This column is best enjoyed while listening to Primus’ “Fish On.” Click play then continue.
Angling actually has little to do with catching something. It’s more about getting out in nature, to a small pond, a creek, a great lake or even an ocean.
It’s about sitting in solitude and silence or quietly talking with your buddies or children. About matching lures with your target species, time of day, after a rain, hidden spots and good old-fashioned superstitions and luck.
While you won’t find the size and selection of a lake, there’s usually easier access and lagoons, tarns and watering holes are great places to learn the basics.
Pond fishing in Mid Ohio starts with the Ashland County Park District (ACPD), where 11 park ponds are scattered throughout the area. For example, there’s fishing at the Cooke Family Wildlife Conservation Park in the west, a 4.5-acre pond at Hurdle Waterfowl Park in Sullivan in the north, multiple ponds in Byers Woods in the east (don’t be surprised to catch a three-eyed bass there, #landfill) and plenty of baby bluegill at Cool Springs Wildlife Conservation Park in the south.
Here’s the ACPD park map so you can plan your excursions.
Couple of notes: all ACPD fishing is catch-and-release and no fishing license is required (regardless of age). If you are casting into the streams and rivers, however, an Ohio license is required for people 16 and older.
“All parks are closed daily from one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise,” as stated in the ACPD rules and regulations.
Regular catfish tournaments are held at the ponds of the Ashland County Wildlife Conservation League at 1930 CR 1035. The next tourney is scheduled for Aug. 18.
While no license is required to fish there, the grounds are restricted to members only: $25-a-year for the family.
The City of Ashland Parks and Recreation Department also maintains a fishing hole at Brookside West. It’s sunup to sundown and no alcohol is allowed, which makes sense as fish love to drink (dad joke!).
Here’s another one: “Why are fish so skinny? ‘Cus all they eat is fish.”
If you’re ready to graduate from the bobber and worm, to turkey livers and spinners, then there’s some amazing lake fishing around Mid Ohio.
Local anglers will argue Clear Fork Reservoir is the best because of the abundant musky, others will tell you tales of saugeye in Pleasant Hill being longer than their boat, and there are the Charles Mill loyalists who love all the different species from which to choose.
You don’t need a boat to be successful on big bodies of water, as a lot of the best spots are close to the shore. You can hike the Stoller Road Trail, for example, which is off Lexington Ontario Rd., and catch largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish and white bass.
Charles Mill is an excellent location for largemouth bass, with hotspots being across from the marina and along the campground. A key is to look for steep changes in terrain and avoid sandbars and long running shallows.
Crappie, anywhere from 7 to 11 inches, are a great catch at Charles Mill, and you’ll find them along the debris and fallen trees around the lake. As temperatures cool, the crappie will go deeper so keep that in mind as you study the fishing map.
State licenses are required for fishing at Charles Mill, but adults without licenses can assist those 15 and younger.
While you may not find salmon swimming upstream to spawn, there are great opportunities for smaller fish, catching minnows for bait and breaking the catfish weight record.
The Charles Mill Dam was built in 1935, and the outlet becomes the Black Fork Mohican River. You’ll see anglers on the south side of the dam all day and night.
There’s also where the Black Fork flows into Charles Mill, with secret spots around the Crider Rd./ Rt. 603 / I-71 bridge. Under the 430 bridge, around Eagle Point, is a promising spot for catfish, as they go out to feed through that area at get up to 26 inches.
Every fisherperson has their go-to lure or bait, but around central Ohio, the sky is the limit. You can get live worms from local gas stations and the Fin has red worms, wax worms and nightcrawlers.
If live bait is really what you’re after, check out the Mifflin Trading Post for leeches, minnows, liver and a big worm selection, to name a few.
Bass in the area prefer spinners, plastic worms, jigs and cranks. Every person has the “perfect” catfish bait, including nightcrawler clumps, dough balls, shrimp and chicken guts. Crappie are found of jigs that have plastic trailers and of course minnows.
The hybrid stripers and wipers seem to want to eat anything, as hatcheries will feed fish a wide arrange of food. Trolling with crankbaits is effective given stripers propensity for going after preyfish.
Fake Craigslist ad: “Tickets for Charter. I booked the boat a year ago, and now I realize it is on the same date as my wedding. Looking for someone to take my place, the address of the church is 527 Elm Street.”