Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Smaller streaming sometimes just the right tonic

By Bob “Greenie” Grewell
Contributing Writer


If you’ve fished large lakes across Ohio, you often find many of them frustratingly crowded. You might have caught fish. But, if your fishing goals follow a conviction that “big water is better,” you’re missing out. If you overlook the magic of Ohio’s small streams, you’re cheating yourself.


Privacy on large bodies of water is becoming an experience of the past. Fishing pressure increasingly converges on “free-for-all” public lakes. Include the masses of recreational boats and sport fishermen, and today’s inland lakes overflow with human presence. That’s fine because these lakes are designed for everyone’s pleasures. Unfortunately, sometimes too many people can be too much for fishermen. 


I’m not suggesting easy-to-reach lakes aren’t good fishing. But, smaller waterways are often underrated because they receive less pressure. And, they offer numerous fish species, as well as a diversity of fishing habitats.


Look around your home. You’ll notice networks of creeks and snaking streams.  Many times, they are seldom fished because of their smaller sizes. This makes them appear to be unattractive to fishermen who believe their limited sizes and changing depths make fishing them a waste of time. But, in some cases, they can be “virgin” because of their limited visitation.


Consider that small streams support a variety of fish species, in numerous sizes and quantities. There are different methods of fishing their vein-like configurations, too. Walk the banks at random, free-float in a small boat, canoe, or belly-boat. Or, wade the shallows. The reviving pleasures of fishing private stretches of water, while having the landscape to yourself, is immeasurable.


Explore one of these watery highways and sneak along the protruding banks. You’ll notice attractive pools, possibly exposing an adventure around every bend. Floating their relaxing currents and varying depths produce fish from pockets that might otherwise be difficult to reach from the bank. Stream fishing is also less boring because scenery and opportunities change frequently.


Spend a few hours traveling the lengths of a stream or creek and you’ll realize there is skill required to stalk and outwit fish. Fishing quickly becomes a renewed art form. If you study structures within the water, and work around bankside vegetation, you’re re-educated to the value of “woodsmanship.” 


Today’s advanced electronic gadgets, high-powered boats, and hordes of fishermen can make fishing less challenging. Getting away to quiet, uninhabited water is often thought of as an experience of the past. Thankfully, it’s still available in Ohio, if we just take the time to visit these small fish sanctuaries.


Another attribute of free-flowing waters is their differing physiques. For example: As you approach secluded stretches where the water slows, you will notice portions that eventually spill into riffles. Then, wind around a rolling hillside where you’ll be treated to new opportunities. It’s easy to find places to slay hungry panfish. As you turn toward another appealing section, the water swells into a house-size pool where pole-bending bass patrol. Along the edges of either bank you will find overhanging bushes, fallen trees, and various types of underwater debris where a surprise awaits you! You can tease hiding fish resting in ambush of their next meal. Then, the water filters down into a gurgling step-across riffle where soft craws can be picked for bait.


When choosing your rod and reel, start with a lightweight spinning outfit with 6-pound test line. Or, an ultralight set-up with 4-pound test line will also test your skills at landing aggressive fish. And, for knee-deep open stretches with elbowroom to comfortably false cast a fly, or popper, the fly rod provides hours of pleasure.


Small stream fishing forces you to keep your tackle to a minimum because you want to travel light. You don’t need a legion of lures. A few different colored spinners will be irresistible, especially if they are dressed with fluffy-tailed skirts. A limited selection of artificial worms will entice finicky fish. But, a dozen live worms are a wise choice to include when fish refuse artificials. For added sport and heart-pumping action, included two or three top water lures that float, dive, or chug across the surface. If they are tossed close to the bank, there is often an explosion as marauding bass charge the surface for an attack.


If you’re floating a stream and decide to change pace, bank-dock your craft and wade the shallows. Or, walk the banks to stretch your legs and fish the edges. When fishing on foot, it’s wise to move carefully, though. Sneak along the banks and keep noise to a minimum. And, don’t allow your shadow to sweep across the water surface. Caution is a must to avoid alarming fish. Also, you will be casting and flipping lures short distances into thick clusters of weeds, pads, and in-water debris. Casting accuracy and proper lure presentation will increase your catch.


Another unique aspect of free-flowing streams is they are more proficient at cleansing themselves. Their continuous movement helps keep waters more oxygenated. This is a lifesaver for fish because water contains higher oxygen levels. In-water visibility is also better for you to see fish. But, be cautious because it‘s easier for fish to see you, too.


Small stream fishing will put “privacy” back into your fishing experiences. You’re not surrounded by crowds of humans fishing elbow-to-elbow, or masses of boats bobbing close to one another. Fishing consists of one person against one fish at a time. You’re using skill, technique, knowledge, and a little luck at coaxing fish into striking.


Open waters are continuously exposed to the sun’s intensity throughout the summer months. Increase boat traffic from please boaters can reduce your production rate because fish tend to shy away from noisy human activities. Fish will move into deeper waters or slip away into the backwater hideaways. Therefore, searching backwaters away from open water often harbors fish of several species because human interferences in those areas are greatly reduced. In-water structure, such as fallen trees and rocky riffles, provide fish-concealing habitat that provide a place for food and rest. Also important are the tree-lined banks that provide shade from intense sunlight. If you’re not opposed to walking, wading, or small boat fishing, the privacy, unpredictable excitement and increased successes of small streams will rekindle your love of fishing.

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