Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Ohio’s options for ice fishing on inland waters

Check for safe ice in the shallower portions of a lake. It takes longer for the main basin of a large lake such as Alum Creek to freeze solid. (Photo by John Tertuliani)

An early cold snap in November came as no surprise, the third year in a row. Not so was the fierce storm arriving in Ohio in late December.

Blizzard-like wind with plummeting temperatures put ice on Buckeye Lake. A few anglers found saugeyes close to shore, just days after Christmas, but not without some risk from the white ice. It is less reliable than clear ice. I blame the powerful wind for that.

Inevitable it seems, cabin fever leads anglers out the door. When it does, consider the reservoir. What is it used for? Flood control maybe, municipal water supply more likely.

Continuous pumping or releasing in a water supply reservoir is less than ideal for safe ice over the short term. The activity moves water, causing slight changes in water level, which are undesirable conditions for ice formation.

Hoover Reservoir is an example. The largest water supply pool for the City of Columbus, it often needs a longer period of below freezing temperature to form safe ice.

Depth affects ice as well. A deep lake has a higher thermal capacity than a shallow lake. More depth means greater need for cold air to bring down the water temperature.

There is still potential for ice fishing in 2023. A polar vortex may park on us in mid-winter. If you want to go, here are a few options.

Indian Lake

The Moundwood area of Indian Lake between Lake Ridge Island and Winnewauken Island is a promising area to start. Work your way north toward Shawnee Island. You have to move until you find fish. Another place to try is on the opposite side of Indian Lake, along Route 235. Start about 100 yards out from the riprap protecting the west bank, not too far south of Old Field Beach. Both locations produce saugeyes in warmer weather.

Some anglers prefer minnows on light wire hooks hooked near the tail, instead of using jigs. Two minnows, like two jigs, can help determine the feeding depth. You can tie one minnow hook or jig about one third of the depth, and then tie the second hook the same distance, deeper.

Bait sweetens the attraction to a fish surviving on slowed metabolism. Feeding activity is subdued. An artificial bait may need some scented meat to coax a bite. A hook can be tipped with a minnow, wax worm, or a maggot, sometimes called a spike.

Tipping artificial lures with some sort of attractant is a common practice. It can be something as simple as liquid scent or one of the numerous commercial baits that come in nibbles and bites. Conveniently stored in bottles, tubes, and jars, this is often an artificial attractant can be worth trying.

Lake Loramie

Lake Loramie has a delightful crappie fishery. Located in Auglaize and Shelby counties, about 50 miles north of Dayton, it is a small lake of less than 900 acres, The former canal feeder lake with depths similar to Indian Lake, 8 feet or less, offers another excellent opportunity for short-term ice.

Fishing strategies that work in Buckeye or Indian should produce in Loramie. The lake has substantial plant growth in some areas. Places thick with beds of aquatic vegetation in the warmer months hold fish in the winter months as well. Decaying stalks, signs of dormant plants, still provide a sense of security for panfish in particular.

If using jigs, smaller is better.

Strikes may come on the fall, which is why you want the speed to be slow for the ability to watch the line tick from a strike. Try a small bobber at first, one just buoyant enough to suspend the bait above bottom. Suspending bait at the depth you believe the fish are holding is important.

Alum Creek

If the cold lingers long enough, Alum Creek Lake is the gem of fair weather fishing, perhaps the most popular of the lakes in central Ohio.

Built in the 1970s by the Army Corps of Engineers, depths average 20-40 feet throughout what were once farm fields and deep, wooded ravines. Shale outcrops form irregular shorelines along numerous sections of the lake. Endless coves and bays provide plenty of potential locations for safe ice. The center of the basin is less likely to form safe ice during an average winter.

Saugeyes and crappies are highly sought species. Excellent survival of saugeyes in recent years led to an abundance of fish in the 17- to 20-inch range. Anglers can expect good numbers of keepers for the next few years.

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