catfish) like to suspend out there. We’ve had some reports of guys catching them this year.”
The largest blue catfish you’ll find right now is about an 18-inch fish, said Porto. But, they’ll grow, potentially to trophy sizes, over the next few years.
“We’re hoping that this will turn into a trophy fishery,” he said.
The Division of Wildlife reports that Caesar Creek is currently ranked fourth in the state for numbers of white bass. The tributaries of Anderson Fork and Caesar Creek are known locally for white bass runs each spring. Later in the summer, white bass can often be spotted chasing shad in the open water. The surveys indicate a good population of 8- to 11-inch white bass with a fair number ranging up to about 14 inches.
There are also good numbers of channel cats with some in the 8-pound or more range. Channel catfish caught during 2017 netting surveys averaged 19 inches with fish up to 31 inches. Many catfishermen target the northern end of the lake above the Young Road boat ramp and into the tributaries.
A significant success story for Caesar Creek Lake is the continued growth of the saugeye and muskie fisheries. Both species have been intensely managed and stocked by the Division of Wildlife. There were more than 6.6 million saugeye fingerlings stocked between 2000 and 2012. Beginning in 2013, a project was started to evaluate the effectiveness of stocking fry rather than the smaller fingerlings. Approximately 281,000 fingerlings were stocked in 2014 and 2016. In 2017, there were 2.9 million fry and 166,200 fingerlings stocked. The lake gets about 1,000 new saugeyes per acre annually.
“You have to find what depth they’re holding at more than anything,” Porto said of the saugeye fishing. “ … You have to dial that in. That’s one lake where if you’re looking for trophy saugeyes, that’s the place to go. We see fish well into the upper 20-inch range.”
Muskie fishing is the hot topic. The stocking program began in 1998 but it was about 10 years before muskies were noticed by fishermen.
“That program has been very successful up to this point,” Porto said. “The number of muskies that are in there is just amazing.”
Porto said an angler caught a 48-inch muskie just a couple of years ago.
“In the last four or five years, it’s gotten really good muskie stockings and there’s lots of fish in the mid- to upper 30s,” he said.
Smallmouth, spotted, and largemouth bass are also part of the offerings.
Caesar Creek Lake
Nearest town Harveysburg
Surface area 2,600 acres
Maximum depth 115 feet
Shore length 40 miles
Fish species present:
Saugeye, flathead catfish, channel catfish, black crappie, white crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill, white bass, muskie, blue catfish.
Caesar Creek State Park Office: 513-897-3055; Division of Wildlife District 5: 937-372-9261.