FISHING FORECAST: Ohio’s top spots for 2018

File photo. ODNR's 2018 Fishing Forecast for Ohio is bright.

*This story first appeared in The Budget’s May 2, 2018, Local Edition

As the spring days grow warmer, more and more Ohioans will be venturing out to go fishing. Ohio offers many fantastic opportunities 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). Here are a few areas in northeast Ohio that anglers may want to check out.

Black Bass

Tappan Lake (Harrison County) – Tappan Lake black bass population is dominated by largemouth bass; however, the occasional smallmouth bass can be caught. During the 2017 spring fisheries assessment, ODNR Division of Wildlife fish management crews documented high catch rates of largemouth bass with impressive numbers of fish above the common benchmarks of 12-inches and 15-inches. Additionally, bass up to 22 inches were observed. Largemouth bass exhibit fast growth rates with fish reaching 12 inches at three years of age.

Two public launch ramps are available for those who wish to launch a boat, or anglers can rent boats from Tappan Lake marina. This 2,350-acre lake is located in northwestern Harrison County. U.S. Route 250 follows the main body of the reservoir for seven miles. Township roads border three long bays on the north side, making easy access to the lake. New Philadelphia, with access to I-77, lies 20 miles to the northwest.

Hybrid Striped Bass

Guilford Lake (Columbiana County) – ODNR Division of Wildlife has recently begun to expand the hybrid striped bass program. Beginning in 2014, the ODNR Division of Wildlife stocked approximately 20,000, one-inch fingerlings each June. Hybrid striped bass have appeared to have good survival and are growing quickly. There is a 30- fish daily limit and no more than four harvested hybrid striped bass can exceed 15 inches.

Three launch ramps, seasonal dock rentals, and seasonal canoe rentals are available as well as an accessible fishing pier on the south side of the lake. Guilford Lake, at 396 acres, is a quiet fishing lake located in Columbiana County on the West Fork Branch of Little Beaver Creek. It lies north of State Route 172, which joins U.S. Route 30 near Lisbon. State Route 9, from Salem or Hanoverton, joins State Route 172 at New Garden, two miles west of the lake.

Walleye

Pymatuning Lake (Ashtabula County) – Despite a tough bite in 2017 due to record abundances of forage, mainly shad, 2018 looks to be a promising year for anglers. The 2017-2018 winter was cold enough to knock back the forage population and 2017 surveys show excellent numbers of quality fish. Shoreline access can be limiting, but wading in the shallows or using a small boat can lead to success on this lake.

Please keep in mind the reciprocal license agreement between the ODNR Division of Wildlife and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Although you can fish from a boat on either side of the lake, you must have the appropriate state’s license to fish from their shore.

There are over a dozen boat launches as well as three marinas which rent boats for anglers’ enjoyment. A lower horsepower limit (20 HP) restricts larger boats. Pymatuning Lake, spanning 14,000-acres, is located in southeastern Ashtabula County and is approximately one mile east of Andover and one mile north of Jamestown, Pennsylvania. Ohio State Route 85 bisects Pymatuning Lake’s northern and southern sections and becomes State Route 285 at the Pennsylvania border (which is approximately one mile east of Pymatuning Lake Road), which is situated near the middle of the two-mile bridge overlooking the lake. It lies within Pymatuning State Park.

Channel Catfish

Mogadore Reservoir (Portage County) – This 1,104-acre reservoir is exhibiting some of the highest growth rates and best sizes for channel catfish populations in all of northeast Ohio waters. Channel catfish are stocked in odd-numbered years to continue to support exceptional catch rates for anglers.

This City of Akron property per- mits night-angling and although shoreline access is limited, the entire reservoir is available for boat fishing. Outboard motors are limited to electric only. Mogadore Reservoir is located in southwestern Portage County, three miles east of Akron and six miles south of Kent on SR 43, one mile south of U.S. Route 224.

Crappie, Yellow Perch, Sunfish

Mosquito Creek Lake (Trumbull County) – Mosquito Creek Lake has an abundance of panfish, including crappie, yellow perch, and sunfish. Many large bluegill, crappie and yellow perch were observed in spring 2018 trap nets. The recent reduction of aquatic vegetation should allow for a successful panfish bite.

Several boat launches span the lake, with two boat rental facilities available. There is unlimited horsepower access, but a large area north of the causeway is considered to be slow/no wake zone. The extreme north end of the lake above the buoy line is no access due to the Wildlife Refuge. Mosquito Creek Lake is situated within Mosquito Lake State Park in Trumbull County approximately one mile west of State Route 5 in Cortland.

Muskellunge

West Branch Reservoir (Portage County) – The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s Musky Angler Log indicates that this 2,650-acre lake produced twice the number of reported muskies than the next highest lake, Leesville. Over 20 percent of the angler reports were fish greater than 42- inches, making West Branch Reservoir a true trophy fishery for anglers. This lake offers great bathymetry (underwater topography) for anglers trolling and casting. Long points, sunken islands, and weed lines are ideal areas to start. A good lake map is needed to ensure that you are hitting the right areas. West Branch Reservoir has historically had numerous predators stocked over the years. Muskellunge, walleye, saugeye, and even striped bass have been stocked over the years, so don’t be surprised with what you catch at West Branch.

Three improved launches and two unimproved launches are available. Boats with unlimited horsepower are allowed, but the area west of Rock Springs Road is a no-wake area. West Branch Reservoir is situated within West Branch State Park in Portage County, north of I-76 and south of SR 5, approximately 30 miles west of Youngstown and 25 miles east of Akron.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife has numerous resources available to assist anglers, including lake maps, fishing tips by species, and fishing forecasts based on survey data. Anglers are also 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 even mobile-friendly so anglers can access information right on the water. For more information, click the “fishing tab” at wildohio.gov.