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Where Two?

By Joe Cornwall


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This life is a test. It is only a test. Had this been an actual life, you would have received further instructions as to what to do and where to go.


One of the most intimidating issues an angler can face, whether as a newly minted fly fisher or as an old hand visiting a new area, is finding a good place to practice the sport. Indeed, the very reason I wrote the book Fly Fishing Warm Water Rivers is partly because of the answer to the question “Where should I go?”  I once posed precisely that question to a regional fly shop owner and his answer was to point out that the salmon run had just started on the Muskegon River.  Considering that the Muskegon is a 7-hour drive each way - on a good day - and that I was hoping for a few hours on the water after work, it seemed to me that more than a few folks were missing the point of the exercise.  Fishing is something everyone should be able to do nearly anytime they have the opportunity.  Water is ubiquitous and quality fishing can be had in nearly any Ohio flow.  To this day the most common question I get at programs and events remains “Where can I fish?”


Two talented regional writers have made great strides in answering that question for the Buckeye angler.  John Barbo has targeted the northeastern corridor with his book Cleveland Fishing Guide and Tom Cross has grabbed at the even loftier ambition of covering the whole state with Fishing Ohio.  If you live in or plan on visiting Ohio, I can’t recommend these two books more highly.


Fishing Ohio is billed as the only guide with fishing information for every lake and stream with public access in the state.  Cross, a member of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a talented angler and outdoorsman, has undertaken a mighty task.  Ohio can lay claim to more than 29,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks.  Add in nearly 2,000 impoundments and the shear volume of material is nearly mind-boggling.  Cross had to pare that down to something useful.  It is a task which, by any measure, he has admirably and successfully completed.  Fishing Ohio covers more than 200 easily accessible bodies of water.


Fishing Ohio is organized as a guide to Wildlife Districts as defined by the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODW).  Ohio has four districts that describe the four cardinal corners of the state and a fifth that covers the interior region around Columbus.  Separate chapters are dedicated to Lake Erie and the Ohio River, both of which span multiple districts.  Each body of water profiled in a chapter features a list of species you’re likely to hook, an overview of important details about the body of water, suggestions on the most productive techniques for the spot under consideration and a listing of any special regulations.  Additional information about camping or access is added where applicable. 


Cross has used the resources published by the ODW and added substantially from his own experiences.  The author clearly spent a lot of time and effort interviewing regional experts on each body of water, as well.  Unlike a compendium of maps and names that simply tell you how to get there, Fishing Ohio actually works to give you a good idea of what to expect when you arrive.  Let’s take Tom’s comments on Caesar’s Creek as an example.


I fish Caesar’s Creek on something like a regular basis, both the lake itself and the tailwaters, and I found Tom’s summary to be accurate and helpful.  Caesar’s Creek is the third most utilized body of water in the state of Ohio, yielding only to the immense Lake Erie and the mighty Ohio River in total boat traffic.  As you might guess, this 2,800 acre lake gets its share of pressure.  Cross writes; “I receive a lot of mixed signals about the fishing at Caesar Creek Lake.  One angler referred to it as the Dead Sea, while others were exuberant about its fishing.   That tells me that sometimes the fishing is good and other times it’s bad.”  Cross goes on to detail the opportunities for muskie (good to excellent), bass (fair to good), bluegill (good), saugeye (excellent) and white bass (fair) and adds helpful hints about where on the lake, when and how to go about targeting each species.  At the end of the nearly 1,000 word synopsis of the lake you’ll definitely know this is big, difficult and tempermental water that is capable of rewarding an experienced angler looking for a challenge.  You’ll also know the lake isn’t the place to pick for a casual one-day outing, but the tailwaters might be.


Fishing Ohio is a worthy addition to the fishing library of anyone who fishes the Buckeye State.  Fishing Ohio is published by The Lyons Press (ISBN 978-0-7627-4326-1) and is available for $18.95.


Barbo, a high school science teacher and avid angler, takes a similar approach, only he tends to look at the water through more of a macro lens.  The region from Sandusky, Ohio to Erie, Pennsylvania is considered the “Central Basin” of Lake Erie and is often referred to as “steelhead alley.”  In Cleveland Fishing Guide we find that Ohio’s largest metropolitan region has a lot more to offer than cold-weather chrome, though.  “I have tried to give a fair representation of the best nearby fishing destinations for a wide variety of anglers, something for everyone regardless of your fishing ability or your level of passion for the sport,” writes Barbo.  His effort is worthy and this is a book that anyone visiting the Forest City should have available.


Like Cross’ work above, Barbo’s book provides a key to the species available at each location, an overview of facilities, maps to access and parking areas, and a narrative that describes  the experience of fishing each of the 53 covered spots.  This last point is the jewel of this work.  Barbo provides a much more personal look at each location than Cross, giving the emulous angler a clear sense of expectation. 


Fish on!’ yelled the fisherman wading waist deep in the Rocky River at the Scenic Park area.  If anything can come close to actually landing a steelhead, it is watching someone else do it.  And I was psyched about watching this struggle between man and fish.” 


Writing about the Rocky River Reservation, Barbo goes on to note “the Rocky River is one of several Northeast Ohio streams that are stocked annually with approximately 50,000 Manistee strain steelhead by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.  Recently, anglers were having better luck for steelies in the lower portion of this river, especially from Scenic Park to the first set of riffles.


The directions, maps and guidance offered by Cleveland Fishing Guide is spot-on.  I’d personally never set foot in the Rocky until I used this book to navigate my way to the river, find a place to park and work my way to a convenient access to the water.  It might be too much to ask that Barbo tell me which log will hold the best fish, but that’s the only way this guide book could have been made better!


Every Central Basin steelheader should have a copy of Cleveland Fishing Guide in his or her fishing vehicle.  It’s a great reference that, in conjunction with a GPS and up-to-date DeLorme Gazeteer, will get you on the water safely and efficiently.  And for those who may be visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame during non-chrome chasing months, the Cleveland Fishing Guide is even more important.  No matter if you’re looking for smallmouth bass or walleye, bluegill or catfish, Barbo has a spot for you to wet a line.  Cleveland Fishing Guide, 2nd Edition (ISBN 978-59851-021-8) is available from Gray & Company Publishers for $14.95.


“Where to?” is a question that’s now easier to answer thanks to the hard work of Tom Cross and John Barbo.  Even if you’ve been seriously fishing in Ohio for decades, you owe it to yourself to get these books.  I guarantee they’ll provide some new water to explore.  If you’re not a regular to the Ohio fishing scene, or if you’re just starting out on this journey of angling adventure, then these books should be on your short list of titles to get right away.  Recommended!

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