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Ohio Top 10 Panfish Hotspots

June 13, 2018
By Jack Kiser , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Right about now, anglers throughout the Buckeye State are readying their light action and ultra-light outfits, and spooling on fresh 2-6lb. mono appropriate for the small jigs, tiny in-line spinners, and other live bait delivery systems that combine to enable the fun and table fare that make pan fishing so rewarding.

From youngsters and angling novices, to the most experienced and elderly of participants, panfishing is the most affordable, easiest, and most accessible of fishing's varied spectrum of methods, species, locations, and appropriate gear.

We define "panfishing" the way it always pretty much has been defined: any specie that most easily fits in a common frying pan for a great and handy meal. For this Ohio-oriented article we'll focus, for the most part, on the state's three most popular piscatorial favorites in the category: bluegill (also includes the cousins sunfish, pumpkinseed, warmouth, and redear), crappie, and yellow perch. All are terrific for the table, in the appropriate size range, and widely available throughout the state. All are great fun to catch on light action gear that is also most productive for their landing, from the least costly bamboo and bobber set up to the most sophisticated modern spinning gear. Shoreline haunts popular with these species makes them accessible for shoreline or boating anglers.

Article Photos

A couple of nice Ohio inland lake crappie. Many of the fisheries mentioned in this top 10 are great crappie waters. Photo by BuckeyeAngler Multimedia

Here then is my picks for the very premier panfish lakes to visit in Ohio, from 10 to one.

10). Wingfoot Lake - still in its first decade as a public fishery, this once private hotspot under the auspices of the storied Goodyear Rubber Company and the venerable Goodyear Hunting and Fishing Club has now been designated by the state as an eventual bluegill and crappie wonderland. Recent stockings have been focused on that goal, with early results increasingly promising. Locals savvy about this smallish lake, just east of Akron, find the shallows curiously out near the middle of the lake particularly productive for bluegill. Park features many amenities for the family, including ample parking, shelters, grills, and restrooms.

9). West Branch Reservoir - this sizeable fishery, just outside Ravenna, is best recommended because of its variety of panfish species and impressive number of good-sized crappie. Shoreline accessible throughout much of its area, the key here is narrowing down your choices to particular reliable places. Live minnows will always give you a shot at the crappie and perch, with a bonus walleye or two always a possibility.

Fact Box

Mogadore Reservoir is the top panfish choice for the author in this report. Mogadore offers very good populations of bluegill and crappie in the Portage County fishery.

8). Berlin Reservoir - not far down the road from West Branch, this even larger impoundment is legendary for its big spring and fall crappie. Vertical jigging minnows in the bay around the old train trestle is a long-time favorite haunt of locals. Bluegill and yellow perch opportunities are there, but not nearly as prolific as those big crappie.

7). Tappan Dam - this snakelike lake outside Cadiz in central Ohio has decent populations of both bluegill and perch, but is more renowned as a must for mid-Ohio crappie anglers. Lots of shoreline cover and back bays on either side of the highway that cuts through it. One of the state's most beautiful lakes, situated in a most picturesque and tourist-friendly area in all of Ohio.

6). Lake Hodgson - private pay-lake alongside Ravenna's water supply in the heart of Portage County, this surprisingly deep entry offers boat rentals and ample shoreline angling in close proximity to both the office and ample parking. Kept regularly stocked with generous numbers of bluegill, perch, and crappie - and a bonus trout or two.

5). Lake Milton - sizeable reservoir between Ravenna and Youngstown is hardly overfished, particularly for its ample panfish populations. Bluegill are numerous and widespread, with the river entrance area shallows are a particular favorite. Vertical jigging minnows beneath the two bridges is a popular crappie option here. The top story here, though, are the numbers of big yellow perch. These tasty denizens of the deeper spots are best targeted 10-20 ft. off the shorelines headed towards the dam, particularly in the cooler open-water months.

4). Mosquito Reservoir - yellow perch are seldom the focus at this shallow impoundment outside of Cortland in the state's eastern end. The good news is this may well be the state's most productive crappie fishery, for both numbers and average size. The crappie at this fishery are regularly bigger than the more popular walleye. The bluegill opportunities here are largely overlooked. Good numbers of very decent bluegill abound, with the areas just outside the state ramp are particularly productive.

3). Lake Punderson - deep but smallish and underfished entry in southern Geauga County is home to an impressive number of very impressive deeper-water 'gills. Cool, deep, waters are also home to varied species of state-stocked trout. This smallish gem of a lake is also home to a cult of local crappie aficionados.

2). LaDue Reservoir - just a few miles south of Punderson, near the town of Mantua, this large, electric-only reservoir is most popular as a bassin' destination. Crappie fishing is best along the drop-offs and shoreline cover near Rt. 422. Large numbers of smallish yellow perch abound, but the real prize at this fishery is the abundance of big bluegills, most often targeted in the immense reservoir's weedy backbays and bottlenecks nearest state Route 44. If boating, bring an extra battery or two.

1). MOGADORE RESERVOIR - once nationally heralded as a landmark pan fishery and ice-fishing hotspot from the 1940s to the early 70s, this legendary Portage County destination then into more of a bass fishery, and deservedly so. For decades, the only catfish of note found here were 1-3lb. brown bullheads. Then the state introduced a nominal number of channel catfish into Mogadore, and the population flourished. On summer evenings there were soon as many boats heading out at sundown as there were coming in. Nowadays the balance has again shifted, and very good populations of bluegill and crappie are enjoyed, though the legendary redear population that brought the reservoir its initial notoriety has never returned to its glory days level. The bigger story however, is Mogadore's emergence as the state's premier inland yellow perch destination.

For variety, average sizes, and numbers, this electric-only gem has re-emerged as Ohio's very best.

 
 

 

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