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9 Best Ice Fishing Lakes in Ohio

Jan 26, 2017

One of the best outdoor adventures you will find in Ohio is ice fishing in the winter. Trek with a guide to your shanty on frozen Lake Erie or set your tip-ups for walleye on Atwood Lake, one of the hidden gems in Ohio. The best ice fishing in the state is on the lakes in the north, where the ice is the most consistent. The first ice of the season is generally the most successful time to fish because there is not much snow cover, but winters can be long in Ohio, so you can try different lakes throughout the season.

You might stop in a local bait shop near your intended lake to get the most accurate update on what fish are actively biting. This will help save you time on the ice and assist with decisions on bait and depths to target.

No matter where you decide to ice fish in the state, safety comes first. It is important to check ice conditions, have a valid fishing license, and know the size and daily limits for the lake you are fishing. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) provides regularly updated fishing forecasts for lakes throughout the state as well as general information on ice fishing.

1 Lake Erie

Ice fishing with fish finder
Ice fishing with fish finder
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Lake Erie has some of the most intense ice fishing in Ohio. While it can be easy to haul in the daily limit of walleye, yellow perch, and crappie, often some of the best fishing locations are six to 10 miles from shore. Lake Erie requires additional considerations compared to other lakes because of its size, weather conditions, and safety factors. If you plan to ice fish on Lake Erie, it is best to hire a guide who is an expert in these conditions and can help get you to the best locations to target active fish. A guide will have transportation to get you out onto the lake safely and have shelter available for a comfortable outing.

2 Indian Lake

Fisherman with crappie on Indian Lake
Fisherman with crappie on Indian Lake Anietra Hamper
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One of the first lakes to freeze in the state is Indian Lake in western-central Ohio. The lake is shallow so it offers one of the first opportunities for anglers to hit the ice in the winter. You can find abundant populations of saugeye and crappie and some of the largest sunfish in Ohio for a public lake. With 5,800 acres of lake surface there are plenty of areas to target. The shallow lake is one of the reasons it is so productive for catches and has become a favorite among fishing clubs in Ohio.

3 Portage Lakes

Perch at the fishing hole
Perch at the fishing hole
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One of the top ice fishing destinations in Ohio is Portage Lakes, near Akron. A network of lakes and reservoirs makes up five major areas for fishing that regularly produce good numbers of bluegill, crappie, and yellow perch. The East Reservoir, Long Lake, North Reservoir, Turkeyfoot Lake, and West Reservoir make up 1,600 acres of fishing water. The East and North Reservoirs and Turkeyfoot Lake are some of the best producers of panfish. The advantage of ice fishing on Portage Lakes is that the system stretches along a wide area, so there are many access points. Relocating to new areas is easy since the lakes are connected and in close proximity.

4 AEP ReCreation Land

Perch on the ice
Perch on the ice
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One of the most unique areas to try ice fishing is the AEP ReCreation Land, which is a 60,000-acre outdoor recreation area built on old strip mines that covers Morgan, Guernsey, Noble, and Muskingum Counties. Hundreds of ponds and small lakes are in this area and they offer excellent opportunities for ice fishing on impoundments. These waters have bluegill and better-than-average-sized redear sunfish that range from seven to nine inches. Some of the ponds are easy to access, while others are remote and require a hike to reach them. Anglers need to obtain a free permit to fish these waters through the AEP McConnelsville office or the Division of Wildlife District Four Office in Athens.

5 Piedmont Lake

Crappie at the fishing hole
Crappie at the fishing hole
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Saugeye and crappie are both sought after by ice anglers at Piedmont Lake in eastern Ohio. The long, narrow, 2,270-acre lake winds through heavily wooded terrain, making it one of the most scenic lakes in the state, even in winter. The lake is a stocked saugeye fishery, which is why populations are healthy and active.

The best ice fishing on the lake is near the submerged roadbeds and drop-offs at the lower basin near the dam. The lake is drawn down for flood control purposes during the winter, so you should check on ice conditions by contacting the U.S. Army Corps office before making a trip to the lake.

6 Grand Lake St. Marys

Crappie at the fishing hole
Crappie at the fishing hole
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Ice anglers flock to Grand Lake St. Marys when winters are hearty enough to produce consistently safe ice. Located in the western part of the state, the lake is far enough south that ice depths can be unpredictable in mild winters. When it does freeze, this lake is popular for ice anglers who want to target bluegill and crappie. These species tend to produce consistent action from year to year. Yellow perch fishing is better in some years than others, but still a target during the winter. Ice holds up well on this lake because it is shallow with a wide surface area.

7 Mosquito Lake

Clearing ice from the fishing hole on Mosquito Lake
Clearing ice from the fishing hole on Mosquito Lake Anietra Hamper
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One of the best ice fishing spots for walleye in Ohio is on Mosquito Lake near Youngstown. ODNR reports that walleye caught in this lake during winter can average 13 to 21 inches. Crappie and bluegill are also caught in high numbers. As Ohio's second largest lake at 7,850 acres, and with active walleye biting throughout the year, it is no wonder anglers frequent this area. Mosquito Lake is so popular that you can find quite a few ice fishing tournaments targeting walleye and panfish as well as online angler forums discussing current conditions, which can be helpful for first-timers on the lake.

8 Atwood Lake

Fishing tackle, Atwood Lake
Fishing tackle, Atwood Lake Anietra Hamper
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Atwood Lake is a relatively untapped lake for ice fishing, which is one reason it is a prized location. There are fewer anglers, and the small 1,540-acre lake is one of the best saugeye fisheries in the state. ODNR stocks the lake annually with fingerlings. The best spots to fish are near points and drop-offs, which may take some exploring to find. The lake often has unpredictable ice depths, especially in channels, so it is advisable to fish with a partner and review current conditions before heading onto the ice.

9 Deer Creek Lake

Ice fishing on Deer Creek Lake
Ice fishing on Deer Creek Lake Anietra Hamper
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It takes a hard winter to freeze Deer Creek Lake, which is south of Columbus, but it is worth hitting the ice when the conditions are right. This was one of the first lakes in Ohio to be stocked with saugeye in the late 1970s, so populations and fishing opportunities are abundant. ODNR continues to stock fingerling saugeyes annually. Successful ice fishing in Deer Creek is aided by the tailwaters. Reduced water levels in the fall leave many fish below the dam during the winter. While most ice anglers target saugeye on this lake, you will also find large populations of crappie and bluegill.

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