Let’s go Fishing
By Adria Bergeron
In 2018, 49.4 million Americans headed to oceans, rivers, lakes and streams in pursuit of fish according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Part of the fishing obsession is the connection to nature, adventure, and camaraderie. What makes it exciting is not knowing what you will catch that day.
A new record, a new fish you’ve never caught, will you catch anything at all? Fishing has been and continues to be one of the most popular activities at the reservoirs of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD). The MWCD manages 54,000 acres for public use, comprised of 16,000 acres of water surface at 10 lakes and 38,000 acres of land.
The MWCD lakes and surrounding lands offer some of the best recreational areas in the state for hunters, anglers, boaters, swimmers and hikers – or for someone who just wants to kick back and relax while enjoying the beautiful scenery and wildlife. Spanning the eastern portion of Ohio, these lakes include Atwood, Charles Mill, Clendening, Leesville, Piedmont, Pleasant Hill, Seneca, and Tappan. All lakes feature full-service marinas, offering boat docking, rentals, fuel, boating and fishing supplies, and concessions. Campgrounds and cabin rentals are also available for anyone interested in a night, weekend, or weeklong adventure.
Each MWCD lake offers fishing environments according to their individual “personalities.” Charles Mill, Clendening, Leesville, and Piedmont Lakes have a 10-horsepower limit, which keeps the pace slow and the fishing undisturbed. Atwood Lake has a 25-horsepower limit, while Seneca and Tappan Lakes have a 399-horsepower limit. Pleasant Hill Lake is the only MWCD lake with unlimited horsepower.
The MWCD partners with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife for all fish and wildlife management on MWCD land and lakes, including annual fish stocking programs. Fish species vary slightly at each lake, but secluded bays and wide-open areas are home to largemouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, and saugeye.
For anglers looking for an extra adventure, try fishing for muskellunge or “muskie.” These large sportfish are annually stocked in only 10 of Ohio’s lake, including Piedmont and Leesville Lakes. Muskie can also be found in Pleasant Hill Lake having traveled downstream from Clearfork Reservoir, which is also stocked annually. Muskie are native to Ohio and can grow to be 40-50 inches long and 20-40 pounds. The official state record, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, was caught at Piedmont Lake and measured 50.25 inches long and just over 55 pounds.
One of the fastest growing segments of the fishing industry is kayak fishing. Some of the top reasons to choose kayak fishing is that it allows the angler to access more remote areas of the lake, it is easier to transport and store, and is more economical for many people.
The MWCD’s low horsepower lakes are perfect for kayak fishing. Many of the marinas offer kayak rentals or you can bring your own and use a kayak launch located at Clendening, Charles Mill, Leesville, Piedmont, Seneca, and Tappan Lakes. Kayak launches will be added at Atwood and Pleasant Hill this year.
Anglers aged 16 and over must purchase a fishing license. Licenses are available for purchase at authorized marinas or online at wildohio.gov.
Take a kid fishing and look for Passport to Fishing programs at MWCD Lakes throughout the year. These programs are designed for ages 5 to 15 and cover casting, fishing knots and rigging, fish habitat and handling, plus local information. First time participants who complete the program receive a rod and reel, and tackle box to take home for future fishing adventures.
Remember MWCD Lakes are public and all Ohio Fishing Regulations and license requirements apply. Fishing is permitted from shoreline or boat, and public launch ramps are located at each lake. Accessible fishing piers are located at Atwood, Pleasant Hill, and Tappan Lakes, and will be added at Charles Mill, Clendening, Leesville, Piedmont, and Seneca this year. For more information including directions and fishing maps visit www.mwcd.org.