COLUMBUS, Ohio – Central Ohio’s public lakes and reservoirs teem with fish such as saugeye, crappie, catfish, and more. Now is the perfect time to grab a fishing pole and try to catch them, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
Ohio has 124,000 acres of inland water, 7,000 miles of streams, 2.25 million acres of Lake Erie water, and 481 miles of the Ohio River. At $25 for a resident one-year license, fishing is a cost-effective and accessible outdoor reactional activity. Youth under the age of 16 can fish for free, and all Ohio residents can fish without purchasing a license during Free Fishing Days on June 18-19. All size and daily limits apply during these two days.
The Division of Wildlife has numerous resources available to assist anglers, including lake maps, fishing tips by species, and fishing forecasts. Many of these resources are available right at your fingertips with the HuntFish OH mobile app. Fishing regulations and an interactive fishing map can be located with ease from any mobile device. For more information on fishing tips and forecasts, go to wildohio.gov.
Here are a few areas in central Ohio anglers may want to visit:
Deer Creek (Pickaway, Madison, and Fayette counties) – Spring is a great time to pursue hard fighting white bass as they make their way into the creek above Deer Creek Lake to spawn. Many good-sized white bass concentrate in the creek above the reservoir, resulting in phenomenal fishing. The key is to be there at the right time. The run only lasts about one week, which means anglers need to get out when conditions are right in early May, or they may miss their chance. Anglers can catch white bass with a variety of baits, including small inline spinners, curly tail grubs, or minnows under a bobber. A popular area to fish in the creek is near Cook Yankeetown Road.
Buckeye Lake (Licking, Fairfield, and Perry counties) – Buckeye Lake logged the most Fish Ohio worthy saugeye catches (at least 21 inches long) in 2021. Buckeye Lake is shallow with minimal depth change and structure. Shore-bound anglers can target areas near Fairfield Beach, the pier at the North Shore boat launch, and the channels around Leib’s Island. Boat fishing anglers can find success catching saugeye from April through July by trolling crankbaits or pulling worm harnesses through the open water areas of the lake or in deeper channels.
Indian Lake (Logan County) – Excellent populations of black crappie and white crappie abound with good numbers of fish over 10 inches at Indian Lake. In the spring, it is best to focus on backwater coves and channels with woody cover, vegetation, or docks. Target crappie with small jigs, various plastic baits, or crappie minnows. These baits are often presented under a slip bobber in and around the cover. In the summer, fish disperse to main lake areas. When this happens, an effective way to catch crappie is by trolling small crankbaits at slower speeds around 1.5 mph. Popular shore fishing areas include Old Field Beach and the Moundwood, Blackhawk, and Lakeview boat launches. Boat anglers can find five boat launches as well as marinas with fuel and boat slips.
Alum Creek Lake (Delaware County) – Alum Creek Lake is one of the best bass fishing destinations in central Ohio with good populations of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. During the spring, anglers should direct their efforts to the many coves, targeting submerged wood or rock with soft plastics or spinnerbaits. As the water temperature warms, bass move to an offshore structure in the main lake. Boat anglers often target large points or drop-offs with plastic baits or crankbaits. Alternatively, shore bound anglers can find success all season fishing in vegetated areas with plastic creature baits or top water lures. Bordering state park property provides unlimited shoreline access. Boat anglers can use four public boat launches as well as the marina located on the western side. Alum Creek Lake has unlimited horsepower restrictions and gets quite busy with recreational boaters during the summer months.
Channel catfish and blue catfish
Hoover Reservoir (Franklin and Delaware counties) – Consistently ranked as the best catfish fishery in central Ohio, Hoover Reservoir has great numbers of large channel and blue catfish. Blue catfish were first stocked in 2011, and the oldest individuals have already surpassed 40 pounds. Generally, the northern section of the lake (above Sunbury Road) is where the best catfishing takes place. A traditional technique is bottom fishing with worms, chicken liver, shrimp, and live or dead fish. Many anglers slowly troll a Santee Cooper rig baited with cut gizzard shad. Hoover Reservoir has a 10-horsepower restriction on outboard boat motors. It has five boat launches, including popular accesses at Walnut Street, Redbank, and the newly renovated Oxbow launch.
This spring, anglers are asked to assist the Division of Wildlife with a study evaluating the blue catfish fishery at Hoover Reservoir. Anglers are asked to report all catches of blue catfish at wildohio.gov. Some blue catfish will be tagged as part of this research. Anglers are encouraged to report tagged fish at wildohio.gov or by calling the number listed on the tag. This research will provide a better understanding of the numbers, sizes, and catch rates in the reservoir. Anglers are asked to report the following information if they catch a blue catfish: tag identification number (if applicable), date caught, length of fish, and if it was kept or released.
The Division of Wildlife wants to help new and experienced anglers make the most of their outdoor adventures. Visit the Wild Ohio Harvest Community page at wildohio.gov for information on getting started, fishing opportunities, and delicious recipes.