Channel catfish is king at southwest’s Stonelick
By Mike Moore
If you’re an angler looking to tie into some channel catfish in southwest Ohio, Stonelick Lake wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
This thin ribbon of water in Clermont County is only 161 acres in size, but it is loaded with catfish.
“I kind of think of Stonelick and (nearby) Grant Lake as overgrown farm ponds,” said Kipp Brown, a fisheries biologist for the ODNR Division of Wildlife in Xenia. “They’re a little bit different from our big lakes, which are real shad heavy with a lot of depth and shoreline contour.
“But, these small lakes can be extremely productive,” he said.
In 2016, the Division of Wildlife teamed up with Ohio State University to study whether fingerling or yearling stockings of catfish would be best, said Brown. The lake is stocked every other year with catfish.
“That year (2016), we actually stocked both (yearlings and fingerlings),” Brown said. “So, that year it got 5,400 fingerlings and 2,400 yearlings. They were pit-tagged so we could tell them apart.”
In 2018, the division ran a hoop net survey for catfish.
“We did really, really well on catfish,” Brown said. “We collected 632 channels. The largest was a little over 28 inches and 11 pounds. The average was 14 inches and 2.25 pounds.
“As far as a place to go and absolutely have a ball catfishing, it’s a top lake,” he said.
As a bonus, during electrofishing surveys in recent years, some nice flathead catfish have been sampled in Stonelick’s waters, says Brown.
“It’s got a fair number (of flatheads) but some fish up to 20 to 25 pounds,” he said. “And, a 28-inch channel is a healthy fish. These fish are very long-lived in these smaller systems that don’t get a lot of harvest pressure.”
This year, another 8,000 fingerling channel catfish were stocked.
The Division of Wildlife just started using hoop net surveys for catfish within the past five years.
“What we’ve already learned is that these (catfish) are a lot older than we expected and their survival is incredible,” Brown said. “So, it’s really adjusted our thinking on things.
“These small lakes just have incredible catfish fisheries in them,” he said. “And Stonelick is right at the top, it’s incredible how many fish per acre there are in there.”
There’s a fair population of bass in Stonelick’s waters, according to the Division of Wildlife’s last survey in 2016. The biggest largemouth caught in that survey was 19 inches and the average was right around 13 inches.
Sunfish species, such as bluegills, are rated as fair as well.
Rainbow trout are stocked in the spring, providing a put and take fishery. Those fish typically will be out of the system by the hot summer months of June, July, and August.
Most of the lake, with the exception of the dam area, is between 3 and 6 feet deep, said Brown.
There is a campground at the upper end of the lake.
There is a boater restriction of electric motors only. There is one boat ramp on the lake.
“There are some paths around parts of the lake that provide some decent (shoreline) access,” Brown said. “ … On the southern shoreline, there’s a beach area and some good open fishing access fairly close to it. On thet north side, there’s some trails that go back through the woods that will also give you pretty decent access.”
A kayak or a canoe would be a good vessel to use on Stonelick, which Brown calls “a farm pond on steroids.”
“I love to fish places like this,” said Brown. “They tend to be quiet and peaceful, and you can catch a lot of fish for your effort.”
Stonelick Lake is an old impoundment, built in 1949 for the purpose of recreation, writes Tom Cross in his 2008 book Fishing Ohio.
Stonelick is surrounded by the 1,058-acre Stonelick State Park, which offers amenities such as hiking trails, a public beach, boat rentals, and the aforementioned boat ramp.
“Shoreline access is excellent all around the lake,” says Cross. “And, channel catfish can be found anywhere. In summer, use chicken livers, shrimp, or cut shad at night.”
Nearest town: Edenton
Surface area: 161 acres
Maximum depth: 20 feet
Shore length: 10 miles
Fish species present: largemouth bass, rainbow trout (seasonally), bluegills, crappies, channel catfish, carp.
For information: ODNR Division of Wildlife, District 5: 937-372-9261.