Muskie Fishing in Ohio
Ohio's mighty muskellunge a challenge for dedicated Buckeye anglers
A morning mist greeted muskie fishermen on Friday for the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club's annual Ohio Division of Wildlife day of fishing on Clear Fork Reservoir in Lexington, Ohio. (D'Arcy Egan / The Plain Dealer)
LEXINGTON, Ohio - The mighty muskellunge are almost mythical creatures for the small cadre of Ohio anglers who fervently pursue them.
Finding success when trying to hook Ohio's largest game fish can be very frustrating, unless you've been stricken with muskie madness. No one knows why muskies will show up all morning long on a sonar screen but refuse to chase a lure - then go into a brief feeding frenzy.
For true muskie fishermen, it doesn't seem to matter if you spend a long day on the water trying to tempt muskies with every lure in the tackle box - and that can be hundreds of expensive plugs and spinnerbaits - and fail to get a strike.
There's always tomorrow.
The Ohio Huskie Muskie Club (OHMC) held its annual Ohio Division of Wildlife Day at Clear Fork Reservoir on Friday, a mutual admiration event. The agency raises more than 20, 000 muskies each season at its London and Kincaid fish hatcheries and releases them in a variety of lakes. The club holds tournaments and fundraising events to support the effort.
"We call it the 'minnow fund, ' said hatchery administrator Nick Jamison. "Young muskies will go through massive amounts of fathead minnows in the hatchery, and the club donates more than $10, 000 each year to pay for them."
On this special day, OHMC members are the volunteer guides. They get to praise their favorite fish to a captive audience, show off their muskie fishing skills and prepare for a two-day tournament that follows.
My guide was club official Rick Simpson, 48, of Rogers, Ohio, a muskie fanatic for 30 years who fishes for the big fish from Ohio to Ontario, and beyond. A plant manager in Columbiana County, Simpson is already counting down the days - there are only about seven left - before he'll leave for the Trent River in Ontario, a haven for big muskies.
Rick Simpson has a Ziggy lure on one of his casting rods, the gouges in its paint job ample proof a few snaggle-toothed muskies have fallen for its swimming action and paint job. D'Arcy Egan, The Plain Dealer
Simpson has been making an annual pilgrimage to that southern Ontario system of rivers and lakes for more than two decades. It's where he caught his biggest muskie, a muscular 51½-inch fish.
"I like muskie fishing because it's more like hunting than fishing, " he said. "You have to find them, decide whether to troll or cast for them, then determine what lure they'll strike. If you catch just one, it's a pretty good day."
A dozen boats were launched Friday morning, and many found success. About seven muskies were caught, a pretty good average.
Simpson and I had just one muskie strike a large, colorful lure, but couldn't get the fish into a net. Even without a muskie to brag about, we enjoyed trolling and casting for them and talking about his favorite fish.
"My two favorite lakes are Piedmont Reservoir and Lake Milton. Both have good populations of big fish. Milton is closer to home, a good place to fish for a couple of hours in the early morning or late afternoon. Piedmont has the big fish, but I have to travel father and spend the day in order to fish it."
Piedmont Reservoir owns Ohio's state record muskie, a fish that hangs on the wall at Piedmont Marina and might never be matched in the Buckeye State. Caught by Joe Lykins of Piedmont, Ohio on April 12, 1972, it weighed 55 pounds and stretched a little more than 50 inches.
Simpson's 16½-foot Lund boat is customized for muskie fishing, with plenty of space for lures, rods and reels. A 48-horsepower outboard easily handled brisk trolling speeds - muskies seem to like a lure swimming along at 3 to 5 miles per hour - and an electric bow-mounted trolling motor positioned the boat when we cast lures to the humps, bumps and weed beds.
"It's old enough to have historic plates, " Simpson said of his boat. It was built in the early 1990s, and Simpson's dream is to upgrade in size and horsepower.
"That would let me fish some of the larger muskie lakes, such as Lake St. Clair, " he said. "I've enjoyed many of my best days of muskie fishing there."