Fishermen can be a little too serious sometimes, working hard at their sport and missing the fun. I can be like that too, but often enough I go looking for fun, though always hoping for a good catch. Down through the years I've made several pure fun trips, and always to Charles Mill Lake, a spot well designed for a fun jaunt. Here's how I did it.
Charles Mill has several things going for it. One, it's a prime catfish lake with some real whoppers swimming in its slightly murky waters, and two, the Division of Wildlife allows trotline fishing above Ohio 430. So, I toss an old mattress in the cap of my pickup truck, add a sleeping bag, two-burner stove, Coleman lantern, food and utensils, and a little canoe, and head for the Eagle Point campground there which is above Ohio 430. So, far I've always managed to get a campsite on the east side and right on the water, and with luck you will, too.
It doesn't take much gear to fish here. I bought a 25 hook trotline from a large sporting goods store, and made up a dozen or so bank lines which are simply a 10- to 15- foot piece of heavy duty string, a one-ounce sinker and a sturdy hook. For bait I take along some fresh shrimp, nightcrawlers, creek chubs and minnows, but what I'm really hoping for is fresh gizzard shad and on all three trips I was able to wade out a few yards from my campsite with a six-foot seine and catch all the shad needed. Catfish love shad and a 4- to 5-incher cut in half for the bank lines and trotline hooks is a perfect bait.
The trotline and bank lines have to be properly marked and set, and directions are waiting in your Ohio Fishing Regulations brochure under "Setlines, Banklines, Trotlines and Floatlines," but they're simple enough. With everything in hand, I set up camp, gather up my gear and bait and paddle north a few hundred yards. One end of the trotline is tied to the shore, gallon plastic jugs added along its length for boater visibility and to hold the line up, then the end is tied to a couple of heavy bricks and dropped to the bottom. I bait the lines, wish them well, then head here and there setting bank lines.