For anglers looking to catch prize walleye, yellow perch, steelhead, and smallmouth bass, Lake Erie remains the best place to cast a line, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.
Lake Erie and a dozen inland lakes were among the best places to reel in "Fish Ohio" catches, the ODNR program that recognizes noteworthy catches among 19 species.
With 2.25 million Lake Erie water acres, 451 miles of the Ohio River, 40,000 miles of streams, about 200 inland lakes and thousands of private ponds, Ohio anglers have good opportunities to catch fish that qualify for the recognition program, the ODNR says.
The state's best "Fish Ohio" waters in 2009 were:
Lake Erie: Tops for walleye, yellow perch, steelhead and smallmouth bass
Trophy walleye received the highest number of entries with 2,235. Lake Erie was the top place to catch them, followed by the Maumee and Sandusky rivers and Pymatuning Lake. Catches of yellow perch were the second most caught fish at the lake with 1,376 entries. Mosquito Lake Reservoir in Trumbull County followed in the yellow perch take.
Lake Erie is also the top lake for smallmouth bass, followed by the Ohio River, Rocky River, Piedmont Lake in Belmont County and the Big Darby Creek. Steelhead (rainbow trout) also found Lake Erie most productive, with Rocky River, Grand River, Conneaut Creek and the Ashtabula River following in suit.
Inland Lakes: Home of trophy saugeye and muskie. Indian Lake in Logan County led the list for trophy saugeye catches followed by Buckeye Lake in Fairfield, Perry and Licking counties, Scioto River, Alum Creek Lake in Delaware County and Leesville Lake in Carroll County. The number one "Fish Ohio" lake for "muskie" catches was Alum Creek, followed by West Branch Reservoir in Portage County, Clear Fork Reservoir in Richland County and Piedmont Lake in Tuscarawas County.
Private Ponds: Best places for sunfish, crappie, channel cat and largemouth bass
While a majority of entries for sunfish, crappies, channel catfish and largemouth bass were caught in private ponds, these species also were plentiful in many public waterways. Mosquito Lake led the "Fish Ohio" entries in the crappie category with Pymatuning Lake in Ashtabula County, West Branch Reservoir and Lake Erie completing the list. The number of Fish Ohio entries for sunfish were second only to those for walleye. Lake La Su An in Williams County and Portage Lakes in Summit County were the two most productive for trophy panfish.
Ohio River topped the list for qualifying catches of channel catfish in a public waterway. Hoover Reservoir in Delaware and Franklin counties, Mosquito Lake and the Maumee River also proved to be hot spots for channel catfish action. The top "Fish Ohio" area for largemouth bass was Portage Lakes with Chippewa Lake in Medina County, Salt Fork Lake in Guernsey County and the ponds on AEP's ReCreation lands also noted for trophy catches of largemouth.
In 2009, the "Fish Ohio" program recognized 14,000 anglers from Ohio and 40 other states for trophy catches. Each angler with a qualifying "Fish Ohio" catch receives a certificate and lapel pin. The 2009 pin featured a bluegill; the 2010 pin will display a walleye. Since 1976, more than 425,000 anglers have been recognized for "Fish Ohio" catches.
Individuals who catch four "Fish Ohio" fish in a single year qualify for a master angler pin.
The species list and length requirements for recognition are:
Blue catfish (new species for 2010) – 35 inches;
brown trout - 25 inches;
carp - 26 inches;
channel catfish - 26 inches;
crappie - 13 inches;
flathead catfish - 35 inches;
freshwater drum - 22 inches;
hybrid striped bass - 21 inches;
largemouth bass - 21 inches;
muskie - 36 inches;
northern pike - 32 inches;
rainbow trout - 28 inches;
rock bass - 10 inches;
sauger - 16 inches;
saugeye - 21 inches;
smallmouth bass - 20 inches;
sunfish - 9 inches;
walleye - 28 inches;
white bass - 16 inches;
yellow perch - 13 inches.