COLUMBUS — Ohio offers many fantastic locations for the public to fish, including 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, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
The Division of Wildlife has numerous resources available to assist anglers, including lake maps, fishing tips by species, and fishing forecasts. Anglers are encouraged to use an online interactive fishing map which allows users to select features in order to customize their own fishing maps for Ohio’s inland lakes. This map and the selective features are mobile-friendly, so anglers can access information right on the water. For more information on fishing tips and forecasts, go to wildohio.gov. Here are a few areas in central Ohio anglers may want to check out. Be sure to share the experience and take someone fishing with you.
Buckeye Lake (Licking, Fairfield and Perry counties) – Located about 20 miles east of downtown Columbus, this lake is one of the few in central Ohio that consistently produces sunfish longer than 8 inches. Buckeye Lake has numerous channels, especially on the southeast side of the lake, with emergent vegetation and docks that hold sunfish year-round. Maple Bay on the north side of the lake is a large backwater area with plenty of vegetation to hold fish.
The most common method for catching sunfish is a small hook baited with a waxworm under a float. Buckeye Lake also has good numbers of crappie that often reside in the same places as sunfish.
The two main boat access areas are Liebs Island on the west side, and the north shore boat ramp. Shore fishing locations include Liebs Island, Sellers Point, Fairfield Beach, and all 4.3 miles of the newly-renovated dam.
Delaware Lake (Delaware County) – Delaware Lake is consistently one of the best crappie fisheries in central Ohio. It has an excellent population of both white and black crappies. In the spring, the best areas to focus on are larger coves with brush and wood in the water. During the summer, fish move to deeper water adjacent to the old stream channel.
Crappies are typically targeted with small jigs and various plastic baits or crappie minnows. These baits are often presented under a slip bobber in and around brush piles and submerged trees.
Delaware Lake is surrounded by a wildlife area and state park, so anglers are able to access the lake from many locations. Fishing maps at wildohio.gov/delawarelake show the most popular fishing access points. The lake has three boat ramps and a marina that has fuel and boat slips.
Delaware Lake is subject to water level fluctuations following rainfall that can affect access and fishing. Be sure to check the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website after recent rains.
Channel Catfish and Blue Catfish
Hoover Reservoir (Franklin and Delaware counties) – This City of Columbus water supply reservoir has emerged as an excellent catfish fishery. It has good numbers of large channel catfish and blue catfish. Hoover Reservoir also produces some large flathead catfish, although they are less abundant. Blue catfish have been stocked in Hoover Reservoir since 2011. Recent surveys and fishing reports have already produced blue cats larger than 20 pounds. Generally, the northern portion of the lake is where the best catfishing takes place.
Traditional techniques for catfish are to fish on the bottom using worms, chicken liver, shrimp, and live or dead fish. Many avid catfish 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 ramps, including popular accesses at Walnut Street, Redbank, and the newly-renovated Oxbow ramps. Hoover is popular for kayak fishing because of the horsepower restrictions.
Hoover water levels decrease tremendously throughout the summer because it is used by the City of Columbus for drinking water. Anglers need to keep in mind the summer water levels and change their fishing patterns accordingly.
Indian Lake (Logan County) – Indian Lake is consistently ranked as Ohio’s elite saugeye fishery. The 2018 fry stocking resulted in one of the best saugeye year classes. Anglers should expect to catch many short saugeye (10-13 inches) this year while seeking larger fish. The saugeye size limit is 15 inches at Indian Lake.
Indian Lake is shallow with minimal depth change and structure. Anglers should target wind-swept areas with current. Saugeye are typically in areas with riprap or a rocky substrate. Areas that are particularly popular are Moundwood Canal, Dream Bridge, and the south shore.
A common tactic to catch saugeye is to troll shad-mimicking crankbaits at speeds of 2-3 mph. Casting anglers use a variety of baits. A jig and twister tail is a simple yet effective bait. In the fall when the water temperatures drop, suspending jerk baits and blade baits are frequently used. Tight-lining minnows is also a common technique. Fish for feeding saugeye in wind-blown channels.
Indian Lake is one of Ohio’s largest inland reservoirs and has many access points for shore anglers. The fishing map located at wildohio.gov/indianlake shows anglers where to start. Indian Lake has several boat ramps located around the lake, the largest being Moundwood.
The mission of the ODNR Division of Wildlife is to conserve and improve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainable use and appreciation by all. Visit wildohio.gov to find out more.