Buckeye Angler

My Top Ohio Crappie Waters

After a truly brutal winter season, we are currently right on the cusp of many a crappie angler’s favorite time of year. As the dogwoods bloom, and water temperatures at long last ease into the 50s, crappies initially make their moves into shoreline cover. This time of year, an ultra-lite or light-action spinning combo loaded with four- or five-pound line with a bobber is about all the outfit you may need. Live minnows are by light years the only live bait to consider. I like to have my minnow share the hook with a one-inch twister tail or tiny tube jig. Crappies are known as light biters, and the extra attraction of a soft plastic lure keeps you in the hunt even without your minnow. Some days these soft plastic morsels will out-catch live bait once you get them going.

Here are my top ten area crappie destinations:

10. Cuyahoga River
The famous stream lost a premier stretch with the destruction of the Cuyahoga Falls dams, but knowledge of remaining deeper water stretches can still afford decent opportunities. The Gorge still remains the premier option, loaded with fallen timber and deep water. Under the bridge is a reliable alternative, for more than just rainy stretches.

9. Wingfoot Lake
This newly public option in Portage County’s extreme southwest corner has been designated by the state as a future panfishing mecca, and has been stocked to that end. Not a terribly deep fishery, but shoreline cover is not hard to locate, from shore or boat.

8. Portage Lakes
Certainly more popular as a bass factory, but locals are well aware of the panfishing possibilities. Crappie anglers will tend to prefer Nimisila, Mud and Turkeyfoot Lakes. The “boneyard,” just west of the newer ramp, is a personal favorite.

7. Lake Hodgson
This private pay lake just south of Ravenna offers depth and cool, clean waters, if not an excess of obvious cover. Just off the rental boats shoreline is a traditional hot spot.

6. LaDue Reservoir
Sizable southern Geauga County reservoir is regularly windy and quite large to be electric-only for boaters. Be prepared. Lake still harbors a reliable population of decent-sized crappies with much of the action regularly centered on the Rt.44 area.

5. Lake Milton
This is an all too often overlooked Muskingum Watershed fishery between Youngstown and Akron, near Newton Falls. Vertical jigging deeper water under the bridges is very often the ticket here.

4. Berlin Reservoir
This huge, largely Portage County staple is a primo destination of many a slabs seeker. A concern for many is narrowing down this intimidating expanse of water into select fish-holding areas. Historically renowned for its big crappies, and rightly so, areas beneath and around the old trestle are reliably a good place to start.

3. West Branch
The sister lake to nearby Berlin, it often gives up bigger stringers of crappies, though average sizes are usually a tad smaller. Obvious shoreline cover is abundant.

2. Mogadore Reservoir
Though more renowned historically for it’s legendary redear, big schools of impressive crappies nowadays often steal their thunder. Savvy locals vertical jig deeper waters to the west.

1. Mosquito Reservoir
This is almost certainly Ohio’s premier crappie destination, year-in and year-out. It’s an atypical crappie hotspot in that it is so shallow. Famed crappie holding areas include Pikie Bay and off the cemetery.

There are few meals preferable to crappies out of the cool, spring waters. Right about now is clearly the time to take advantage of pursuing the country’s most popular panfish.

Jack Kiser is the host of TV’s “Buckeye Angler,” and co-host of Fox Sports “Destination: Outdoors,” heard locally every Monday evening and Saturday morning on WARF-1350. You may contact him at the Facebook site for either program.