How to Fish In Ohio Like a Pro
By James Proffitt

How to Fish In Ohio Like a Pro

Everything you need to know from licensing to best locations!

Wetting a line in Ohio is one of the state’s most popular outdoor activities – and no wonder: Where there is water there are fish! And likely an angler aiming to pull one from the deeps (or shallows) on the end of his or her line.

The 40th anniversary of Fish Ohio Day will take place with Governor Mike DeWine, elected and wildlife officials and media on Lake Erie July 2nd. The event was established to showcase Ohio fishing on the state’s biggest lake and spur interest in the pursuit of fun – and tasty — fish. But for anyone interested, every day can be a “Fish in Ohio” day.

Licensing and Reports

Fishing is cheap and sometimes free: An annual fishing license for residents 16 or older is just $19 (less than 6 cents a day) and is valid for a full year from date of purchase. No license is required for fishing in private ponds or lakes, active-duty military personnel, anyone born before Jan. 1, 1938, and some others. For details, visit Ohio’s license page.

Get tips and reports anytime: There are a number of Ohio websites that offer tips, fishing reports and other information for anglers. Reports often include locations, conditions, baits and techniques used and other helpful tools you can use to target fish wherever you’re heading.

Fishing for Beginners

Bank fish just about anywhere: From tiny ponds and creeks to large lakes and rivers, bank fishing is the most popular way to land fish in Ohio. Why? Because fishing from shore is available anywhere there’s water. Sometimes it could be in a setting like downtown Dayton, Columbus, Toledo or Cleveland, or any small town with a river. It could also be a hike through the woods to a small pond tucked out of site or one of Ohio’s many state parks and lakes or reservoirs. The species of fish found in Ohio waters are wide-ranging, from small mouth bass, crappie and carp to catfish, muskie and northern pike.

Afraid of worms or live bait? Doesn’t matter: Worms and other creepy crawlers, chicken liver and other meaty treats do make great bait. But anglers also catch fish with jigs, plugs, spinners, crankbaits, tied flies, plastic worms and a whole host of artificial baits. With a little bit of patience (and maybe luck) you can probably get a fish to go for just about anything that looks yummy and wriggles in the water.

Big Water, Big Fish

For big water, head north. All the way: To Lake Erie, Ohio’s largest body of water. The top predator, walleye, is also tops for Ohio anglers who target the species more than any other. Walleye fishing for the next five or six years is expected to be the best ever, with perhaps more than 100 million keeper-sized fish in the lake. Yellow perch are also easy to catch and delicious.

Fishing for the Record Breakers

Caught a really big one? Maybe it’s a Fish Ohio: Get a cool pin (free) from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources if you catch an especially big fish. The Fish Ohio program rewards anglers for hooking into the largest fish of more than two dozen species found around the state.

Think you caught the biggest one ever? Try for a record: The Outdoor Writers of Ohio administers the state’s official record fish program. Don’t be intimidated – new records are being set almost every year. In 2018 nine-year-old Sue Ann Newswanger set the record for a green sunfish using a spinning reel with a nightcrawler fishing in a Richland County farm pond. She’s the youngest record-holder in Ohio.

For Group Fishing

Get a fishing charter: Private charter boats on Lake Erie run about $450 and up for four to six people for a day. Captains will work to get you onto fish and hooked up. A walk-on or head boats is a cheaper option. Call ahead to reserve a spot or just show up to hop on a really big vessel with another 15 to 25 anglers heading onto Lake Erie. For between $40 and $60 a person these captains will get you onto the big blue for less green. And they’ll work just as hard to fill your cooler with fish.

For Ice Fishing

Doesn’t have to be nice weather to fish: Don’t forget hard water fishing, when everything is frozen over solid. While this can take a little more effort, it’s definitely rewarding. Ice fishing in Ohio can be plenty of fun. In this arena, it’s best to start out with an experienced ice fisherman.

The bottom line is you don’t need anything fancy to get out and enjoy Ohio’s fishing, really just a line, hook and bait. Everything after that’s up to you. And the fish, of course!

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