If catching a big fish is your bag, it can pay dividends to pay attention to where Ohio's anglers landed noteworthy specimens last year.
Big fish hot spots come to the surface in an analysis of annual Fish Ohio award program, which recognizes 19 species of game fish and offers a catchy lapel pin to fishermen who land fish meeting the threshold of "big one."
For a walleye, for example, that means 28 inches or longer. A largemouth bass must stretch to 21 inches, a yellow perch 13 inches, a sunfish 9 inches, and so on. The entire list and a Fish Ohio award application can be found online at fishohio.org.
That said, here is a rundown of those Fish Ohio hot spots, which can be found among 451 miles of the Ohio River, 40,000 miles of streams, about 200 inland lakes and thousands of private ponds, not to mention a certain 2.25-million acre body that arguably is one of the best fishing venues in the world, Lake Erie:
Erie tops the list for several popular species. You just cannot do much better than this lake to find Fish Ohio examples for walleye, yellow perch, steelhead trout, and smallmouth bass.
Trophy walleye received the highest number of entries with 2,235. Lake Erie was the top place to catch them, followed by the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and Pymatuning Lake.
Catches of yellow perch were the second-most caught fish from Lake Erie with 1,376 entries. Mosquito Lake Reservoir in Trumbull County followed in the yellow perch take.
Lake Erie is also the top lake for smallmouth bass, followed by the Ohio River, Rocky River, Piedmont Lake in Belmont County, and Big Darby Creek. Steelhead (lake-run rainbow trout) also found Lake Erie most productive, with Rocky River, Grand River, Conneaut Creek, and the Ashtabula River following in turn.
Inland lakes turn out to be the home of trophy saugeye and muskellunge, both of which are hatchery reared and then stocked. The saugeye is a sauger-walleye hybrid.
Indian Lake in Logan County led the list for trophy saugeye catches followed by Buckeye Lake in Fairfield, Perry, and Licking counties, Scioto River, Alum Creek Lake in Delaware County and Leesville Lake in Carroll County.
The No. 1 "Fish Ohio" lake for "muskie" catches was Alum Creek, followed by West Branch Reservoir in Portage County, Clear Fork Reservoir in Richland County, and Piedmont Lake in Tuscarawas County.
It turns out that private ponds are the best places to seek big sunfish, crappie, channel cat, and largemouth bass. Remember, you have to obtain permission from owners to fish from ponds, much like asking to hunt private land.
Although a majority of Fish Ohio entries for sunfish, crappies, channel catfish and largemouth bass were caught in private ponds, these species also were plentiful in many public waterways.
Mosquito Lake led the "Fish Ohio" entries in the crappie category with Pymatuning Lake in Ashtabula County, West Branch Reservoir and Lake Erie completing the list. The number of Fish Ohio entries for sunfish were second only to those for walleye. The state's Lake La Su An chain of lakes and ponds in Williams County and Portage Lakes in Summit County were the two most-productive for trophy panfish.
The Ohio River topped the list for qualifying catches of channel catfish in a public waterway. Hoover Reservoir in Delaware and Franklin counties, Mosquito Lake and the Maumee River also proved to be hot spots for channel catfish action.
The top "Fish Ohio" area for largemouth bass outside private ponds was Portage Lakes with Chippewa Lake in Medina County, Salt Fork Lake in Guernsey County and the ponds on AEP's ReCreation lands also noted for trophy catches of largemouth.
Last year some 14,000 anglers from Ohio and 40 other states were recognized for trophy catches. Along with a lapel pin - a walleye this year, a bluegill last year - each angler with a qualifying "Fish Ohio" catch receives a certificate. Since 1976, more than 425,000 anglers have been recognized for "Fish Ohio" catches.
If you want to go it one better try for a Master Angler pin, which is awarded to angler landing four Fish Ohio species in a year. The Master Angler pin is similar to the "Fish Ohio" pin, except it is gold in color.
New to the Fish Ohio list is the blue catfish, found in the Ohio River system, with a minimum qualifying length of 35 inches.
A restored wetland at White Star Park just south of Gibsonburg in Sandusky County has been named in honor of Doug Haubert, who recently completed 35 years of service with the Sandusky County Park District.
In 1975, Haubert was one of the first employees to join a fledgling staff tackling the transformation of abandoned quarry operation just south of Gibsonburg into the 800-acre, award winning park it is today. The majority of Haubert's tenure has been as operations supervisor for the park district, which was founded in 1973. Today, the district protects 10 properties containing more than 2,300 acres, and Haubert has been instrumental in the effort.
"They couldn't have given me a better gift for all my years of service with the park district," the manager said about the Doug Haubert Wetland.
Contact Steve Pollick at: