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April 23, 2010
By Jack Kiser
Once again it is that glorious time of the year when all our angling adventures lie ahead and catches of all species seem somehow possible for just about everybody. Utilizing a combination of expert resources, including our prized Record-Courier reporting stations, ODNR/DOW shock studies and projections, reader and Internet feedback, and Buckeye Angler staff experiences, I have assembled and ranked by specie alphabetically what we project to be Ohio District #3's Top Five very best opportunities for the Top Ten most popular Ohio species. Feel free to utilize this column as a general guide for your tackle box as well as a source of some spirited arguments.

BLUEGILL (includes pumpkinseed, warmouth, sunfish, and redear)

5. Mosquito Reservoir - bluegills get very little attention at this eastern Ohio hotspot. Big mistake.

4. Lake Punderson- famously overlooked Geauga County locale holds very decent numbers of big panfish. However, since they generally hang deep in this slope-sided fishery, many anglers are lost as to how to best access them.

3. Portage Lakes- water may not be of the best quality, but there's simply no denying the numbers of hungry panfish at hand. Mud, Rex, and West particularly productive.

2. Mogadore Reservoir- redears carry the day here, and the numbers maintain historic levels, if not for individual size.

1. LADUE RESERVOIR- weedy backbays and bottlenecks great during warm spring and summer evenings. Some real brutes available.


5. Deer Creek- time things right and this largely unknown fishing hole down the road from similarly neglected Walborn can certainly shine brightly during lowlight conditions.

4. LaDue- gets tournamented to death for its relative size, but seems resilient enough. Mid-lake section particularly favored.

3. Lake Milton- smallies have largely stolen their thunder, but evening largemouth bite off piers and docks can be eye-opening. 15' limit has been a major plus.

2. Mogadore- not for your dime-a-dozen Ohio shoreline bashers. Learn to fish deep and emergent weedlines or stay elsewhere.

1. PORTAGE LAKES- arguably Ohio's premier largemouth bass factory. Amazingly resilient amidst relentless pressure.


5. Berlin- autumn points and drop-offs bite for bigger smallies reason enough for special attention.

4. Milton- still ascending. Southside rip-rap an essential stop, but isolated buckbrush down there not to be overlooked.

3. West Branch- try deeper shoreline spots in spring , midlake humps otherwise.

2. Cuyahoga River- increasingly popular inland choice when Lake Erie isn't an option. Numbers readily available throughout its length clear to Cascade Valley, sizes peak in depths of Edison Reservoir.

1. LAKE ERIE- slight comeback in overall production in '09 as anglers experiment and search out new spots in face of general decline. Still at times world-class. Everything is relative...


5. Nimisila Reservoir- traditional shoreline stop in southern Summit County. Legions of small bullheads mixed with some very nice channels.

4. Mogadore- recent channel cat stockings have paid big dividends. No longer just brown bullhead boneyard.

3. Milton- bite gets going early in the year here.

2. Cuyahoga River- generally limited for good sizes to deeper holes; Edison legendary.

1. MOSQUITO- maintains status as any category's most ironic winner, considering it's overall shallowness.


5. Walborn Reservoir- charming pond on the Portage/Stark counties' border. Lots of easily had crappie, little average size as yet.

4. West Branch- in the midst of a decade-long comeback in this category. Shoreline cover beginning to crackle even now.

3. Mogadore- latter day crappie movements here have befuddled many. Those that have headed generally westward have benefited ted, to say the least.

2. Berlin Reservoir- much like nearby West Branch, except that bite peaks in fall here and features larger average sizes.

1. MOSQUITO- arguably the state's premier crappie fishery. Cemetery area and Pikie Bay remain standouts.


5. Grand River- visitors trying this option no longer just a small,  local cult.

4. Berlin- who knows just how many trophy muskies are hiding out here?

3. Clear Fork- a favorite of many hard core muskie hunters.

2. Leesville- beautiful mid-Ohio fishery said to hold some true records in this category.

1. WEST BRANCH- holds on to its title as the state's top muskie lake, both for numbers and maybe even sheer size.


5. LaDue- not nearly as good a bet as other parts of the river, but gives up some numbers every year.

4. Milton- overlooked; many would be surprised to learn more pike than muskie come out of here almost every year.

3. West Branch- many a muskie hunter here get a real spring surprise or two.

2. Mosquito- fun to watch many a walleye angler get totally overwhelmed...

1. CUYAHOGA RIVER- wish all the picks were this easy. Northeast Ohio probably accounts for 90% or so of all Ohio northerns caught, and the Cuyahoga is the crown jewel without question for numbers, size, and natural reproduction.


5. Cuyahoga- nice perch scattered throughout, but concentrations centered in Cuyahoga Falls-to-Akron stretch. Gorge Pier a fall hotspot.

4. LaDue- lots of numbers, little size.

3. Milton- a real sleeper. Nice sizes and occasional numbers will hit blade baits.

2. Mogadore- premier inland option when Lake Erie choice not viable. Taste lots better, too.

1. LAKE ERIE- most consistently reliable of all Erie species, year-in and year-out. October-November best.


5. Rocky River- most underrated of all Erie steelie tribs. Accessibility and productivity a plus.

4. Conneaut Creek- easily the best of all Ohio steelhead destinations, continually evidenced by plethora of Pennsylvania plates around.

3. Lake Hodgson- opening day crowds at this stocked private hole barely dent overall population, leading one to wonder why more don't return later for fall  bite, much kept to a handful of happy locals every year.

2. Lake Erie- more steelhead now caught from boats every year than from all the tributaries combined. And the gap is widening...

1. PUNDERSON- where is everybody. ODNR staffers all but unanimously cited as state's most underfished spot, considering evidence of what's in there: lots of different species of trout-including some real heifers.


5. Mosquito- mystery is why so many target the generally much-undersized walleye here-numerous as they are considering the crappie are regularly bigger.

4. Berlin- mid-lake humps should be giving up some nice 'eyes on jigs and minnows right about now.

3. Milton- cold weather bite here often the best.

2. West Branch- on the upswing, for sure. Stock up on those harnesses and bottom-bouncers.

1. LAKE ERIE- inland options increasingly viable after recent slumps here. Still undeniably world-class.

Let the arguments begin! But most of all, be safe out there this year, regardless of where you travel and just what you prefer to pursue.

Fact Box

Trout #1
1. PUNDERSON- where is everybody? ODNR staffers all but unanimously cited as state's most underfished spot, considering evidence of what's in there: lots of different species of trout-including some real heifers.

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