The Best Fishing in Ohio: Our Top 8 Lakes

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Where Can I Find the Best Fishing in Ohio?

Well that, my friend, is a loaded question! Most anglers will tell you that their home lake has the best fishing in Ohio…

Truth be told, Ohio is full of excellent fishing destinations. Even better, you will always be withing a couple hours from a great fishing lake, river, or reservoir.

And don’t forget about that scenery! You’ll find plenty of slow, rolling hills, miles upon miles of farm land, and quiet fishing spots in almost every county. Ohio is cool, calm, and rustic with the best of all four seasons. Spring is often temperature and breezy, Summers are usually mild, and Fall is absolutely gorgeous.

For determined anglers, there’s even some good news: in 2018, over 12,600 catches that qualify for the state’s Fish Ohio recognition program were recorded on public lakes and private ponds. That’s a healthy number of fish!

How We Decided Where to Find the Best Fishing in Ohio

In determining where to find the best fishing in Ohio, however, the Premier Angler team had to consider the following:

  • History of Success: For each lake, river, and reservoir featured below, we considered how many quality fish anglers have caught on those waters both historically and in recent years.
  • Available Species: We also looked at data provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to determine the diversity of each body of water. Some lakes may have tremendous success producing one or two species, but lack the variety of other locations.
  • Accessibility: Ohio is not the largest state in the country, but some lakes will require a considerable drive. We took size, location, and access points into consideration. Also, it is worth noting that no private ponds appear in our list.
  • Personal Preference: What’s a good list without a human touch? Try as we may to be objective, we definitely have some personal favorites — many of which did not make the cut.

Honorable Mentions: Some Great Ohio Fishing Spots

Remember how we said some of our personal favorites didn’t make the cut? Let’s take a look at some excellent lakes, rivers, and reservoirs for fishing in Ohio that’s didn’t quite make our Top 8 list:

Alum Creek Lake: This is a great fishing spot for anglers living in or around the Columbus area in Delaware County. Alum Creek Lake has excellent bass fishing (both largemouth and smallmouth, as well as decent saugeye, muskellunge, and crappie.

Indian Lake: Is located in Logan County near Bellfontaine and is one of Ohio’s best saugeye fishing spots. Anglers have the most success fishing the Lakeview and Moundwood section of the lake in early Spring and late Fall. Indian Lake also produces excellent white bass, crappie, and sunfish.

Buckeye Lake: It’s only a short distance from Zanesville, Newark, and downtown Columbus, but Buckeye Lake has more than just a great location. It is also a prime “early season” spot for largemouth bass fishing. Anglers also regularly catch bluegill, channel catfish, and saugeye from the waters.

Salt Fork Lake: Is tucked away in eastern Ohio near Cambridge and plays home to a variety of species. Anglers have success catching muskie during peak summer months and bass in late spring. Salt Fork is also a popular destination for walleye, crappie, and catfish fishing throughout the year.

Lake Milton: Can be found within Lake Milton State Park, just a short drive from Youngstown, Warren, and Boardman in Mahoning County. Akron is also a mere 25 miles away. Interstate 76 bisects the reservoir, so you won’t be too far from civilization. Lake Milton produces excellent largemouth bass and sunfish, but numbers tend to be low, especially in recent years.

The 8 Best Fishing Locations in Ohio

Piedmont Lake

Piedmont Lake Dam
Piedmont Lake Dam (photo via Aaron Schultz/

Full disclosure: Piedmont Lake is the personal favorite of the Premier Angler staff.

And for good reason! We have caught more trophy fish on Piedmont’s water than anywhere else in the state of Ohio.

Piedmont Lake spans across Guernsey, Harrison, and Belmont Counties in Ohio. It is also an ideal for anglers who like their lakes quiet. Piedmont enforces a 10 HP motor limit for all boaters so the waters stay fairly mellow It also features numerous coves and bays, so anglers can easily tuck themselves away for a calm day of fishing.

If you’re looking for one of Ohio’s best muskie fishing lakes, Piedmont has you covered! In fact, Piedmont produced the state record muskie — a 50 1/2″, 55.13 lb mammoth caught by Joe D. Lykins in April 1972. Many have come close to toppling this longstanding achievement (including this behemoth caught on a Biospawn ExoSwim by Zack Hall near Piedmont Dam in 2018), but the record still stands.

