Fishing in Knox Lake

A man fishes in Knox Lake on June 12, 2020.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written in response to reader-submitted questions through Open Source, a platform where readers can ask Richland Source’s newsroom to investigate a question.

FREDERICKTOWN — Good news for is on the horizon for those who enjoy the recreation opportunities of Knox Lake.

The water level of Knox Lake has been rising since mid-May after being lowered a year ago for dam construction -- which is now complete.

Austin Levering, Ohio Department of Natural Resources wildlife officer for Knox County, expects the lake to be fully accessible to the public by the end of June.

“The dam itself is complete,” Levering said. “They’re just putting the finishing touches on it right now.”

ODNR began rehabilitating Knox Lake’s 60-year-old dam last June to adhere to safety standards and lowered the water level of the lake approximately six feet during construction. ODNR scheduled construction to be completed by June 2021.

“It took about a year; they were right on schedule,” Levering said.

Patrons of the lake have been allowed to use small watercraft, such as kayaks, during construction, but large watercraft have not been permitted throughout the low-level period. Once the lake returns to normal pool level, it will be accessible to large boats, Levering said.

ODNR shut off the siphons — pipes that bring water from the reservoir over a dam — on May 24. On May 25, the siphons were removed, said Marty Lundquist, fish management supervisor at ODNR. 

“The water level has been rising since then,” he said. 

The water level will be brought up to within 6 inches of normal level until June 30, when it is slated to reach normal level. Lundquist noted that rainfall could speed up the process.

“The more rain the better,” he said.

ODNR’s goal for the construction was to stabilize the spillway in case of a maximum flood, Levering said. 

“This entailed drilling holes in the spillway walls and floor down into the bedrock and then using hundreds of stabilizing rods to pour the concrete into,” he said.

Other additions made during the past year include the installation of new gates to control lake levels and riprap to prevent erosion, smoothing out the back side of the dam for easier walking and mowing accessibility and the installation of new boat ramps.

The boat ramp located on Armentrout Road near Grandpa’s Tackle Box has been renovated and the courtesy docks in that area have been replaced. 

Lundquist said it was not yet clear if fish in Knox Lake had died because of low-oxygen in low water levels, which had been a concern when construction began. ODNR fish biologists will assess the fish populations in fall 2021 and spring 2022, during typical sampling seasons, to determine whether fish should be restocked, he said.

The project, funded by the motor gasoline tax received by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, cost $4.6 million, Lundquist said.

The remaining construction is minimal, he said, and includes finishing the toe drain, putting down additional grass seed, adding more riprap and sealing and striping the parking lots.

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Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.

Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.