It's a great muskie lake, one of the best in the state, an equally good bass lake (best in District 2), and has a good population of channel cats, lunker crappie and other panfish. Muskies might reach 30 pounds plus, but they never come easy.
Many anglers favor heavy duty muskie gear to handle these lunkers, but I've done most of my fishing with a medium action spinning rod and 20 pound test line. Some may argue the point, but I don't believe in steel leaders, either, which can be all too visible in clear water, and I've never yet lost a muskie to line cut. You decide for yourself. And you'll need a half dozen or so muskie lures, which can add up to some dollars, maybe a Berkley Monster Shad or two, a perch finish Creek Chub Pikie, Mepps Muskie Killer, and a couple of long lipped stick baits maybe six inches long. You've got to pay a little to play.
After this, there are two ways to go, the productive way and the fun (and often productive) way. The first is trolling. I dislike trolling because it ranks with watching grass grow and paint dry, but it will catch more muskies, or for that matter, walleye, salmon, bass, etc., than any other method.
Take a friend with you to Clearfork, so four rods can be used. Check your fish locator as you go to see where the big blips are hanging, fish two lures at about that depth, and one further back with one more not far behind the prop wash. Then get moving. Troll slow, troll fast, troll change-up, and switch lures occasionally. The basic idea here is that the baits will be in the water and at proper depth non-stop. It has to produce more fish.
Casters have their lures at proper depth for only a minute or two, and otherwise it's coming in, in the boat, in the air, etc. But lots more fun, since you have total control. Casters can work the shoreline, cover the corridors and outer edges of weed beds, come in close around Clearfok's mid-lake islands, and do interesting things like jerk fishing, which is suddenly pulling your rod to make the lure speed up, then letting it idle a little.
Bass fishermen working the lake at this time of year will have best success if they don't stick to strictly working the shorelines. Try wood a little at first light, but then you might better concentrate on weeds. Not just any weeds, but beds near deep water where fish can move up to ambush prey in the spinach, then quickly go back to deep water layup spots. Plastic worms with quarter ounce weights work well in greenery, and single spin spinnerbaits with a trailer. In late morning you might do best in that same deep water with Carolina rigs.
Try casting weed lines too, and fish worms weightless and right in the weeds. If you have an old time weedless Johnson Silver Spoon and some porkrind in the tackle box, try splashing it through the weeds and let it drop in pockets here and there, fluttering down. I've caught some dandy bass that way. If they're being difficult and picky, you might go to a 3/8 ounce weedless jig with rubber legs and a trailer, and fish it slow and deep.
Channel cats are fished for along the south shore in the park areas usually using bottom rigs baited with shrimp or nightcrawlers. You'll up your catch if you toss out balls of fish base catfood to chum the area and draw customers. And for crappie, you might try shore fishing in the west end near the bridge there, or boat fish brushy areas along the north shore. Lots of choices and lots of fish. Good reasons to make the modest drive.
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HOOKS & BULLETS
• The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) is spending a whopping $120 million on capital improvements in coming years to upgrade programs for the five major MWCD parks. These include Charles Mill, Pleasant Hill, Seneca, Atwood, and Tappan. The improvements will be for projects from all purpose trails and welcome centers to campground improvements and marina innovations. The result should produce a legacy of improved facilities and improve the local and regional economies, as well as pleasing frequent visitors.
• Mountain bikers might enjoy the Canaan Valley Mountain Bike Fest set for June 14 though 17 in Davis, W.V. According to sponsors the event will bring together enthusiastic mountain bikers looking for a laid back festival atmosphere. There will be trail rides, a fundraising party, live music, and trail work. The rides will be in the Canaan Valley, Blackwater Falls State Park and the infamous Moon Rocks trail system. For more details, call 1-800-782-2775.
• Do you like to fish for carp? There are some lunkers in Ohio waters and elsewhere, and Carpoholics Anonymous is a club that's growing fast and seeking these yellow-brown fish in multiple states including ours. They publish a magazine called Carp Anglers Magazine with tips and good locations to fish, and sponsor fishing derbies in multiple states. For more information on the club visit www.facebook,com/CAMCarpAnglersMagazine or Google Carpoholics Anonymous.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.