If you want to know where to go to land the big ones, check out the locales from where the most Fish Ohio awards come.
Fish Ohio recognizes noteworthy, though not necessarily record-size, catches among 19 different fish species. An angler with a qualifying fish receives a nifty lapel pin and a certificate recognizing his lucky catch.
Prime fishing waters in 2.25 million acres of Lake Erie, 451 miles of the Ohio River, 40,000 miles of streams, some 200 inland lakes and impoundments, and countless farm ponds make up the grand total.
An analysis by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the program sponsor, not surprisingly shows that Lake Erie is the haven for large walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass.
In fact walleye were at the top of the heap with 2,300 Fish Ohio applications, most of those from Lake Erie but solid numbers as well from the tributary Maumee and Sandusky rivers.
Yellow perch entries ranked third on the application list with 1,000 entries from Lake Erie alone, with others from Mogadore Reservoir in Portage County and Indian Lake in Logan County.
Erie also was the top water for smallmouth bass entries, followed by Big Darby Creek west-northwest of Columbus, the Ohio River, Alum Creek Lake in Delaware County, Piedmont Lake in Belmont County, and the Grand River east of Cleveland.
Inland lakes are the home of the biggest saugeye (a sauger-walleye hybrid suited to impoundments), and muskellunge (muskie). Top water for saugeye was Indian Lake, followed by Big Walnut Creek, Buckeye Lake in Fairfield, Perry, and Licking counties, Tappan Lake in Harrison County, and Atwood Lake in Tuscarawas County.
The top muskie water was Leesville Lake in Carroll County, followed by West Branch Reservoir in Portage County, Clear Fork Reservoir in Richland County, and Piedmont Lake in Tuscarawas County.
The biggest largemouth bass, crappie, and channel catfish come from private ponds, according to the wildlife analysis. Among public waterways Mosquito Lake in Trumbull County accounts for the most big crappies, followed by Pymatuning Lake in Ashtabula County, Indian Lake, West Branch Reservoir, and Mogadore Reservoir.
Lake Erie again was atop the list, this time for channel catfish in public waterways, along with Hoover Reservoir in Delaware and Franklin counties, and the Ohio and Maumee rivers. Among public waters for largemouth, Portage Lakes in Summit County were the leader, followed by Nimisila Reservoir in Summit County, Mogadore Reservoir, and the AEP ReCreation lakes and ponds in southeast Ohio.
Since its inception in 1976, more than 400,000 anglers have received Fish Ohio awards. Last year 12,947 anglers from Ohio and 40 other states filed for what is known in fishing circles simple as an "F.O."
The 2007 pin featured a largemouth bass and the 2008 pin features a sauger. Individuals who catch four Fish Ohio-size fish in a year can apply for a master angler award, which features a similar lapel pin but which is gold in color. Entries can be completed on-line at fishohio.org.
Following are the minimum length qualifications by species for Fish Ohio awards:
Brown trout, 25 inches; carp, 26 inches; channel catfish, 26 inches; crappie, 13 inches; flathead catfish 35 inches; freshwater drum (sheepshead), 22 inches; hybrid striped bass (wiper), 21 inches; largemouth bass, 21 inches; muskellunge (muskie), 36 inches; northern pike, 32 inches; rainbow trout (steelhead), 28 inches; rock bass, 10 inches, sauger, 16 inches; saugeye, 21 inches; smallmouth bass, 20 inches; sunfish, 9 inches; walleye, 28 inches; white bass, 16 inches and yellow perch, 13 inches.
If you think you have landed truly a whopper - a fish well beyond Fish Ohio minimums - you might want to consult the Outdoor Writers of Ohio Web site, outdoorwritersofohio.org, to see whether you have set a record. Details and applications are available there, or call the OWO record fish chairman, Tom Cross, at 937-386-2752.
Last year was a light year for state records, with only one, sucker/bowfishing, confirmed by OWO and its cooperator, the Ohio Division of Wildlife. That fish was taken on May 18, 2007, by Toledoan Brent McGlone from the Maumee River, a fish weighing 11.21 pounds and measuring 31 1/2 inches. State records are judged solely on weight.
In related news, OWO for 2008 has added the blue catfish to its list of eligible state record fish. The blue principally inhabits the Ohio River. It was added following removal of the species from the state endangered species list. Blues are found in the river's Meldahl and Markland pools between Portsmouth and Cincinnati.
The current record in Kentucky, which shares the river, is 104 pounds. Any Ohio record applications must be for fish taken after Jan. 1, only by rod and reel, and all other application rules, such as weighing on a certified scales with two witnesses, apply.
The Fly Fishing Film Tour, a nationally circulated program showcasing eight independent films on fly fishing adventures around the world, is coming to the Maumee Indoor Theater, 601 Conant St., on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Local sponsor is the North Branch Fly Fishing Club. Tickets are available on-line at flyfishingfilmtour.com, or call 971-238-0554. Unsold tickets may be available at the door.