Since the advent of more enlightened manufacturing and agricultural processes and accompanying pollution and littering regulations, Ohio has spent the last century continually improving water quality and angling opportunities.
Today, Ohio’s sport fishing has become some of the best and most accessible in the Midwest. Many of the state’s streams and inland lakes can be reached by visiting one of 75 state parks, 21 state forests, 118 wildlife areas and countless locally administered sites and parks.
Of special interest, anglers may also consider exploring the fishing opportunities on one of the 17 rivers and streams that have been especially recognized by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Wild and Scenic Rivers Program.
Ohio pioneered the river preservation movement in 1968 with the passage of the nation’s first scenic rivers act. This legislation created a program to protect our remaining high quality streams for future generations.
One of the first rivers to receive this distinction was the historic Little Beaver Creek in my home county; Columbiana. Having spent countless hours of my youth searching it for smallmouth and floating its currents through pristine, unglaciated hills; I highly recommend you consider a visit. Other rivers that have qualified for recognition include the Mohican, Chagrin, Little Miami, Kokosing, Grand, Sandusky and Maumee Rivers.
Information about any of these areas can be easily researched by visiting the Department of Natural Resources website at www.odnr.gov. Maps, access points, special regulations and a description of any facilities are provided.
When we turn northward, we find Lake Erie. The big lake, which would more properly be considered an inland sea, is considered Ohio’s most sparkling jewel in its angling crown; a real sportsmen and boater’s dream destination.
This enormous warm-water fishery is managed through joint cooperation between all of its bordering states as well as Ontario, Canada. Their goal is to provide a healthy and sustainable sport fishery and their work has been accomplished admirably.
While Erie is best known for its stellar walleye, perch and smallmouth bass angling; one fishery is quickly; yet quietly, growing into a new and nearly as prominent opportunity for sportsmen. Largemouth bass numbers have been climbing over the last decade without the comprehensive management given to other lake inhabitants.
These improvements are being attributed to the lake’s slightly warmer temperatures which has increased nearshore aquatic vegetation; a habitat well suited to rearing largemouth.
According to recent Division of Wildlife surveys, biologists discovered that largemouth are now abundant in Lake Erie’s western basin nearshore areas, not just in harbors. In fact, creel surveys are finding that catch rates along the lake’s shoreline are as high as two fish per hour during the best years; not including angling trips that focused on marinas or harbors.
For more information about fishing for bass or other species on Lake Erie, check out the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s recently updated Lake Erie Fishing Guide, available at wildohio.gov. It includes fishing tips, techniques, public boat launching locations, and other valuable information to help those new to fishing Lake Erie.
With all these water resources so readily available, it’s time for you to wet a line, drown a worm or bob a bobber; whatever floats your boat. It’s time for you to fish Ohio (and camp, hike, explore, boat and hunt).
“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles.” – Doug Larson
Along the Way:
As witnessed by the state budget successfully passing through the House of Representatives and now being sent for review by the Senate, Governor DeWine and ODNR Director Mertz have been successfully explaining the importance of a healthy and active ODNR through the Governor’s Conservation Reinvestment Initiative.
According to the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, “Gov. DeWine and ODNR Director Mertz have quickly recognized the problem faced by Ohio sportsmen and women, and have shown their willingness to step up and provide the leadership necessary to help fix these issues and ensure the future of conservation in Ohio.”
The Conservation Reinvestment Initiative includes provisions which encompass funding to address American Electric Power (AEP) acquisition and operational needs for the ReCreation lands project, which includes Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area.
Access to land for hunting and fishing, an ever-important issue facing Ohio sportsmen and women, is essential to the future of our outdoor heritage. ODNR’s pursuit to procure the AEP properties is of special importance in helping alleviate some of these needs. It’s important to note that if legislators are unwilling to fund the purchase of the property, it would likely be sold into private ownership.
The Sportsmen’s Alliance points out that Ohio hunters, anglers, trappers and recreational shooters had become increasingly unhappy with the backlog of projects that would help improve their outdoor experiences; including shooting ranges, fishing and boating access, wetland and marsh repairs and other badly needed work have been delayed for years due to a severe lack of funds.
The Conservation Reinvestment Initiative includes the implementation of a very modest increase on resident fishing licenses and some hunting permits, estimated to provide $40 million over the next ten years. It also allows the Division of Wildlife to approve small incremental fee increases to keep up with increasing costs and forestall large “all-at-once” upsurges required when necessary and financially responsible adjustments have been avoided, ignored or neglected.
Funding to repair Ohio’s deteriorating shooting ranges, fish hatcheries and boating/fishing access would also be addressed in the initiative as well as improvements and updates of daily operations.
The governor’s budget is a critically needed shot in the arm that will enable the Division of Wildlife to make improvements to meet the needs of its customers now, and to insure the future of our wildlife resources. It deserves our support.
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