Not looking to catch any muskie? Piedmont also produces excellent saugeye, channel catfish, and shovelhead catfish every year in addition to quality bass and pan fish.

Piedmont Lake also hosts a weekly Wednesday Night Bass Tournament, which is open to the public.

Planning a trip to Piedmont Lake? Visit the Piedmont Marina website for more information.

Leesville Lake

Located in Carroll County in eastern Ohio, Leesville is part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, which has been operating since 1933. The lake was constructed in 1939 with public fishing being permitted in September 1940.

Leesville offers anglers over 1,000 acres and 27 miles of scenic shoreline. It also features a maximum depth of 40 feet.

While largemouth bass are abundant at Leesville, the largest recorded catch in 2018 was only 21.1 inches — just barely over the 20 inch cutoff for the Fish Ohio recognition program.

Many anglers consider Leesville one of Ohio’s best lakes for muskie fishing, however.

Muskie are usually caught on crank, spinner, and jerk baits during Spring and Fall, with trolling being the preferred approach throughout the summer months. Shad are also very effective on the lake.

The lake is also home to excellent sunfish, channel catfish, crappie and yellow perch fishing.

You can find out more about Leesville Lake by visiting the South Fork Marina website. You can also download the Leesville Lake Fishing Map, produced by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Hoover Reservoir

Hoover Reservoir has a lot of great things going for it.

One of those is the location!

Hoover Reservoir is just a short distance from both Columbus and Westerville, giving it a great central location. It is also accessible off of I-270, meaning you won’t have to venture too far off the beaten path. The reservoir is also a major source of water for the city of Columbus. Today, over 2,800 acres of water are impounded behind the Hoover Dam (and no, not that Hoover Dam).

Like many of the other lakes on this list, Hoover Reservoir employs a 10 HP limit. This allows anglers to enjoy a beautiful environment with calm waters.

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing is popular here. In fact, Hoover Reservoir plays host to the Hoover TNT (Thursday Night Fishing Tournament), which runs from May thru October. It was also the home of 2018’s Kayak Bass Fishing Tournament Bassin’ for Bucks, which hosted nearly seventy anglers.

For anglers looking to catch other species, Hoover Reservoir also produces excellent channel catfish and white bass. Crappie and blue catfish are also abundant on these waters.

You can read some great fishing stories from the Hoover Reservoir by visiting Fish and Tales.

Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake (also sometimes called Senecaville because of its proximity to a nearby town of that name) is located about twelve miles south of Cambridge in eastern Ohio. Not the most accessible lake on our list, it is certainly far from remote.

Seneca is the largest of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District lakes with over 3,500 acres of water and 45 miles of shoreline. In terms of sheer volume, Seneca is also one of the best fishing lakes in Ohio.

In 2018, Seneca Lake produced excellent numbers and size of channel catfish, crappie, largemouth bass and saugeye. Sunfish were not as plentiful, but their sizes were fantastic.

The Seneca Lake Marina has a fully-stocked bait shop so you won’t have to drive too far to stock up on supplies. After a busy day of fishing, you can also grab a quick bite to eat at The Dockside Restaurant.

Mosquito Creek Lake

Mosquito Creek Lake is situated within Mosquito Lake State Park in Trumbull County. Anglers from the Youngstown and Cleveland area may make a weekend trip to these waters. Erie, Pennsylvania is also only a 90 minute drive away. The Ohio Division of Wildlife manages the fish populations at Mosquito Creek.

Mosquito Creek Lake has some of the best large crappie, yellow perch, and northern pike fishing in Ohio.

Walleye are found in great numbers and stocked annually. You can also find plenty of white bass here. Sunfish, largemouth bass, and channel catfish, while not as plentiful, can be fairly large as well.

Numerous fishing tournament are held here each year, including the 14th annual Mosquito Madness tournament. The team of Eric Dufala and Ed Shockley won their second tournament in May 2019 by catching ten fish weighing 31.60 lbs.

With a grand prize of $10,000, this is one tournament worth checking out!

Pymatuning Lake

It might take a while to get the pronunciation down, but make no mistakes — Pymatuning has some of the best fishing in Ohio!

Located in Pymatuning State Park, the lake rests in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. For anglers fishing here, you will need to be aware of where state you are fishing in if you only have an Ohio fishing license. That said, you can also buy a fishing license for Pennsylvania if you will be casting there as well.

