Know the rules before casting your line

fishing rod
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to the law, the rules or the results. I’ve heard it before, I’ve tried it once or twice, and I’ve come to understand that for the most part, the statement about the use of a defense-by-ignorance excuse is indeed a truism.

Read up

In front of every Ohio fisherman is a copy of the 2016 Fishing Regulations (or it should be), so we all need to do our homework. General rules are just that; they apply to all fish caught by sportsmen and women. With very few exceptions, Buckeye anglers are limited to two rods with no more than three hooks on each.

I know, I know, we’ve all seen the crappie tournament TV shows where each pair of anglers has an array of rods spread out like a giant spider, but don’t try it here.
Regulations. It is illegal to buy or sell fish caught by legal fishing methods, transport and introduce any aquatic species of fish or plant from one body of water to another (keep this one in mind when planning to fish with minnows), and tag fish and release into public waters.

A regulation of equal importance is that anglers cannot clean their catch while on the water; fish must be kept whole until unloaded on shore. Fillets must also be kept whole until reaching home. The exception is if a commercial cleaning service or charter caption does the cleaning and provides written receipt that includes date, number of fish, and species.

The minnow rules state that one cannot possess more than 500 without a bait dealer’s license and as stated in the general rules, minnows from one body of water cannot be released in another body of water.

Where can you fish?

Ohio fishing licenses are valid while fishing the Ohio or the West Virginia waters of the Ohio River. That is, until a fisherman or woman steps out of the boat and onto the West Virginia shore. The same holds true for West Virginia anglers who step onto the Ohio shore.

And yes, size does matter when talking about fishing, not as a general rule but as a site-specific set. Pymatuning Lake shares water on both sides of the state line and goes by Pennsylvania rules and anglers may keep six walleyes 15 inches or larger, five bass 12 inches or over, and two muskies at least 30 inches in length.

Many lakes including Tappan, Milton, Piedmont, Mosquito, Clendening, Portage Lakes, Berlin, Clear Fork and many others have issued a daily limit of 30 fish or crappie nine inches or larger.

Inland lakes that restrict walleyes, sauger, and saugeye to a minimum size of 15 inches and a daily limit of six include Atwood, Berlin, Milton, Piedmont, Seneca, Tappan and West Branch.

Bass limits

Bass fishermen as a group need to study the rule book carefully since some Ohio lakes are currently managed under a split daily limit or three of four bass.

The four fish split limit can include two bass of less than 15 inches and two fish of 15 inches or larger. The three fish lakes list the daily limit as two fish 14 inches or less and one fish 20 inches or longer. Splitting the daily limit by size is intended to preserve and replenish a fishable stock. It can also be referred to as a slot limit.

Persons 16 or older need a fishing license. Once obtained it is recommended to take a photo of the document to provide proof of purchase even if the actual license itself is not on your person.

In summary, I suggest that every angler read the Fishing Regulations and then read them again. Keep a copy on board for quick reference. It will also explain the requirements to earn a Fish Ohio award, what to do if you catch a tagged fish, and how to accurately measure a fish.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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