Trolling best choice for summer

Last year the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club held its Division of Wildlife/media appreciation day at Clear Fork Reservoir, something they've done for the past several years at this fine lake. It was a good day, too, with some fish caught, and plenty of smiles at day's end. It's not surprising that Clear Fork always is the location for this annual event, because this lake southwest of Mansfield is unquestionably one of the finest muskie lakes in Ohio.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

Last year the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club held its Division of Wildlife/media appreciation day at Clear Fork Reservoir, something they've done for the past several years at this fine lake.

It was a good day, too, with some fish caught, and plenty of smiles at day's end. It's not surprising that Clear Fork always is the location for this annual event, because this lake southwest of Mansfield is unquestionably one of the finest muskie lakes in Ohio.

Which lake is actually best? Last year Leesville Lake in southeastern Ohio saw more Huskie Muskies and honorable mention muskies caught than Clear Fork, but lots of excellent fish were bagged at Clear Fork. Whichever lake is best, a very good one lies within easy driving distance, and readers who'd like to sock sharp hooks into a truly large fish should make a trip to Clear Fork Reservoir this summer.

I made my first visit to this pretty lake many years ago, spent some time casting a perch finish Creek Chub Pikie around a little bay just east of the marina, and hung a dandy muskie. I've been fishing it for these vicious fighters ever since. If you're new to the sport, there are two ways to go at Clear Fork or any other muskie lake: casting and trolling. Many people prefer to cast, and right now is a good time to do it. The fish are still high, loafing in bays, around the islands, and along weed beds, and they're easily accessible to casters.

I do my muskie casting with a seven foot Black Beauty rod, a sturdy spinning reel, and 20 pound test monofilament, and I favor lures that run from shallow to medium depths. Bombers are good, as are Creek Chub Pikies, sinking Rapalas, even Mepps muskie spinners, and colors seem to vary from day to day. Good choices are always blue and silver if the water is a little murky, perch finish, chartreuse, fire tiger, and white on gray otherwise. Work these around the islands, and the north and south shore bays.

Trolling is the best choice for summer and early fall, and for good reason. Cast and your bait is in the water and at proper depth only shortly, but troll and it's down there full time. Simple math means you'll usually catch more fish trolling.

Trolling aficionados at Clear Fork seem to prefer Bagley Monster Shads, oversized Wigglewarts, RattlTraps, and deep running stick baits, and once the thermocline establishes, they'll work the lures right along its line, just above and below. Standard route here is to start near the first island, move over to the north shore, troll down its length to near the dam, then cross over and cover the south shore almost to the marina before returning to near the first island for another run.

Right now, almost any place will produce since the fish are well scattered, but it might be good to stick to the western and middle part of the lake. As the weather heats up in July and August, fish both deeper and hardest near the eastern and deeper end of the lake. Trolling with a partner means you can use four rods, and it's wise to switch offerings every half hour or so, and even wiser to keep one close to the boat, almost in the prop wash.

Vary speeds occasionally, too. Some days a slow speed might be the ticket, and others trolling as fast as possible can draw a strike. In short, change everything from time to time until you draw a strike. When that happens, a 20- to 40-pound fighter at line's end will make it all worthwhile.

Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at richmart@neo.rr.com n Boaters looking for information on a favorite Ohio boating destination or something new to explore, are encouraged to check out the Boating Destinations Audio Tour on the Division of Watercraft Web page. A new feature of the tour is a link to Google Earth that includes an overlay of Ohio's boating access facilities. Using this link, a boater can readily locate these facilities and find associated driving directions.

Looking for some good reading? The Ruffed Grouse Society has some fine books for sale at various prices, among them The Grouse Hunter's Guide, Woodcock Hunting With Tom Huggler, and 500 Wild Game and Fish Recipes. For more information, call (888) 564-6747.

Three male black ducks that were fitted with radio collars in February are doing well and appear to have settled into their summering grounds in Ontario. One of the birds has stayed fairly close to its winter home at the Castalia Duck Pond, having stopped near Lake St. Clair south of Wallaceberg. The other two are further north near the Ontario/Quebec border. The tracking project is one small part of an effort to understand the mysterious decline of the species in North America.