There is also plenty of water to fish! Pymatuning is Ohio’s largest inland lake, amassing over 16,300 acres! Of that, over 14,300 is fishable water.

Muskie and walleye are both stocked annually and caught in fair numbers. Anglers report catching bass (both largemouth and smallmouth) and yellow perch in high numbers. Crappie and sunfish caught at Pymatuning can be quite large.

Each year, the Pymatuning Lake Association also holds its annual walleye tournament. The event features up to 80 anglers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.

The Ohio River

Ohio River Fishing
Photo via Christian Schultz/Premier Angler

“Wait! I thought this was supposed to be a list of the best fishing lakes in Ohio!”

Ok, yes, you caught us. The Ohio River, believe it or not, is not a lake…

Who knew, right?

But, if you’re looking to find the best fishing in Ohio, you can’t overlook the sheer volume produced by The Ohio River. It follows the border of six states, is the second largest river by discharge volume in the United States, and spans an incredible 981 miles!

Anglers will need to buy a West Virginia fishing license or a Kentucky fishing license if they are fishing within the jurisdiction of those states.

The river has produced Ohio’s state record for both blue catfish and longnose gar.

West Virginia’s state record longnose gar, blue catfish, goldeneye, skipjack herring, and sauger were also pulled from the other side of the bank.

For Kentucky, the Ohio River has produced the state record longnose gar (we may be sensing a pattern here), spoonbill paddlefish, blue sucker, blue catfish, channel catfish, gizzard shad, skipjack herring, and mooneye.

Anglers can also catch a variety of bass (including largemouth, smallmouth, white, striped, and hybrid) and walleye in these waters.

The Ohio Division of Natural Resources has a great guide for fishing the Ohio River. Be sure to check it out before your next adventure.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie is the fourth largest Great Lake in the United States and the eleventh largest by surface area in the world. While Ohio has some great fishing lakes, nothing else can quite compare to Lake Erie.

Bordering Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York, Lake Erie has a surface area of 9,900 square miles. Located across the northern border of the state, it is also easily accessible to anglers coming from Toledo, Sandusky, Cleveland, and countless other towns and cities. It also has a maximum depth of over 240 feet, making it the deepest lake in the state by a longshot.

As with previous mentions, anglers will want to be conscious as to which state’s jurisdiction they are fishing.

Lake Erie is responsible for Ohio’s state record yellow perch, white perch, burbot, smallmouth bass, chinook salmon, brown trout, lake trout, rainbow (steelhead) trout, and walleye. Largemouth bass are also caught in great numbers and size.

The Western Basin Sportfishing Association hosts a team walleye fishing circuit consisting of four tournaments each year. Anglers can also participate in the Lake Erie Walleye Fall Brawl. 2018’s event saw the grand prize winner take home Warrior V21-21 bass boat with 300 HP Evinrude motor valued at approximtely $100,000! With a second place take home of $44,000 (and $33,000 for third place), this may be Ohio’s must-enter fishing tournament!

Best Ohio Fishing Lakes, by Species

The following are considered the best fishing lakes in Ohio for their respective species based on 2021 data. If you are fishing the Buckeye State for largemouth bass, crappie, or saugeye, you may want to consider the following destinations:

Ohio Crappie Fishing Lakes

  • Mosquito Creek Lake
  • Indian Lake
  • Hoover Reservoir
  • Delaware Lake
  • Alum Creek
  • Deer Creek Lake
  • Buckeye Lake
  • Pymatuning Lake
  • West Branch Reservoir
  • Acton Lake

Ohio Saugeye Fishing Lakes

  • Buckeye Lake
  • Indian Lake
  • Alum Creek
  • Caesar Creek
  • Tappan Lake
  • Clendening Lake
  • Atwood Lake
  • Piedmont Lake
  • Licking River
  • O’Shaughnessy Reservoir
  • Hoover Reservoir

Ohio Largemouth Bass Fishing Lakes

  • Appalachian Hills
  • Portage Lakes
  • Nimisila Reservoir
  • Mosquito Creek Lake
  • Mogadore Reservoir
  • Cowan Lake
  • Alum Creek
  • LaDue Reservoir
  • Upper Sandusky Reservoir
  • Rocky Fork Lake
  • Wingfoot Lake
  • Silver Creek Lake

Know of any spots we missing that might be considered to have the best fishing in Ohio? Let us know in the comments below.

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