Channels, flatheads highlight southwest’s Clark Lake
By Mike Moore
Springfield, Ohio — If it’s a wall-hanger you’re seeking, Clark Lake in west-central Ohio wouldn’t be on the top of your “lakes to fish” list.
But, if you’re out to put a few panfish in the frying pan, Clark might not be a bad bet. And, it’s a good spot to take the kids fishing because they’re bound to tie into some of the small bluegills here and maybe even a big, ol’ flat-headed catfish.
Bluegill numbers are good, according to the DNR Division of Wildlife. These fish run small, however, in the 4- to 6-inch range. And, you’re better off with a boat because although much of the shoreline is accessible, it’s tough traveling sometimes through high brush.
Clark Lake is part of the 184-acre Clark Lake State Wildlife Area, a portion of which is accessible to hunting. There is a fair bit of waterfowl hunting that takes place here in the fall.
The big draw, however, is the trout fishing in the spring. The Division of Wildlife stocks an average of about 3,000 rainbow trout at Clark Lake in the spring, but those fish won’t survive the hot summer months. The fishery is entirely dependent on seasonal stocking. This past spring, the Division of Wildlife put in 2,435 catchable size trout, said Kipp Brown, a fisheries biologist with the Division of Wildlife in Xenia.
“It gets pretty good use when we do the stockings,” Brown said.
Through the spring and into about mid-May, the trout fishery here is pretty good with easy shoreline access around the lake. The standard rainbow trout offerings of doughballs and canned corn will produce more than a few fish after the stocking.
The Division of Wildlife also stocks fingerling sized channel catfish in even-numbered years, so the last catfish stocking would have been in 2020 when the division put in just under 5,000 fish, according to Brown.
A catfish survey in 2019 netted 39 fish that averaged about 6 years old, said Brown. The top seven fish averaged about 10 years old, 23 inches long, and about 5 pounds. The biggest fish from that survey was 25 inches and 6.5 pounds.
“So, the catfish are staying in the system,” said Brown. “ … In these little systems, if people don’t fish them out they’ll survive in there. That’s one of the reasons we do an every other year stocking. If we stocked it every year, it would just be choked.”
Flatheads are also present.
“We’ve seen them just in the past three or four years and some of them have been pretty darn big,” Brown said. “We’re talking fish in the 20- to 30-pound range.”
Flatheads were never stocked by the Division of Wildlife and they are not natural to the lake, said Brown.
Largemouth bass average a respectable 13 inches with fish between 4 and 7 pounds landed each year. It’s considered a low density population. Those numbers were augmented a tad in 1995 by a bass stocking of about 8,000 fingerlings.
“The lake still supports bass, bluegills, and crappies, but you’re just not going to get big fish out of there,” said Brown. “There are numbers but not a lot of size.”
If early winter’s cold weather holds for a while, there is some ice fishing opportunities at Clark Lake for bluegills and crappies.
“If we get good stable winter weather it can be good for ice fishing,” Brown said.
Most of the ice fishing is concentrated around the several piers that dot the lake, primarily in the southern end. Three fishing piers can be found in this location with another on the west side of the lake and one on the extreme northeast side.
The Division of Wildlife this spring, with the help of Spring Valley Wildlife Area, took out a lot of honeysuckle and brush from around the fishing piers, Brown said.
This small 80-acre lake gets a lot of farm runoff, so the water holds a muddy cast most of the time. Sinking Creek, which was dammed to create Clark Lake in 1958, drains some 4,400 acres, most of which are used for agricultural purposes. The creek and lake are part of the Great Miami River watershed.
It’s shallow, too, with an average depth of about 5 feet, although there are deeper spots of about 8 feet near the dam. There’s a 10-horsepower limit on boats so its best use might be to bring that car-top boat to do some panfishing with the kids.
“It’s kind of like a big farm pond, but a really shallow farm pond,” Brown said. “Clark is filled in to the point that there’s just not a lot of good depth anymore.”
Clark Lake is eight miles east of Springfield and northwest of Harmony off U.S. Route 40.
And, if you strike out at Clark Lake, Buck Creek and C.J. Brown Reservoir are just five miles down the road. C.J. Brown is renowned in the region for its walleye fishing and is one of the few inland spots in Ohio that is still stocked with pure strain walleyes.
Statewide fishing regulations apply at Clark and there are no special fishing regulations. The bag limit on trout is five fish per day, there is a 12-inch minimum on largemouth bass with a daily bag of five fish, and six channel cats per day with only one being 28 inches or larger.
“It’s a good place for a family to go fishing,” said Brown. “If you want kids just to catch some fish, it’s great for that. And, if you’re into channel catfish it’s a good place for that. Plus, it’s just a little bit off the beaten path.”
For a detailed map of Clark Lake, go to wildohio.gov. to locate structure, fishing piers and access points.
Nearest town: Springfield
Surface area: 80 acres
Maximum depth: 8 feet
Shore length: NA
Fish species present:
Largemouth bass, white crappies, black crappies, bluegills, sunfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, rainbow trout (seasonally).
Division of Wildlife District 5: 937-372-9261; Clark Lake State Wildlife Area: 937-568-4731.