Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Ohio Lake Profile – Acton Lake, Preble/Butler counties

 

Acton Lake may be one of Ohio’s best largemouth fisheries

 

By Mike Moore
Editor

 

College Corner, Ohio — Though the saugeye fishery is a relatively new offering at Acton Lake in southwest Ohio, the largemouth bass population is not.

 

Bass are well-established at this 592-acre lake that at least one fishery biologist believes is one of the best bass lakes in Ohio.

 

“Acton is probably one of the premier bass lakes in the state for numbers and size of fish per acre,” said Kipp Brown, a fishery biologist for the ODNR Division of Wildlife in southwest Ohio.

 

Acton Lake is in Hueston Woods State Park, just a few miles from Oxford, Ohio, and Miami University.

 

Acton’s largemouth bass have responded well to a 15-inch minimum keeper limit in place since 1990, according to the DNR Division of Wildlife. The population is healthy, with most fish in the 12- to 17-inch range and some up to 5 pounds.

 

“Probably in the next year or two, we’ll be deciding whether (the minimum keeper reg) stays or goes,” Brown said.

 

The catch rate for largemouth bass ranks right up there with the best bass waters in the state. And the lake’s shad population keeps those bass fed and healthy.

 

In spring, fish for bass around boat docks and fallen shoreline trees. In summer and fall, try the steeper shoreline areas on the east side of the lake and near the dam, where the depth is about 30 feet.

 

Saugeyes aren’t forgotten, however, as a stocking program has been ongoing since 2004.

 

“Last year, we had great catch-per-unit efforts in fall sampling,” Brown said of the saugeye population. “Not as good this (fall). For whatever reason, it seems to fluctuate a little bit. We’ll have good year classes followed by those that are lesser.”

 

The Division of Wildlife, Brown said, is evaluating the regulation of a 15-inch keeper minimum for saugeyes. But, that regulation stands at least for now.

 

The best areas to fish for saugeyes in the spring, Brown said, is the 5- to 15-foot depths on the west side of the lake from what is known as the “Sugar Camp” down to the dam. Cast shad-patterned crankbaits or small jigs with plastic bodies. Later in summer, try trolling deep diving lures or bottom bouncing nightcrawler rigs.

 

Acton also contains good numbers of channel catfish, according to Division of Wildlife surveys. Sizes range from 12 to 16 inches with some up to 10 pounds. Night fishing is best from June through August.

 

“It’s mostly channel cats – you rarely ever see a flathead there,” Brown said. “It’s about an average catfish lake. It’s what you would expect for a lake like that. There are some decent-sized fish in there that are long-lived, and there’s fair numbers of them.”

 

Crappies are fairly well distributed, and there’s no longer a 9-inch keeper minimum or 30-fish bag on Acton. According to the Division of Wildlife, crappies on Acton are averaging 10.25 inches as 2-year-olds. 

 

“The reason we (pulled the regulation) is that we had a really stunted population of fish,” said Brown. “So, we decided that this was a place where the reg really wasn’t helping. What we’re finding now is that it’s mostly white crappies and we no longer have a stunted population … and, the growth rates have gone up significantly.”

 

In the fall, try fishing around fallen shoreline trees in water less than 6 feet deep. Live minnows, wax worms, and small jigs are all productive. 

 

Plenty of 6- to 8-inch bluegills are caught on red worms, wax worms, and meal worms. The best bite for these panfish is around woody cover in the lower half of lake. 

 

“Bluegills have just been outstanding,” Brown said. “The last three years, we’ve had really good growth rates, really good numbers, and fish up to and a little bit over 8 inches.”

 

There’s one good sized boat launch with a marina on the northwest side of the lake. The boating horsepower limitation is unlimited, but the regulation is for idle speeds only for boats over 10 hp.

 

There is a good amount of shoreline angling possibilities all around the lake, including in the tailwaters below the dam. There’s also an accessible fishing pier near Sugar Camp.

 

“Either last year or the year before we put fish attractors in at Sugar Camp,” Brown said. “That just enhances what is probably already the best shore spot on the entire lake.”

 

Right now, the lake levels are down about 30 inches as of Nov. 13, said Brown.

 

“Hopefully, that’ll come back up a little bit,” he said. “… The big thing right now is that people have to be really careful, particularly in bigger boats, when they launch … and, obviously right now staying in the channel would be really wise.” 

 

Division of Wildlife creel survey crews were severely curtailed this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. At Acton, though, there are signs with card holders scattered around the lake that anglers can access to fill out the cards and make their opinions known.

 

“If people can fill those out and send them in, that is a huge help to us,” Brown said. “We love to hear from our anglers because really none of this work is done without angler input.”

 

The nearly 3,000-acre Hueston Woods State Park offers a 94-unit lodge in addition to cabins. There’s also a campground with nearly 500 sites.

Acton Lake

Nearest town: College Corner

Surface area: 592 acres

Maximum depth: 30 feet

Shore length: 8 miles

 

Fish species present: saugeye, channel catfish, black crappies, white crappies, largemouth bass, bluegills, carp.

 

For information: Hueston Woods State Park: 513-523-6347; Division of Wildlife District 5: (937) 372-9261.

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