By JOHN WISSE|
Ohio Division of Wildlife
COLUMBUS, Ohio ó March Madness has arrived and itís just not for college basketball fans as Ohio anglers get ready to enjoy another new fishing season.
An estimated 1.5 million people go fishing each year in Ohio. Nearly 900,000 of these people buy fishing licenses, while others either receive a free license or are not required to have a fishing license. Persons age 16 and older are required to have a fishing license in Ohio. Anglers who fish in privately owned ponds are not required to have a fishing license. This yearís new fishing license went on sale February 16 and remains valid through February 28, 2001.
This is an exciting period of time when "ice-out" conditions prevail as warmer temperatures create open waters in previously frozen lakes and ponds. The short ice fishing season experienced on Lake Erie is now gone as is most of the ice. In some cases, fishing this time of year in certain locations can be very good immediately following the ice-out, or breakup of lake ice. On Lake Erie, anglers should concentrate their efforts fishing from piers and other locations along the shoreline when seeking walleyes and yellow perch.
March triggers the upward stream movement of walleyes into the Maumee and Sandusky rivers. The peak of this walleye run does not generally occur until early April, followed then by a usually strong run of white bass. If safe boating conditions permit, a few hardy anglers will venture out into the nearshore waters of Lake Erie searching for lunker walleyes. The state record walleye weighed 16.19 pounds when it was caught near Cleveland November 23, 1999 by Tom Haberman, of Brunswick. His record fish measured 33 inches.
The Outdoor Writers of Ohio last year certified an all-time mark of 12 new state fish records.
Northern pike fishing opportunities are quite limited in Ohio, though 52 Fish Ohio awards were given to anglers who caught northerns last year that measured at least 32 inches. Some of the locations where these northern pike were taken included the Cuyahoga River, Lake Erie, Atwood Lake, West Branch Reservoir, and Mosquito Creek Reservoir. Early season fishing is the best time of year to fish for northern pike.
In southern Ohio, conditions have been somewhat milder in recent weeks. Those smaller shallow lakes found across southern counties will be the first to warm up this spring and offer good to excellent largemouth bass fishing action. Itís not too early during mild days to begin casting for bass. Crappies, sunfish, channel catfish, and saugeyes also offer good early season fishing opportunities.
Anglers should use some measure of caution anytime they are on or near the water, especially this time of year when most water temperatures are still quite cold. Unseasonably warm days have a tendency to lure anglers into a false sense of security about their surroundings outdoors. A cold water immersion will not only bring an abrupt end to a day of fishing, but may also result in hypothermia or perhaps a needless fatality. The rule of thumb is simply to be smart and prepare ahead of time for a possible emergency.
Itís also suggested that anglers fish with a partner and advise someone at home of your fishing location and time schedule. Last year Ohio recorded 19 boater fatalities that included 12 anglers.
Fishing licenses also may be purchased at many locations through a point-of-sale license system implemented last year. Using a driverís license helps speed the sales process. A resident fishing license costs $15, a one-day license is $7, a nonresident 3-day tourist license is $15, and a nonresident annual license is $24. Nonresidents as well as Ohio residents may purchase the one-day fishing license for $7 and it may be redeemed for credit toward purchase of an annual license.