Photo captions Atwood Lake, Atwood Lake Resort and Zoar Village
It might be a tough summer for local fishermen. Gas is predicted to hit $4 a gallon, and that's going to just about eliminate chances for most of us to head for South Dakota, Santee Cooper, or the Texas coast. It'll be close to home or not at all, and if that's your situation, I've a recommendation head for Atwood Lake in southeast Ohio.
Atwood is a 12,549-acre lake not far east of New Philadelphia and just off Ohio 212. It belongs to the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, a lake that was once upon a time mediocre for fishing of any kind. But in the last 10 years or so it's improved tremendously and now is one of the top saugeye waters in the state, thanks to repeated stocking by the Division of Wildlife.
I'm just back from Atwood, staying as I usually do at the newly renovated Atwood Lake Resort there. The resort has everything from indoor and outdoor pools to a good restaurant, bar, golf course and more. But there are also cottages here and a nice campground. The lake has two marinas with rental boats and launch ramps, and when I go it's usually to fish for saugeye. There are several ways to do it in spring and early summer.
One is to work favorite spots like territory off the swimming beach with a jig head and leech, a little creature that's tough and lively, usually good for several fish. Depending on wind direction, drift back and forth with your offering bumping bottom and wait for a hit. Jig and twistertails with a minnow on the hook will work too, especially if the tail is orange, white, or chartreuse. Other than the beach work points, any holes your fish locator turns up and underwater structure like sunken roads and creek beds.
I've had good luck on largemouth bass here, some of the best of it near the east marina not far from Delroy. There are riprap shorelines, some good weed beds and points that will turn up bass to plastic worms, crankbaits, and small spinnerbaits in white or chartreuse. Channel cat fishing is good at night with shrimp on the bottom. Try near the campground for these.
If you tire of Atwood, head south 10 miles or so to Leesville Lake, another MWCD hotspot. It's probably the best muskie lake in the state and I've caught some dandy fish there. In spring I like to launch at Clow's Landing and head east (right), then cast the little bays and backwaters with standard muskie offerings like big sinking Rapalas, Grandma lures, Suicks, Wigglewarts, and stick baits.
Later on, I'll turn to trolling and follow a route that seldom varies, left out of Clow's Landing, down across the dam face, then up the north side for a half mile or so before turning over to the north and east shoreline for a trip back. It's a good way to catch muskies. Bass fishing can be good here too, and the shoreline has some wonderful cover in the form of fallen timber and rocks.
What I like best about this area is that there's lots to do for the family, especially if they're history minded, while you're tossing or trolling a lure. New Philadelphia is close with some good shopping and they may enjoy visiting the Mooney Warther Museum with its button collection, railroad carvings, knives, and gardens. Further north of Atwood Lake lies quaint little Zoar Village founded in 1817 by German Separationists, as well as Schoenbrunn Village, a Moravian Mission among the Delaware Indians, and Fort Laurens, an American Garrison that fought off the British in 1779.
Further south, it's just a modest drive to Marietta on the Ohio River with its steamboat rides, museums, and an ancient cemetery with Revolutionary War veterans buried there. It's all not far, and inexpensive, a good place to visit this spring or summer. You can get plenty of information from the MWCD by calling (216) 343-6647 or writing to them at POB 349, New Philadelphia, Ohio 44663. The Atwood Lake Resort number is (800) 362-6406.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org