Wolf Run provides decent fishery for crappies
By Mike Moore
Caldwell, Ohio — If you live anywhere near the vicinity of Caldwell in southeast Ohio, you’ve likely at least seen Wolf Run Lake.
The 220-acre impoundment in Noble County is so close to to Interstate 77 that you could probably cast a line from the highway and hit water.
Well, maybe not that close, but Wolf Run’s proximity to the four-lane highway means this lake is no secret, particularly among the locals.
Wolf Run is a picturesque lake, meandering through a series of shady inlets and secluded coves where a good bit of structure is available, including that of the artificial variety that has been placed in the lake dating back to the 1980s. In 1998, 420 Christmas trees were placed as fish concentration devices, according to Division of Wildlife records.
Wolf Run would be a good place to hit for some largemouth bass fishing. Electrofishing surveys were last completed in 2021, said Matt Hangsleben, a fisheries biologist for the DNR Division of Wildlife in Athens.
“Our most recent survey in 2021 showed that the majority of the (bass) population is under 12 inches, but the catch rates are above the region and statewide average,” he said. “Basically, anglers can except to catch good numbers of fish, but they will be on the small side.”
A bass regulation put in place in March of 2013 allows anglers to keep two fish less than 14 inches in length and one fish over 20 inches.
The Division of Wildlife started stocking saugeyes at Wolf Run in 2002 and typically pours in about 100 fingerlings per acre on an annual basis. However, due to surplus saugeyes produced at the hatcheries, Wolf Run has received double the amount of stockings in each year except 2016 and 2018, said Don Swatzel, another fisheries biologist with the Division of Wildlife.
“Popular fishing areas for saugeyes are the upper, shallower end of the lake around the beach, rocky points with the channel close by, and the stone riprap along the face of the dam. Three-year-old saugeyes in Wolf Run are 16.5 inches long, with 4-year-old’s reaching 19.5 inches. Surveys have shown decent numbers of saugeyes up to 24 inches long,” Swatzel said.
The division believes Wolf Run is a good candidate for a saugeye fishery given it’s location near a primary highway and relatively high use among anglers.
“The saugeye population is basically the opposite of the bass population,” Hangsleben said. “The catch rates are on the low side, but the quality of fish is very good. Anglers shouldn’t expect to catch a lot of saugeyes, but the ones they do catch will be larger. Our most recent survey showed 70% of the population is over 15 inches with 22% of fish being over the 21-inch Fish Ohio qualifying size.”
The bluegill population is moderately abundant with those fish running an average size of 5 inches.
“Sunfish remain stable but are still small in average size,” Swatzel said.
The area around the campground is also popular with sunfish anglers.
Crappies are a different story altogether, says Hangsleben.
“Our last survey showed that about 70% of the (crappie) population is over 9 inches with multiple fish over 13 inches,” he said. “The crappie numbers are down but anglers can expect to catch larger fish.”
Channel catfish have been stocked every other year since 1984 and anglers in the 1990s reported catching fish up to 45 pounds here, according to Division of Wildlife records. Nothing of the sort has been reported in recent years, but the catfish stocks should be well distributed with the bi-annual stocking of almost 5,000 yearlings. The lake’s eastern shoreline offers the deepest water for the best catfish bite.
“Channel catfish continue to be stocked in alternating years,” said Swatzel. “Recent hoop netting surveys produced below average numbers with the majority of the fish 12 to 16 inches in length. Channel catfish in Wolf Run grow slow, but there continue to be reports of anglers catching channels up to 30 inches.”
Yellow perch are a relatively new item on the menu as the Division of Wildlife first stocked them here in 2017.
“Yellow perch were stocked in 2017 and 2019 in hopes of creating an additional fishing opportunity,” Swatzel said.
“We are still evaluating the stockings but unfortunately our surveys are showing that the perch aren’t surviving and growing to create a fishery,” Hangsleben said. “If these trends continue in our surveys we will most likely stop stocking yellow perch at Wolf Run.”
Previously, Wolf Run was a place that received spring trout stockings, but that likely won’t be the case moving forward, Hangsleben said.
“We are currently in the process of evaluating our catchable rainbow trout stocking program to maximize the benefits to anglers,” he said. “We will be shifting the focus to smaller bodies of water to create high success opportunities for anglers. Since Wolf Run is a larger lake it will not be stocked with rainbow trout in the future. Anglers in the area will still have the opportunity to fish for trout but it will be in smaller lakes and ponds.”
One launching ramp serves boating anglers on the northeast side of the lake off State Route 215. There is a 10-horsepower limit on outboards at Wolf Run.
Wolf Run Lake
Nearest town: Caldwell
Surface area: 220 acres
Motor restriction: 10 hp
Shore length: 8 miles
Fish species present:
Channel catfish, largemouth bass, black crappies, white crappies, bluegills, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, redear sunfish, saugeyes, carp.
Wolf Run State Park Office: 740-732-5035; Division of Wildlife District 4: 740-589-9930.