Fishing prospects looking good for area anglers

Choices are many and with feeding activity comes catches

This small fishing pier/dock on Guilford Lake is missing the cross section which is removed each winter and will be reattached for fishing. It’s located at the end of Hanna Street on the state-operated lake that was stocked with hybrid striped bass in 2014 and each year since, except for 2017. The hybrid bass is a cross between a striped bass and white bass. The fishing season will be heating up and the Ohio Division of Wildlife District 3 said Mosquito Creek Lake in Trumbull County is a “walleye and crappie factory” while the West Branch Reservoir in Portage County produced twice the number of reported muskies than the next highest lake (Dist. 3), Leesville, in Carroll County. Over 20 percent of the West Branch anglers reported fish greater than 42-inches, making it a true trophy fishery for anglers, District 3 said. (Salem News photo by Larry Shields)

SALEM — Fishing prospects are looking good for area anglers. Current water temperatures are on the cold side but as lakes warm up so will feeding activity.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife has numerous resources available to assist anglers including lake maps, fishing tips by species, and fishing forecasts based on survey data. The state has opportunities for public fishing, including 124,000 acres of inland water, 7,000 miles of streams, and 2.25 million acres of Lake Erie water.

Curtis P. Wagner is the fisheries management supervisor for the Division of Wildlife, District 3 in Akron. There are five districts and District 3 covers the 20 northeastern-most counties. In Columbiana County, Guilford Lake, Highlandtown Wildlife Area, Zepernick Lake Wildlife Area, and the Beaver Creek State Park offer state fishing on lakes and streams.

Salem also allows fishing at its reservoir south of the city near Guilford Lake. People fishing Guilford Lake noticed something different in the last few years when hybrid striped bass starting hitting. Wagner said that in 2014, there were 18,800 fingerlings stocked in the lake.

Fingerlings are “basically one-inch long and couched in the size for certain numbers,” he explained due to low survival rates. That is “the cost of raising them in a hatchery …”

In 2015, there were 22,000 fingerlings put into Guilford Lake. In 2016 it was double-stocked with 50,000.

“Often times, when hatcheries have a bang-out year, there’s a surplus stocking and they get rid of them,” Wagner explained.

In 2017, no fish were stocked. This year Division of Wildlife’s request is for 20,000 fingerlings, which will probably delivered in mid-June.

“Hybrids are tough on hatcheries,” he said, adding the hybrids are related to the ocean bass, known on east coast fishing shores as “stripers” or “rock fish.”

“They are related,” Wagner said. He explained the hybrids are a cross between a striped bass (female) and white bass (male).

The fish were placed in Guilford Lake because the Division of Wildlife was looking to get a hybrid bass program started in the region due to a lack of a localized fishery.

It chose Guilford Lake as one place because of its resources. Predatory issues were studied and the lake’s abundance of gizzard shad was one consideration.

“Hybrids need a different environment in the scheme of things and hybrids need more open water and shad. They feed on shad, an available food sources without affecting the overall environment,” Wagner said.

From one-inch fingerlings to a catchable size the fish have been growing fast, he said.

“We caught some in Guilford last summer; a bunch in the 17-inch range. We didn’t age those and I have to think they’re the 2014 fish (stocking), 2 to 3-year-old fish, and would be most likely, 3 years old now, maybe two.”

A year-old hybrid will grow to nine or 10 inches – they do grow like “gangbusters” and put on a belly, Wagner said.

“We know they’re growing fast … they basically look like the longer and skinnier ocean relatives,” Wagner said, adding the hybrids were also introduced into the Ohio River, which has 481 miles to fish in.

There is a 30-fish daily limit and no more than four harvested hybrid striped bass can exceed 15-inches.

Hybrid striped bass were also placed in Berlin Lake, Sippo Lake in Canton and the Dale Walborn Reservoir in Alliance.

Near Guilford Lake, south of the city, is the Salem Reservoir which opened for fishing and boating on April 17.

Tom Hill, a clerk at the boathouse, said fishing was slow and attributed it to the weather.

“It’s so cold, that’s what I think has gotten the slow start,” he said. “They haven’t been hitting.”

The lake is known for yellow perch, crappie and has produced 19 to 22-inch long bass.

The lake is open every day except Monday from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. and daily passes are $5 and children under 12 are free. The lake entrance is approximately one mile from Teegarden Road.

Berlin Lake in Portage County is known for large and smallmouth bass, walleye as well as a healthy number of crappie, white bass and catfish.

The Zepernick Wildlife Area in Columbiana County was drained in 2012-13 and restocked with largemouth bass, channel catfish and grass carp. There are green sunfish, blue gill and pumpkinseeds that survived the drainage.

Zepernick is “basically similar to a pond,” Wagner said, adding it was stocked in 2017 with about 150, eight- to nine-inch channel catfish.

Ruff Pond, just west of Zepernick on state Route 172, is known as a tough place to fish, but has channel catfish, blue gill and bass.

There have been reports of pickerel and Wagner didn’t want to rule out the possibility of grass pickerel in the pond that could get as big as 14 inches.

Mosquito Creek Lake in Trumbull County has an abundance of panfish, including crappie, yellow perch and sunfish, according to observations made from 2018 trap nets.

“It’s a walleye and crappie factory,” Wagner said. “The crappie look amazing and walleye are looking good.”

He meant by the number and size and the recent reduction of aquatic vegetation should allow for a more successful panfish bite.

The West Branch Reservoir in Portage County is a 2,650-acre lake where muskellunge can be found.

The Division of Wildlife’s Musky Angler Log indicated that West Branch produced twice the number of reported muskies than the next highest lake, Leesville, in Carroll County.

Over 20 percent of the West Branch anglers reported fish greater than 42-inches, making it a true trophy fishery for anglers, the Division of Wildlife said.

The reservoir has historically had numerous predators stocked over the years and muskellunge, walleye, saugeye, and even striped bass have been stocked for years.

Walleye fishing is big at Pymatuning Lake in Ashtabula County but the Division of Wildlife said it had a “tough bite in 2017 due to record abundances of forage, mainly shad.” It looks better this year though, as the winter was cold enough to knock back the forage population.

Also, 2017 surveys show excellent numbers of quality fish.

The Mogadore Reservoir, also in Portage County and owned by Akron, is a channel catfish showcase. According to the Division of Wildlife, exhibits some of the highest growth rates and best sizes for channel catfish in northeast Ohio.

The fish are stocked in odd-numbered years to continue to support exceptional catch rates for anglers.

The Division of Wildlife has numerous resources available to assist anglers, including lake maps, fishing tips by species, and fishing forecasts based on survey data.

Anglers are also encouraged to use an online, interactive fishing map which allows users to select features in order to customize their own fishing maps for Ohio’s inland lakes.

This map and the selective features are even mobile-friendly so anglers can access information right on the water.

For more information, click the “fishing tab” at wildohio.gov.