Recreation time in the outdoors promotes good health and relaxation, and fishing can be particularly rewarding. Enjoying nature through fishing keeps kids busy, encourages good stewardship of natural resources, and may reduce stress. In fact, just being outdoors can have a multitude of health benefits.
Wise use of private and public waters through responsible fishing is a great educational and physical activity for families. Kids of all ages can enjoy this opportunity, which is why the State of Ohio only requires fishing licenses for people age 16 and older. Support the conservation of Ohio’s natural resources by buying a license and getting out fishing! In addition, if you have a pond or lake, you can support Ohio aquaculture by purchasing fish for stocking from reputable suppliers.
One of the great things about fishing is that it is easy and inexpensive to get started. The equipment and gear you will find at retail stores may be overwhelming, but all you really need to get started is a rod, reel, line and hook. Many department stores and online retailers sell rod and reel combinations that are great for beginning anglers. For more information, see the Ohio Sea Grant fact sheet Basic Fishing Equipment for Kids.
You can buy a variety of artificial lures, but live bait on a plain hook is a popular choice. There are a lot of options for both, so it helps to do some online research on what works best for your fishing spot. You can purchase live bait from bait shops, but catching your own is sometimes as much fun as fishing. Digging up worms, catching crickets, and seining minnows are great outdoor activities as well.
Another good option is to purchase farm-raised bait from reputable local farmers. You can find them by visiting the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Fish Propagators Publication (5196). Popular farm-raised bait species in Ohio include golden shiners and fathead minnows.
Be sure to dispose of your unwanted bait in the trash at the end of your fishing trip or in the same body of water where you caught it. Help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers! TM
Other helpful and important equipment that all anglers should carry includes nail clippers for cutting line, needle-nose pliers for removing hooks, and sun safety equipment such as sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and sunscreen. If fishing from a boat, make sure to follow Ohio boating laws, wear an appropriate life preserver and keep other safety equipment on hand.
When and where to fish
In Ohio, fishing can be a year-round activity. Spring and early summer are great times because many fish become more active with warmer water temperatures. As the seasons change some species will change habitats, but they will still bite if you can find them.
Ponds are often productive places to fish and are common spots for new anglers. Bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish, yellow perch, and rainbow trout are popular species in Ohio ponds. State parks often have multiple angler access areas open to the public, including launch ramps if you have a boat. Maps of these access points can be found on the ODNR Ohio Lake Map Resource. If you would like to fish on Lake Erie’s open waters, your best bet may be to hire a charter captain or book a seat on a head boat. Visit coastal county visitors bureau websites or give them a call to start planning a trip. There are dozens of sport fish species in Ohio’s lakes and rivers, but some of the most popular are crappies, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and walleye.
I caught one, now what?
You have two options: release it or keep it. Please handle the fish with extreme care if you release it. Fish have slime coats that serve as a protective barrier, and excess handling can cause the slime coat to rub off. Carefully hold the fish in a net or with wet hands while removing the hook, then gently place it back in the water and let it swim off. If keeping it, it is best to either keep it alive until you are ready to clean it or to immediately put it on ice.
Catching your own fish for dinner is a rewarding experience. Fish is a very healthy protein choice and there are many tasty recipes. If you are learning to filet a fish, be patient. It will take some practice but it is worth the effort. You can find many how-to videos of fish cleaning online.
Know the rules
Different bodies of water often have different rules. In Ohio, most people age 16 and over need to purchase a fishing license from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to fish public waters. There may be limits on what species, size, and how many fish you can keep, so make sure you know the rules for your location. You can find Ohio Fishing Regulations at ohiodnr.gov.
Want to create your own fishing spot?
If you have a new or established pond on your property and the quality of fishing is not where you want it to be, reach out to your local Extension office or a reputable pond and lake management company. The ODNR Fish Propagators Publication (5196) is an excellent resource, or you can find a company via the Ohio Aquaculture Association.
You can also contact the authors, who are all avid anglers and part of The Ohio State University Extension.