The Ohio Division of Wildlife is a great public asset for all Ohio anglers. The organization truly cares about the health of our waters and the fish that live within them, and they are experts when it comes to establishing and maintaining new species into our fisheries. For example, the state’s musky and saugeye stocking programs have successfully implanted these non-native species into many of our waterways. And without the protection of the DOW and their regulation of our waters, our fisheries would be in pretty bad shape. But I often wonder why the state doesn’t do more to improve one of Ohio’s most popular (and most economically important) game fish…the largemouth bass. I believe that Ohio’s bass populations could be improved in two ways. First, through controlled stocking programs, and second, through improving bass habitat.
Each year I pay my annual fishing license fee to the Ohio Division of Wildlife so that I can fish the many public waters within the state. This year the license fee was $19. That is a bargain in my opinion. But $19 is only a drop in the bucket of what I, and most other serious bass anglers, spend to bass fish Ohio’s waters. Just to perform the physical act of bass fishing requires rods, reels, line and lures. Then you have boats, trucks, fuel to get to the lake, fuel for the boat, meals while traveling, and hotels for overnight stays while fishing tournaments away from home. Combine those expenditures with the thousands of bass enthusiasts within the state, and the result is millions of dollars being spent each year by Ohio’s bass fishing community. That’s millions of dollars pumped into the economy to support Ohio businesses, and a boat load of tax revenues.
Although I don’t have the numbers to prove it, my guess is that Ohio bass anglers spend more money fishing each year than any other particular group of anglers in the state. Naturally, you would expect that because of the importance of Ohio’s bass anglers to our economy, the Ohio Division of Wildlife would invest more money into improving our bass fishing than on the advancement of any other species of game fish. But that is not the case.
Ohio does not regularly stock bass into our waters like they do other species. According to their website, the DOW has official stocking programs for walleye, saugeye, perch, hybrid stripers, trout, musky and catfish. I once asked a Division of Wildlife officer the reasoning behind not stocking bass, and his response was that our lakes don’t need stocking because bass successfully reproduce naturally in our waters. It is true that bass DO successfully reproduce in most of our waters. However, the level of that success varies greatly from fishery to fishery. Almost all of our impoundments are vulnerable to flooding, especially during the Spring when bass are spawning. And some years when flooding is really bad, entire year classes of bass can be wiped-out. If you don’t believe me spend a day on a reservoir near you and see if a particular size of bass seems to be missing. For example, you may catch a bunch of fish under 10 inches and several over 14 inches, but you can’t seem to find a 12 to 13 incher.
The DOW should implement stocking programs to improve our bass fisheries where needed. Case in point: According to the Angler Survey report posted on the DOW website, 30% of anglers fishing Alum Creek Reservoir target largemouth and smallmouth bass. 8% target saugeye, while a mere 4% seek musky. Meanwhile, catch rates for saugeye were rated as “Good”, catch rates for musky were rated as “Excellent”, and catch rates for bass were rated as “Fair”. So if bass anglers hold a strong majority on Alum Creek over saugeye and musky anglers, and catch rates for bass are the lowest of those three species, then why does the DOW regularly stock saugeye and musky into the reservoir, while doing nothing to bolster the bass population? Alum is a prime example of a lake that would benefit from a stocking program. I’m sure there are many other fisheries around the state in similar positions.
One way that the DOW has worked to improve our bass fisheries is by creating fish cover. They do this by dropping trees from the shoreline and building fish structures from Christmas trees. A good example is Burr Oak, where hundreds of trees were dropped to establish cover. Not surprisingly, Burr Oak is one of the better inland bass fisheries in Ohio. I would like to see more projects like this take place. Cost wouldn’t even be an issue from a budget standpoint. There are thousands of Ohio anglers who would be more than happy to volunteer their time and labor to implement such projects.
I would like to get your opinions on whether the DOW does enough to maximize our bass fisheries, or if they could do more. Feel free to vote your opinion in the poll below.
On a final note, I would like to share some really solid tournament results from O’Shaughnessy Reservoir this past weekend.
On Saturday July 9th, Matt Bores and Aaron Counts won the TBX Team Series event with a 5 fish limit that weighed 13.7 lbs
On Sunday July 10th, Phil Carver won the TBX Elite Series event with a 5 fish bag weighing 14.86 lbs. Great job guys!