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It's free fishing weekend in Ohio

By John Hageman • May 4, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Ohio residents can fish without a fishing license today and Sunday.

The annual “Free Fishing Weekend” is designed to encourage people to try it without the requirement of investing in a license that may not be used again.

Of course, the goal is to create new customers who will enjoy fishing well enough to purchase a license.

Locally, there are many ways to enjoy fishing in a variety of settings including from a boat, wading in the rivers or using a dock, pier or stream bank.

Veterans Memorial Lake Park in Norwalk is among the places where people can fish for free this weekend.

Fishing methods vary widely and can include fly-fishing, casting bait or lures, using trot lines, bottom fishing, trolling, spearing, bowfishing, snagging or even netting, depending upon the species being pursued.

To protect the resource, rules and regulations still apply for everyone including methods, bag limits and closed seasons or harvest bans for certain species.

To stay on the right side of the law, it is helpful to go with a licensed charter captain; experienced friend or family member; or ask nearby participants for guidance.

The official current rules are contained within the The Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) fishing regulation digest that is available wherever licenses are sold, at all DOW offices and on its website at www.wildohio.com.

For would-be fishermen unfamiliar with the techniques used to catch our local game fish, chartering a trip on Lake Erie with a local guide or booking a seat on a head boat would increase the odds of success significantly. On board, they would have the proper equipment and experience to accelerate the learning process.

Shore fishermen have plenty of nearby options. The banks of many of our local streams offer easy access to catches of abundant bullhead/catfish, carp and suckers.

The Maumee, Sandusky and Portage rivers have huge schools of white bass in them now that can be reached by wading or casting from the shoreline.

Fishing a piece of worm under a bobber is a simple technique that can get lots of action in ponds from sunfish and any leftover rainbow trout that were stocked. 

If you take someone new fishing, maybe they will get “hooked” as so many of us in this area have been since childhood.

For those who need help telling fish apart, free sportfish identification booklets are available at DOW offices.

Also, all of Ohio’s known fish species are featured in a new fish identification book called A Naturalist’s Guide to the Fishes of Ohio. This outstanding compilation is the result of a collaborative effort between the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Ohio State University’s Ohio Biological Conservation Partnership and the Ohio Biological Survey.

Authors Daniel Rice and Brian Zimmerman and their crew spent several years sampling all of Ohio’s bodies of water and collaborating with other state agency fish survey teams to obtain original photographs of live fish. They also worked with museums, when necessary, to photograph preserved specimens of rare or extinct species.

The 391-page book will be heavily used by professional fisheries biologists, amateur naturalists, recreational anglers and biology students from middle school to graduate school to properly identify native and introduced; juvenile and adult; male and female fish ranging in size from tiny darters to ancient sturgeon and paddlefish from Lake Erie to the Ohio River and every body of water in between.

Now in its second printing, it is available from the Ohio Biological Survey for $29.95 by going to: http://www/ohiobiologicalsurvey.org/pub_highlight/

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