Fishing in Ohio

Head to the Buckeye State to fish big lakes, big rivers, and—just maybe—to catch the biggest walleye of your life.
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About Ohio

With over 124,000 acres of inland water, 7,000 miles of streams, and some 50,000 ponds and lakes, not to mention more than 300 miles of beautiful coastline along Lake Erie, Ohio is filled with amazing fishing opportunities. Walleye and perch are the most sought-after fish here, but bass, northern pike, catfish, crappie, and even trout swim in Ohio’s waters. Lake Erie is often touted as “The Walleye Capital of the World” (although several other regions also lay claim to this honor). Lake Erie has a huge and thriving population of these fish, and they grow large. Anglers also target Lake Erie’s abundant and delicious yellow perch, and the lake has an underappreciated but excellent smallmouth bass fishery. Besides Lake Erie, Ohio has many other lakes and reservoirs, many of which hold excellent bass and musky fishing. One of these, Clear Fork Reservoir, was recently voted one of the top 50 fishing spots in the USA. The Ohio River, which runs along the southern border of its namesake state, holds walleye, saugeye, bass, and catfish.

Fishing Types

Much of the best fishing in Ohio involves big lakes and reservoirs, so fishing from a boat is mostly the way to go. Charter fishing is big business, especially in places like Port Clinton and Sandusky Bay. Like all of the Great Lakes, weather on Lake Erie can be finicky, so you’ll want to hire someone with plenty of experience on the local waters. You can also shore fish from a beach or pier for walleyes, perch, and panfish, and you can also catch trout this way, especially near tributaries. Ice fishing is productive, especially on Lake Erie, where some parts of the big lake stay frozen for weeks. Perch, in particular, remain very active all winter.

Targeted Fish Species

In Ohio’s lakes and ponds, you’ll find largemouth and smallmouth bass, spotted bass, bluegill and sunfish, crappie, walleye, saugeye, sauger, yellow perch, channel, bullhead and flathead catfish, white bass, striped bass, muskie, northern pike, carp, and freshwater drum. Trout fishing is not a big draw in Ohio, but there are brown and rainbow trout in a few of the state’s rivers, most notably the Mad River, Clear Fork of the Mohican River, Lower Cuyahoga River, and Chagrin River. Steelhead (also known as “chromers”) are active in Lake Erie, and big browns and lake trout can be found in the lake as well.

Fishing Techniques

If it’s a big walleye you’re after, the summer months are the time to book your trip to Ohio. July has the highest catch rate of any month, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. But any time from June to September is a good time to land a limit, and fish up to 24 inches are commonly caught. Bear in mind that walleye bite best in the evenings and after dark. Trolling, especially with planer boards, is an excellent tactic. Perch are usually found in large schools, and are usually targeted with bait rigged just off the bottom. Smallmouth bass can be found holding near underwater structures, ledges, and rocks. Drift fishing with live bait such as minnows is a great way to attract them.