Clear Fork Reservoir

A view from docks at Clear Fork Reservoir. The chief of police at the reservoir, Gary Foster, said he recently spoke with two fishermen who were finding success at the reservoir using minnows and possibly grubs. (Photo courtesy of Clear Fork Reservoir Chief of Police Gary Foster)

RICHLAND COUNTY, Ohio – With autumn's arrival, area anglers are in the midst of a top time to land crappies in Ohio’s lakes and reservoirs.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, crappie fishing from mid-September through November is at its highest peak activity.

However, Clear Fork Reservoir Chief of Police Gary Foster said the recent drop in temperature caused fish activity to slow down a bit.

“That real coldsnap we got shut everything off up until about mid-week this week,” he said. “About Tuesday or Wednesday, they started catching fish again on the east side of the lake.”

Despite the temperature drop, Foster said he spoke with two fishermen on Tuesday who were finding success at the reservoir using minnows and possibly grubs.

“This time of year, [crappie are] picking their feeding back up to get ready for the colder months,” Foster said. “The lake has flipped over, and they’re feeding heavily right now.”

He added that the number of people taking advantage of the season has been picking up and that he expects the trend to continue into the weekend, especially with the Columbus Day around the corner.

Clear Fork ranks No. 1 in crappie population in Ohio’s Northwest region of lakes and reservoirs, according to the ODNR’s crappie fishing forecast. It also ranks third in crappies more than 9 inches long.

At Pleasant Hill Lake, park manager Bill Martin said lately people have been faring well with crappies and saugeyes.

He also noted that the ODNR Division of Wildlife was at the lake Oct. 7 performing sampling studies.

“They go through and temporarily stun the fish by electric shocking them, and then they sample them and see how many of each species and what size,” Martin said of the study.

The ODNR ranks Pleasant Hill first in crappie population 9 inches or more in the Northwest Ohio region. The lake is fourth in the region in total crappie numbers.

A short distance from the marina, Greg Hamilton, owner of Big Fish General Store and Bait, echoed Martin, saying people have been landing crappies and saugeyes in bunches, as well as bluegills.

“This is the best time right now,” Hamilton said of crappie fishing.

Big Fish General Store and Bait is located at 3911 Ohio Route 95 in Perrysville.

Approximately 12 miles north of Pleasant Hill sits Charles Mill Marina, which is reporting heavy crappie activity too.

Dana Wolfe, office manager at the marina, said people have been doing well and buying a lot of bait – particularly minnows and artificial lures.

She said, however, she can’t pinpoint the hotspots on the lake.

“Nobody tells their secrets,” she said.

In the Northwest Ohio region, the ODNR puts Charles Mill third in crappie population and fourth in number of crappies 9 inches or longer.

According to the ODNR, crappies move back and forth into shallow water during this time of year, adding that to find a prime location for the species, cover and baitfish are among the top indicators.

The ODNR’s crappie fishing forecast ranks lakes greater than 50 acres in the state and in each region based on standardized fish surveys in the past five years. Any lake not surveyed during that time is excluded from the forecast.

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