Largemouth bass, sunfish do well at Snowden
By Mike Moore
Albany, Ohio — Lake Snowden in southeast Ohio is a unique body of water in that it offers fairly good fishing opportunities while also providing an education for natural resource students at Hocking College.
The 136-acre lake in Athens County was created in 1968 for the Margaret Creek Conservancy District with federal funds through the Farmer’s Home Administration and the Soil Conservation Service. It opened to the public in 1972, and Hocking College purchased it in 1998 to complement its natural resources programs.
Hocking College actually owns and operates a 651-acre park that surrounds the lake. The lake’s fishery is managed by the DNR Division of Wildlife in nearby Athens.
The primary species sought by anglers here is largemouth bass. You’ll find plenty of fish, and some that will push up to decent sizes, said Don Swatzel, a fisheries biologist for the Division of Wildlife in Athens.
There is a special regulation on bass at Snowden. Bass have a four-fish split daily limit with two fish less than 15 inches allowed to be kept and two fish 15 inches or longer available for the angler daily creel.
“There are abundant largemouth bass for anglers to target,” Swatzel said. “Most fish are in the 8- to 13-inch range, but several fish up to 21 inches have been seen in recent surveys.”
The lake is stocked every other year with channel catfish at a rate of about 3,575 yearlings.
“The chances for anglers to catch a decent channel catfish are excellent,” Swatzel said.
Surveys have shown the channel catfish population to be moderately abundant with sizes generally ranging from 11 to 17 inches. However, individuals weighing 10 pounds or more have been caught, according to the Division of Wildlife. Tightline fishing using nightcrawlers near the boat ramp area on the south side of the lake will produce catches of 2- to 4-pound fish.
The Division of Wildlife in 2019 conducted a bait trapnet survey for channel catfish. In that survey, a total of 419 channels were sampled with a mean length of 12 ½ inches long. Biologists, Swatzel explains, use the mean length of channel catfish at age 7 to determine how well they are growing, and Snowden’s channel catfish are 16.85 inches by that age.
“That puts Snowden’s rate of growth slightly above the statewide average,” the biologist said. “The largest fish surveyed was a 17-year-old male catfish that was 29.6 inches long and weighed 10.5 pounds.”
Saugeyes were first introduced to Snowden in 1994 and stocked again in 2001 until 2015. These hybrids, however, never really took hold and are no longer stocked.
“We no longer stock saugeyes in Lake Snowden because repeated surveys were showing that we were not getting very good survival,” said Matt Hangsleben, another fisheries biologist for the Division of Wildlife.
Bluegill sunfish density is moderate, but of improving quality (6-8 inches, according to the division). Redear sunfish in the 6- to 9-inch range are also available.
“Both bluegills and redear sunfish are available for anglers,” Swatzel said. “For both species, the size is average, and anglers should expect both bluegills and redears to run in the 6- to 7-inch range. With all the easily accessed shoreline fishing available, it’s a great place for taking young anglers to try and catch these sunfish.”
The best method to catch sunfish is to use wax worms, crickets, or grasshoppers under a float.
Crappies are another draw for anglers at Snowden, and a survey crew from the Division of Wildlife’s Athens office conducted a survey for crappies last November.
“While the total white crappie catch was low, fish up to 11½ inches were caught,” Swatzel said. “Anglers can try fishing Christmas tree fish attractors (placed in the lake by the division) to help increase their catch. These locations can be found using the online Interactive Lake Map page found on our website, www.ohiodnr.gov.”
For boating anglers, an improved boat launch was constructed years ago on the south side of the lake off of Lake Snowden Drive. There is no horsepower restriction for boat motors, but idle speed only is enforced.
There is no public hunting available at Lake Snowden, but there is a public campground, several shelter houses, and picnic areas. There is a free public swimming beach as well as a seasonal inflatable water park that is available for a fee.
The abundance of aquatic vegetation has become more apparent in the last decade or so. Hocking College and division fisheries biologists do work every year in attempt to keep it in check.
“The invasive aquatic plant hydrilla is present in Snowden and can make fishing very challenging from around mid-June through September,” Swatzel said. “Triploid grass carp or white amur were stocked in 2019 and annually herbicide sprayings happen around the boat ramp to try and avoid transfer to nearby waterways.”
As for shorebound anglers, there is plenty of room to roam at Snowden, Swatzel said.
“Lake Snowden has abundant, quality shoreline opportunities for anglers, much of which is kept mowed right up to the water’s edge,” he said.
As recently as 2006, a plan was on the table to privatize Lake Snowden to help Hocking College offset maintenance costs for the park (Ohio Outdoor News, Oct. 27, 2006).
That plan was scrapped, however, after public groups including the DNR opposed the privatization plan.
Nearest town: Albany
Surface area: 131 acres
Motor restriction: Idle only
Fish species present:
Largemouth bass, bluegills, crappies, channel catfish, sunfish, carp.
Camping: 740-698-6373; Division of Wildlife, District 4: 740-589-9930.