Ohio has had some weird weather in recent years. Far too much rain, enough to cause serious flooding, droughts that last for weeks, even longer, storms that turn larger lakes and Lake Erie into mud holes. Such weather has caused many an area angler to lay down his or her fishing rods and decide to mow the grass. But there’s no need to go to such extremes, because scattered around the northern half of our state are some top quality fishing holes that are always clear and fishable, have dandy walleyes, yellow perch, large and smallmouth bass, and nice panfish, and easy access. They call them upground reservoirs.
I’ve fished a fair number within reasonable driving distance of home, and learned some techniques that provide good catches most days. They’re very simple tactics. When planning to fish a new upground, my first step is to type in “Ohio Division of Wildlife” on my computer, then hit “Lake Maps.” Many of the state’s upgrounds are listed there, and the maps give not only directions and launch ramp locations, but placement of reefs, stump beds, and other fish attractors.
Anglers who lack computers can stop in at any library, have a librarian show you (it takes seconds) how to use it, and check for maps. If a particular upground is not listed, you can often stop in at a sporting goods store or book store and get a large sized publication that lists 100 lake maps or whatever.
A boat is the best way to fish any upground, so if you have a small boat or can borrow or buy one, that’s the way to go, and since most upgrounds allow electric motors, use one of these, too. Now for the easy part. Purchase or make some Lindy rigs first, a simple rig consisting of a one ounce slip sinker, swivel to stop the sinker, and about two feet of monofilament line with a No. 6 or 4 hook on lines end. Add a head hooked nightcrawler or minnow to the rig, pick a spot near one of the reefs or other fish attractors, and drop the line to bottom. Then start drifting or slow trolling with your sinker just bumping occasionally, your bail open, and the rod tip held high.
When a tug comes, instantly drop the rod tip and release line for a count of 10, then tighten up until you feel weight and strike! It’s a lethal way to find fish in an upground, and it goes without saying that once you land something worthwhile, you’ll cover that same spot again and again. A second tactic for those who don’t like drifting with Lindy’s, is to fish straight down near structure with a tube jig and a bit of worm or small minnow on the hook.
That works too, or you might try trolling with a 3 way swivel, an ounce or so sinker, and a crankbait about two feet from the swivel. Remember, most fish are going to be on or very near the bottom, and that’s where you’ve got to be.
Anglers who lack a boat can still make a fair catch shore fishing, though you’ll need to be sure footed when stepping on riprap rocks that might roll under your shoes. Reach the reservoir at first light and you might find walleye and bass within easy casting distance of shore. I like black and gray sinking Rapalas or pearl grey Roostertail spinners, and I’ve caught some nice fish this way. But they’ll move deeper as full day arrives, so it’s a short term fishery.
Bottom fishing can work too, using the standard one ounce sinker on lines end with two snelled No. 6 hooks above and about a foot apart baited with worms or minnows. But don’t just sit in one spot and hope. Instead, cast here and there each 15 minutes or so, and if nothing happens, move along the shore 50 to 75 feet and try again. Finally, don’t forget night fishing in these upgrounds for catfish. I’ve caught cats to 15 pounds using raw liver, shrimp, or nightcrawlers, and it’s a lazy, relaxing way to try your luck.