Seven Secret Ohio Fishing Hot Spots



Sooner or later, all anglers grow a bit weary of fishing their favorite nearby haunts and traditional favorites. New challenges in new locations can add a spirit of adventure and wonderment to the itinerary of any fisherman. While none of this writer’s “secret” options listed in this article are secrets in the literal sense, I’m certain that they are indeed well off the beaten path for many.

In all my years of fishing throughout the Buckeye State, these choices continue to stand out as consistently productive locales that receive little or no attention from media and mention.

Ohio River, Cumberland Pool
Take Route11 south down the state’s eastern border to the Lou Holtz Freeway to East Liverpool, and you’ll come to the city’s quaint and decidedly duck-friendly downtown ramp on your right. Go left and you’re heading upriver toward Pittsburgh and the convergence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers. Prior to that long run, you’ll come across storied Beaver Creek on your left, which is in Ohio at its mouth, but wanders into Pennsylvania soon enough. Smallmouths and rainbow and brown trout populate these waters amidst an atmosphere Huckleberry Finn would be most comfortable in.

Head downriver from East Liverpool and within a mile or so you’ll come across a warm-water discharge creek on your left. Stripers, saugeyes and “wipers” abound. This is a popular destination for bass tourney anglers departing from West Virginia’s nearby Kennedy Park. The main river itself can be similarly productive. Favorite lures would include Rebel Crawdads, Panther Martin spinners and tube jigs. If headed upriver, know what state you are in at all times. Acquiring a Pennsylvania license may be a wise choice.

Cuyahoga River, Cascade Valley
While it’s regrettable to outdoors enthusiasts that Cuyahoga removed its downtown dams, too many have let this faux pas alienate them from the entirety of the river, and its remaining opportunities. Jon boat, canoe, and kayak owners, as well as hearty hikers, are really missing a grand fishing opportunity if they don’t take advantage of the smallmouth opportunities from below the storied Gorge Dam on down a three- to four-mile meander to Liberty Commons in the valley. Great fun and smallies up to 3 pounds are common. Favorite baits include tubes, small crankbaits, Rebel Crawdads and inline spinners. Don’t be shocked if you encounter a steelhead or walleye along the way.

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Cuyahoga River, Hiram Rapids
Upriver near the legendary river’s source outside Burton runs the beautiful Hiram Rapids stretch of the Cuyahoga down to Mantua. Aesthetically pleasing and teaming with bass, pike and walleyes, this underutilized stream is a joy to experience, fishing or not. Many that do take advantage of these waters put in above Hiram and float on down to Mantua’s Camp Hi, where they have another vehicle awaiting. Same lures listed above. This stretch is especially enjoyable in autumn.

Killbuck Creek
Meandering throughout much of Wayne County near Wooster in its most productive stretches, this scenic gem is sadly overlooked, even by the locals who regularly drive many miles to fish less productive, less attractive waters. With everything from panfish to bass to large northern pike, this very kayak-friendly stream is waiting for you to help realize its potential.

Punderson Lake

Jack Kiser with a nice Punderson Lake bluegill. Photo: BuckeyeAngler Multimedia

Ask any ODNR official what is the most underrated public fishery in Ohio, and they’ll mention this southern Geauga County location. Officials regularly express amazement as to how many fishermen regularly drive right past Punderson to nearby LaDue Lake, a water they quickly assert offers far less potential. Punderson is an electric-only fishery that features deep and cool waters that are ideal for the regular stocking of several different trout species. The primary attraction is the healthy population of big bluegills. What needs mention is that these panfish are regularly deeper here than you might be used to.

Mad River
Running down the western end of Ohio is this clear-water stream that, among other features, harbors the state’s only population of naturally reproducing trout. A regular destination of both Ohio and Indiana fly fishermen, the nice spots to fish are along its length to Dayton and beyond, and are easily utilized. Conventional anglers will find a nice population of panfish and smallies.

Sippo Lake
This pretty, well-appointed small lake in Stark County near Perry Township features a snack bar, bait shop, meeting rooms, and a long fishing pier. Rental boats are available, and so is a length of areas for shore anglers. Panfish and some nice largemouths inhabit the lily pads along the south end. Amazingly underutilized body of water for such an attractive public park.