Spring is a good time to go fishing, with lots of local opportunities the next couple weeks.
Most notably, the state of Ohio has Free Fishing Days on the weekend of May 4-5. That means you can fish on any public waterway statewide without a fishing license, from streams (7,000 miles worth), to the Ohio River (481 miles in length) to Lake Erie (2.25 million acres), to 75 state parks. For Delaware County residents, Ohio’s 124,000 acres of inland water includes local fishing at Alum Creek, Delaware, Hoover and O’Shaughnessy reservoirs.
“The Free Fishing Days weekend offers Ohioans of all ages the chance to experience the joys of fishing,” the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife website states. “Consider introducing a child, neighbor, or coworker to fishing during this time. Choose a pond, lake, or stream where the person can easily catch a few fish. A spin-cast reel is usually easier for a beginner to pick up and use. Bring plenty of patience! Keep the trip short, and helping the person de-hook their fish, bait their lines, and taking pictures just might land you a new fishing buddy.”
Fishing contests are also popular. The annual Ashley Trout Fishing Event will be held May 4 at the Newman Park Reservoir. Fishing begins at 9 a.m., and participants must bring their own bait. The event will be held rain or shine and refreshments will be served. Trophies will be awarded for largest trout caught. The event is free and open to all youth 12 years and under.
The Sunbury Village Fishing Derby takes place 9 a.m.-1 p.m. May 4 at the Sunbury Upground Reservoirs. The event is sponsored by Sunbury Christian Church, the Village, and the Sportmen’s Alliance Foundation. Ages 15 and under can fish for free. To sign up, visit sunburychristian.com/fishingderby.
ODNR has recently issued its “Central Ohio Fishing Forecasts — Top Inland Lakes for 2019.” Delaware Lake was recommended for crappie. “Delaware Lake is consistently one of the best crappie fisheries in central Ohio,” ODNR states. “It has an excellent population of both white and black crappies. In the spring, the best areas to focus on are larger coves with brush and wood in the water. During the summer, fish move to deeper water adjacent to the old stream channel.”
Hoover is suggested for blue, channel and flathead catfish. Blue cats weighing 20 pounds or more is not unusual. ODNR said the northern portion of the lake is best, using bottom fishing or trolling techniques. If you do take a boat, note that Hoover “has a 10-horsepower restriction on outboard boat motors. … Hoover is popular for kayak fishing because of the horsepower restrictions.” In addition, there are five boat ramps, including the renovated Oxbow ramp in Genoa Township.
During a recent visit to the Hoover Mudflats Boardwalk in Galena, three generations of fishermen were fishing without much success. A couple said they were interested in catching crappies and were using minnows or waxworms as bait. Another was spoon casting for bass. One gentleman said he was trying for crappies, but it would be OK if he caught bluegill or bass. “I’m not particular,” he said.
ODNR also recommends Buckeye Lake in Licking County for sunfish longer than 8 inches at the newly-renovated dam; and Indian Lake in Logan County for saugeye 10-13 inches.
On Saturday, April 27, three of the state’s fish hatcheries will hold open houses from noon to 3 p.m.: Castalia (which grows steelhead), Kincaid (rainbow trout and muskellunge) and London (brown trout). The other three facilities in Hebron, Senecaville and St. Marys feature fish such as catfish, saugeye, sunfish, walleye, and yellow perch; and they had open houses earlier in the month.
Also on April 27, there will be a free vessel safety check from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. at the Columbus Cabela’s store, 1650 Gemini Place, in Delaware County.
“We want to help make boating as safe as possible for you and your family and friends, through education,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz in a news release. “The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has certified vessel examiners who will perform a free vessel safety check of your boat. This is a great chance to see if there are any issues with your boat for free and get them addressed without any consequences.”
If fishing isn’t your thing but you still like the water, you may want to visit the Lakeside Daisy State Nature Preserve on the Marblehead Peninsula in Ottawa County. ODNR recently expanded the preserve from 19 to 137 acres, which is home to the state’s only natural population of Lakeside Daisy. There is also a hike to see the endangered flower in bloom at noon on Mother’s Day, May 12.
Closer to home, Preservation Parks is offering the chance to visit the osprey platforms in Alum Creek Reservoir via canoe and kayak. The Float with a Naturalist program will be held Sunday, May 5, at 1 p.m. Participants must bring their own canoes or kayaks, and life jackets, to the Howard Road boat launch on the east side of Alum Creek Reservoir. The group will paddle for about three hours (five miles round trip) up to the osprey platforms, and back. This event is free, but participants must be 16 or older. No reservation is necessary.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.