Vesuvius a good place to hit for spring trout
By Mike Moore
Pedro, Ohio — It is a bright and sunny fall day as Joe Jordan maneuvers his boat along the shoreline of Lake Vesuvius in southeast Ohio.
The Columbus angler and amatuer video producer has found a weed line along the edge of the lake that is being buffeted by a gentle south breeze.
“The fish are absolutely stacked in here,” said Jordan as he pulls in trout after trout that range anywhere from 6 to 12 inches. “If you can put the bait in front of them, you can catch them.”
Jordan’s presentation is not fancy: a 1⁄64-ounce jig tipped with a wax worm fished under a small ice bobber.
During this video shoot from 2007, Jordan figures out what anglers who frequent Vesuvius already know: if you’re after rainbow trout in southeast Ohio, this is a good place to hit in the spring.
The 143-acre Lake Vesuvius is in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio, which includes the Ironton, Athens, and Marietta districts of the Wayne National Forest. In addition to Vesuvius, scattered throughout the Wayne are 130 fishable ponds and small lakes, ranging in size from one to 10 acres. Most are in the Ironton district surrounding Vesuvius. Some have easy, drive in access while others are accessible only by primitive walk-in trails.
It is in this area where Ohio’s only national forest provides a patchwork of public recreational land laced with more than 300 miles of hiking trails, with some also open to mountain biking, off-road vehicles, and horseback riding.
Vesuvius was drained in 2001 to prepare the dam to withstand 100-year flood conditions, according to the DNR Division of Wildlife. The lake was completely stocked in 2004. The effort – which included stockings of largemouth bass, bluegills, and channel catfish – was carried out by the Division of Wildlife in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service’s Wayne National Forest staff and the National Wild Turkey Federation to promote Wheelin’ Sportsmen events for those with disabilities. The NWTF has established these events to provide anglers with limited mobility the opportunity to fish at a fully-accessible angler facility.
“This lake should be in its prime for fishing right now with some large fish swimming around,” said Matt Hangsleben, a fisheries biologist with the Division of Wildlife in Athens.
As for particular species, sampling in 2014 showed that 38% of the bass sampled here were at least 12 inches. Hangsleben said the division is scheduled to sample for bass again this spring.
After the lake renovation and stocking in 2004, a 15- inch minimum length limit was imposed to protect newly stocked bass and allow for those fish to naturally reproduce when mature. In 2013, with several year classes present and Vesuvius having historically a slow growing bass population, the 15-inch length limit was removed as not to stockpile even more fish, further slowing growth rates. A 12-inch length limit on black bass is now in affect.
The division pours in about 1,500 rainbows here each spring, providing largely for a put-and-take fishery. The NWTF Wheelin’ Sportsman group typically sponsors a trout derby at Vesuvius each spring. However, damage to the boardwalk at Vesuvius where participants fished from was damaged last winter, said Hangsleben. After some period of closure, the boardwalk is open again but has a load limit on it. Therefore, the Wheelin’ Sportsmen event is on hold for now. Hangsleben reports that the Forest Service is working with the NWTF to hold a kids’ fishing day sometime in mid- to late May.
Channel catfish are also a draw for anglers here. They are stocked every other year by the Division of Wildlife. The plan for the Division of Wildlife is to sample Vesuvius for catfish in 2023, according to Hangsleben.
“Based on what we have heard from anglers, the lake isn’t overpopulated with small (catfish) like we have at some other lakes and we have seen some good-sized catfish in other surveys we have done there,” Hangsleben said.
Panfish are another option and the crappie fishing here can be pretty good, said Hangsleben. Bluegills tend to run small.
“Anglers can increase their catch rates by targeting brush piles,” Hangsleben said. “We have partnered with the Forest Service to sink Christmas trees in the lake, which we have been doing every other year for a long time.”
Anglers can find the exact coordinates of this structure on the Division of Wildlife’s interactive lake map at www.wildohio.gov, or on the HuntFish OH app.
For boating anglers, there is one boat ramp on the north shore above the dam. There is an electric motors only provision. The ramp was improved while the lake was drained and parking areas have been upgraded.
As was mentioned previously, plenty of other fishing opportunities can be found a short drive from Vesuvius.
In the Marietta unit of the Wayne, the Little Muskingum River features four national forest campgrounds along a 35-mile stretch, providing the opportunity for overnight float trips for anglers seeking smallmouth bass or even stream muskies.
The Hocking River flows through the Athens unit, with the river’s lower pools offering a largely unfished smallmouth population.
In the Ironton district of the Wayne, sauger, smallmouths, spotted bass, and channel catfish may all be caught from Symmes Creek and the non-navigable Pine Creek.
Plenty of camping options are available in the area as well as other attractions both inside and outside of the Wayne.
Nearest town Pedro
Surface area 143 acres
Max. depth 28 feet
Fish species present:
Largemouth bass, bluegills, crappies, channel catfish, sunfish, rainbow trout, carp.
Division of Wildlife, District 4: 740-589-9930.