Favorite fishing holes

Anyone craving the thrill of reeling in a big catch has quite the selection of water bodies to spend some time fishing right in the Mid-Ohio Valley and its surrounding areas.

From the Ohio River to a backyard pond, catfish, walleye and bass are never too far away.

River fishing

In the Mid-Ohio Valley, one of the obvious fishing hot spots might be in all the area’s rivers.

“If you want to fish the river, the Belleville pool in Belpre is one of the best,” said Jerry Burkhart, president of the Frontier Bassmasters. “When the river isn’t high and not hard, really being anywhere in Belpre or Marietta along the river is the best.”

The Belleville pool off Blennerhassett Avenue is one 107 public fishing locations in Southeast Ohio under the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and the Belpre location has both its own ramp and pier.

“Willow Island is also a good place, and there’s plenty of catfish, small or large,” Burkhart said.

According to ODNR, the Ohio River typically boasts small-mouthed, large-mouthed, white, hybrid and striped bass, sauger, walleye and multiple types of catfish, but Warren Township resident Mike Clatterbuck said anglers have to work a little harder this year.

“It’s been great fishing last year and the year before, but for some reason this year it’s been really off for some reason,” he said. “What I would think is that the river hasn’t had a chance to straighten up much since the ice melted, and it’s been up and down and muddy and high because of the rain.”

Marietta resident Laurie Neader said her family fishes as frequently as three times a week when the weather is right.

“We go up to the Devola Dam a lot, because that one is easy access and easy to park, so that makes it a good place,” she said. “You can also catch a variety of fish; anything from bass to catfish can all be found there.”

Burkhart said the dams are popular spots because the constantly moving water stirs up fish movement, and the heavy presence of rocks helps young catfish and bass thrive.

“Stick to rocky points and sandbars to find fish,” he said. “Just be careful, because the water moves fast.”

And as far as technique, Burkhart said fishing off the banks or in a boat are both fun experiences.

For the more avid fisher that is most interested in the sport itself, Tunnel resident Joe Mitchem, who coordinates the Ohio River Buddy Trail, an annual summer tournament circuit, said there is no experience quite like fishing in a river.

“Rivers are a bit more difficult, because river levels change a lot,” he said. “(Fish) don’t like that, so it can be more of a challenge, whereas a lake is more stable and fish are more where you’d think they are.”

Lakes and ponds

Both Clatterbuck and Burkhart agree that state and local parks are also great places to go if an angler is willing to drive a short distance.

“Seneca Lake is always a good one, and so is Salt Fork,” Clatterbuck said. “If the river isn’t producing it can sometimes be slim pickings, so these are good places to go instead.”

Fishermen all noted that those parks, in addition to Wolf Run and North Bend State Park in West Virginia, are also great destinations to find popular species like bass of all kinds.

Buckeye Park in Marietta and the pond at the Belpre Civitan Park are also great places to go, Clatterbuck said.

“Ponds can be a bit easier to catch fish out of, whereas rivers can be a bit more unpredictable and difficult,” said Beverly Morris, owner of Constitution Bait and Tackle at Catfish Paradise.

Bait and tackle shops and businesses that have their own private lakes and ponds, like Catfish Paradise on Veto Road or the Washington County Fish and Game Association by Duck Creek near Whipple, offer pay-to-fish experiences that do not require a fishing license.

“Especially if you have kids, you can get some minnows and just go catfishing at those places, and it’s a lot easier for them,” Burkhart said.

For the love of the sport

Neader said because she grew up fishing, it seemed like a good activity to pass on to her own children.

“My dad taught me to fish, so it was important to teach my kids too,” she said. “It’s a relaxing experience, but it’s also exciting, because you never know what you can pull out.”

Neader said if the catch is right, especially when trout bite in spring, her family will take fish home to bake or fry.

For Mitchem or Burkhart, who practice plenty of catch-and-release, fishing is serious business, but the experience also boils down to relaxation in the end.

“It’s all about the fun and excitement, but it’s enjoyable,” Mitchem said. “It’s also challenging in the Ohio River, because fish can be contrarian, and it can be hard, but if you like being outdoors, it’s a great challenge.”