From the shores of Lake Erie in the north, to the banks of the Ohio River in the south, and the many watersheds and farm ponds in between, there are great fishing opportunities in the Buckeye State. Just a sampling of fishin’ tales from native Ohioans testifies to the pleasures of piscatorial pursuits and illustrates the fact that every fisherman has his stories.
Ohio University wrestler Tanner Miller likes to relax and get away from the stresses of school work and the pressures of competition by fishing for large-mouth and striped bass on the Hocking River below the falls at White’s Mill in Athens.
“I go up to White’s Mill with my ultra-light fishing pole because it’s easy to navigate with and I use a green, orange, and black colored rooster tail. They all seem to like that best,” Miller said. “I cast right into the rapids and let my lure float down. Sometimes I’ll get hits just as it is floating down, but when I notice my lure go past me, I start reeling in my line. That is when I tend to catch most of my fish.”
Tanner said that having this resource so close to the University is a blessing.
“Not every kid has the opportunity to fish while on campus and I can walk one mile up the bike path along the river and fish all I want,” he said. “Fishing the river here made it so that when I went off to college, I still felt like I was back home because I was doing the same thing here as I was there.”
Jason Shook, of Groveport, recalls an epic battle with a behemoth catfish one summer night in the Hocking Hills at Lake Logan.
“My good buddy and I went out to Lake Logan at 10:30 at night to do some catfishing and all we caught was a little 10-inch long mini-shovelhead and a mean little snapping turtle. At about 2 am, we decided to call it quits, but when I set my hook and started reeling in for the night, it felt like I was hung up on the bottom,” Shook said. “I started reeling and pulling on the line and it took off! For the next thirty minutes, the catfish dove and took out line into the middle of the lake three times.
“Finally, after the third run, the fish surfaced, and my buddy started whoopin’ and hollerin’ and jumped into the lake after it, since we didn’t have any landing gear. As he’s fighting to get hold of the fish, he says ‘Good thing you caught this monster on your catfish pole.’ I said ‘No, this is my bass pole, with 8-pound test,’ and at that moment, the line broke! But he managed to grab the fish up by the gills, throw it up onto the shore, and then he hooted and carried on so loud that all of the lights in the houses around us came on. The catfish had to have weighed close to 50 pounds and measured 53 inches and was caught on the simplest rig—a nightcrawler and single hook. None of the pictures of me with my catch that my buddy took with his crummy flip phone camera turned out, but I took a very nice one of him holding it that he still shows off to this day.”
Shawn Skaggs, of Marysville, takes an annual camping and panfishing trip in the early summer at a south central Ohio state park, and his group’s techniques and tactics yield big results.
“We time our trip to coincide with when the bluegills are spawning and have consistently good success with typical catches of up to 30 to 50 large 5- to 6-inch fish per session between four guys. The most we have ever caught was eighty before lunch one morning,” Skaggs said, “We generally eat a lot of what’s caught. We fry it and eat it fresh back at our campsite and always try to share with our neighbors at camp. But a lot of times, there are still some leftover to take home. Over the course of a weekend, our group will go home with well in excess of 80-100 fish total, but my favorite part of the trip is the camaraderie, healthy competition, and good times that I have with the friends who come with me every year.”
Skaggs pays great attention to detail when choosing his lure and baiting his hook on these excursions in order to get these results.
“At this time of year, I prefer to use a small 1/64-ounce jig-head — either chartreuse or black — or a plain #8 or smaller size hook. I tip the jig heads or hook with a waxworm. I try to use as small of a hook as possible so that I can bury most of the hook into the grub so that only the barb is exposed. This helps hook the fish as soon as they start to mouth it,” Skaggs said. “Another great lure this time of year is a small black fly, like a wooly bugger. I tip it with a small live grub or Powerbait maggot. I like to use a small slip bobber and light 4- to 6-pound test line. I tie my hook or lure to a leader line and tie the other end to a double barrel swivel, which is already attached to my main line. I then place any weight needed above the swivel so the hook or lure beneath the swivel can float and move freely. I use as much weight as I need to get the slip bobber to be at least 50% to 60% submerged so I can detect light bites and set the hook faster. Using a slip bobber, I can quickly and methodically probe multiple depths in areas where I suspect the panfish will be starting to build spawn beds. Protected areas like coves are always good places to look and it always seems that the spots where we have the most success are the spots where we are seeing the fewest amount of other fishermen.”
As these fishing stories show, there are numerous game fishing opportunities throughout the state, and fishing for both recreation and table fare provides anglers with hours of entertainment.
“We have a diversity of game species,” said Tim Parrett, Ohio Department of Natural Resources District Manager. “Most of our lakes and reservoirs are ‘eutrophic,’ which makes them very productive. The soils of Ohio and shallow, warm, nutrient rich waters lead to productive water, which gives us a diversity of species to catch.”
Parrett, a fisheries biologist, worked for a variety of ODNR fishery programs over the past two decades prior to his current appointment and said that not only is there a diversity of fish in Ohio, but that there are also a diversity of fishing options available to everyone in the state.
“You have everything from competitive angling opportunities, where contestants compete for prize money, to farm pond fishing with a cane pole. The sport can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. Fishing is not exclusive — anyone can do it. Young or old, male or female, fishing is open to everyone,” Parrett said.
Parrett also promotes fishing as a family affair where quality time in the natural world can be spent away from the distractions of modern technology.
“Fishing gives families a great opportunity to be outdoors and to reconnect with the outside world away from the iPods and iPads and iPhones and the hectic schedules of our day-to-day lives,” he said, “When I take my kids out fishing, they seem happy just being out on the boat and being outside. It is important just to be out in nature, seeing other animal species in their natural habitats and exploring the banks while casting a line.”
From a personal standpoint, Parrett says that he loves the feeling of anticipation that fishing instills in him.
“I’m 49 years old, and fishing still gives me a sense of adventure. I have these visions in my head of finding some place that no one has found, and there’s going be all of these fish there for me to catch. I’m always out there still hoping to catch that one giant fish, trying to trick them into biting this crazy looking lure I’ve found that I’m sure is going to be the secret weapon,” Parrett said.
Now is the time for readers to get out on the water, take advantage of this state’s abundant natural resources, and wet their lines in search of some hard-hitting fishing action.
“From late May into mid-June is some of the best fishing in the state, especially for bass and bluegill,” Parrett said. “The bass are mostly done spawning, they’re hungry, the water is warm, and the fish are in relatively shallow waters, so they should be biting good. And if you’re taking kids fishing, this is the time to take advantage of the weather. They won’t be cold and can focus on catching some fish.”
Perhaps author Mark Twain’s American classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, best illustrates why taking some time out of your schedule to fish this spring and summer should be on your to-do list. Twain’s book captures the idyllic ease offered by life on the water and Huck Finn knew well the simple freedoms and pleasures of fishing.
“It was kind of lazy and jolly, laying off comfortable all day, smoking and fishing, and no books nor study…It was pretty good times up in the woods there, take it all around,” Huck Finn said. “I catched a good big catfish, and Jim cleaned him with his knife, and I fried him. When breakfast was ready we lolled in the grass and eat it smoking hot…Then when we got pretty well stuffed, we laid off and lazied.”
All of this, and more, is available for the taking on Ohio’s waters. For what more could an outdoorsman ask?