Find walleye, muskie in Ohio public fishing spots

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trophy-size muskellunge
Fisheries biologist Chris Aman holds a 48-inch muskie caught during netting operations at Leesville Lake, in Carroll County. ODNR Division of Wildlife staff harvest eggs and sperm from Leesville muskie to use in the state’s stocking program. Nine lakes in Ohio are stocked yearly and often produce trophy-size muskellunge like the one in the photo. (Barbara Mudrak photo)

AKRON, Ohio — Northeast Ohio’s public fishing lakes and reservoirs teem with fish such as muskellunge, walleye and smallmouth bass. Now is the perfect time to grab a fish pole and try to catch them, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources 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. For a resident one-year license, the cost is $25. Youth under the age of 16 can fish for free, and all Ohio residents can fish without purchasing a license during Free Fishing Days 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, fishing forecasts and introductory information for new anglers. Fishing regulations and an interactive fishing map can be located with the HuntFish OH mobile app. 

For more information on fishing tips and forecasts, go to wildohio.gov. There are a few areas in northwest Ohio anglers may want to visit. 

Walleye

For walleye, try Pymatuning Lake, in Ashtabula County. This walleye fishery will be well supported for the next few years by fantastic 2019 and 2020 year-classes. Fall 2021 surveys showed nearly 50% of the population measuring 15 inches or larger, with many fish in the 18- to 22-inch range. The 2022 fishing season should produce abundant keeper walleye. 

Boat and shoreline access is plentiful from both Ohio and Pennsylvania state parks. There is a 20-horsepower motor restriction at Pymatuning. The Division of Wildlife and Pennsylvania Boat Commission work cooperatively each summer on fish attractor projects. View the interactive lakes map to find the locations of these structures. 

Muskellunge

West Branch Lake, in Portage County, should be a good spot for muskellunge. The Division of Wildlife’s Muskie Angler Log indicates that this lake produced the most muskellunge reported in northeast Ohio in 2021. The number of large fish reported by anglers has been high. Almost 20% of the muskellunge reported in the Muskie Angler Log were 42 inches or longer. 

Three improved launches and two unimproved launches are available. This are no boat horsepower restrictions, but the water west of Rock Springs Road is a no-wake area. 

Smallmouth bass

Lake Milton, in Mahoning County, is home to an abundant population of smallmouth bass. While the population is made up of generally smaller individuals measuring less than 12 inches, recent surveys show a sizable batch of fish in the 12- to 15-inch range with a few fish measuring longer than 18 inches. 

Anglers should focus on rocky shorelines, causeways and hard substrates. Plentiful boating access can be found at multiple Lake Milton State Park boat ramps. 

Crappie

Perennially a producer of large and abundant crappie, Mosquito Creek Lake, in Trumbull County, led the way in 2021 for Fish Ohio crappie catches. Mosquito Lake State Park maintains large public boat ramps, and shoreline fishing can be found on the State Route 88 causeway as well as in the southwestern portion of the lake along state park property. 

Hybrid-striped bass

Hybrid-striped bass are a cross between white bass and striped bass, which are reared in Division of Wildlife state hatcheries. These stocked sportfish create a unique fishing opportunity in select Ohio reservoirs. Guilford Lake, in Columbiana County, was first stocked with hybrid-striped bass in 2014 and receives an annual stocking of approximately 18,000 fingerlings. 

Netting surveys in 2020 showed an abundance of fish in the 18- to 22-inch range, with about 15% of the catch measuring more than 22 inches in length. Population density of hybrid-striped bass in Guilford Lake is almost twice that of the northeast Ohio region and statewide averages. Guilford Lake State Park maintains multiple public launch ramps providing plenty of access. 

Catfish

One of the most rural and undeveloped reservoirs in the state, Clendening Lake, in Harrison County, a Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District reservoir, is home to three species of Ohio catfishes: blue catfish, channel catfish and flathead catfish. 

Whereas channel and flathead catfish are sustained through natural reproduction, blue catfish are produced in Division of Wildlife state hatcheries and annual stockings began in 2016. The blue catfish population is slowly developing and individuals upwards of 24 inches in length have been handled by biologists. Flathead catfish exceeding 50 pounds can be found. 

Shoreline access is limited throughout the lake, but fortuitously the upstream area of the reservoir is where most of the large catfish are found and this is also where the available shoreline access exists.

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