By Jeff Hambach
With the approach of fall and cooler weather, most boaters are preparing to store their boats for the winter, but a few of them are looking forward to the changes that will occur soon on Ohio’s lakes. Labor Day marks the day that most beaches will close. The camping areas around the lakes are preparing for the end of their season too. But, there are a few people who do look forward to this time of year on the water.
September brings some of the most pleasant weather of the year. The air is still warm and the water hasn’t cooled yet. You don’t have to contend with the high winds and waves of springtime, nor the thunderstorms and crowded lake conditions of summer. If you like calm lake conditions and mild temperatures, September and October are months you’ll want to experience on Ohio’s lakes. Although the beaches are closed, many people still ride their jet skis and water ski into the month of October. Last year, I witnessed a water skier on Pleasant Hill Lake on November 1. A brave soul indeed.
Anyone who enjoys a ride in the car to see the fall foliage would certainly enjoy a boat trip on most any of Ohio’s lakes to witness all the splendor fall has to offer. Many lakes offer breathless views of fall colors, as well as a chance to see some of the wildlife that inhabit our state. Checking out the beautifully colored trees at this time on a lake is especially enjoyable because you can also see the reflection of the trees in the water. Sort of a double shot of nature’s beauty. Several years ago while on Salt Fork Lake, I witnessed my first eagle in flight. Moments later I saw another one in a tree high up on a hill. It, too, took flight and came right over my head. I’ve since witnessed eagles at Nimisila Reservoir, Pleasant Hill Lake and several places near Sandusky Bay. For some reason, wildlife doesn’t pay much attention to you when you’re in a boat. I’ve sat and watched deer, muskrats, raccoons, mink, beavers and countless types of birds, most of which are not afraid and allow you to get very close.
Fall also brings out the fishermen. It can get extremely warm sitting in a boat on a hot summer day. Come fall, however, you can usually sit in a boat all day and enjoy every minute of it. It’s also fun to be on the lake during the fall nights. Some Walleye and Saugeye fishermen that I know think that fall is the best time to fish for these species. Many of the die-hards fish at night all the way up until the time the lakes ice over. They believe it’s your best chance at catching the big ones. They brave the cold November and December nights and claim to thoroughly enjoy it. I’m a fisherman, but apparently not a die-hard fisherman.
There is one thing to be concerned about with fall boating. Most lakes experience a fall drawdown. That is when the state opens the dams and lowers the normal depth of the water anywhere from three to ten feet in order to accommodate flood control of the spring runoff. It also offers the opportunity to do repair and maintenance work on launch ramps and docks, as well as helping to control underwater weed growth. Usually this occurs in early to mid-November. If you plan on boating in November or later, it would be advisable to check with the Department of Wildlife to see when a particular lake is scheduled for drawdown. Most launch ramps are not functional at that time, although some do maintain operations.
If you have a chance to get out on a lake this fall, take advantage of it. You may just love what fall offers on Ohio’s lakes.
Fall Boating in Ohio