Clark County serves as a hot spot for fishing

Clark County offers notable places to enjoy fishing, for everyone from the expert angler to the novice.

Clark County has three excellent public fishing spots in C.J. Brown Reservoir, Clark Lake, and the Mad River, says Debbie Walters, District 5 fish management supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“The Mad River would be one of the top places in the state for stream trout fishing,” Walters says. “It’s one of the few cold-water habitats we have to stock trout.”

ODNR stocks the river with brown trout, which thrive in cold water below 60-70 degrees. The Mad River is fed by springs where it starts in Logan County and stays cold for much of the year as it flows through Champaign and Clark counties, although the river warms as it goes farther downstream.

Stone Nickerson has been an avid angler since childhood and now gets to work with fishing gear for a living as owner of Leen’s General Store, 2447 Mechanicsburg Road. Nickerson says Mad River is popular for fly fishing and the brown trout is a “fun fighting fish.”

“They put up a great fight and are really good at spitting out a hook with a big head shake,” Nickerson said. “That makes trying to catch a trout a good adrenaline rush.”

ODNR also stocks C.J. Brown Reservoir with muskie and walleye and just did the annual deposit of rainbow trout in Clark Lake on April 1. By mid-summer, the lake temperature will rise to 70 degrees, at which point the trout can’t survive, Walters says.

“Clark Lake has good family fishing opportunities and good shoreline fishing,” Walters says.

C.J. Brown has long had a reputation for being a great spot to catch walleye, perhaps the most-coveted fresh-water fish, but ODNR’s recent introduction of muskie into those waters will add to the reservoir’s appeal, Nickerson says. The muskie are heavier than trout, can do long runs with a hook, and sometimes can cut off a line when it catches in their razor-sharp teeth.

“It’s going to be a fish people will come to Springfield to chase,” he says. “Having the muskie there will bring a lot of attention to the lake.”

Walters says that since the muskie has only been in the reservoir for a few years, the fish have not yet developed into “huskie muskies” (at least 42 inches in length), but those from the first stocking in 2017 may soon get to that size. In addition, anglers at C.J. Brown report a high success rate, getting 47 muskie per 100 hours fished. The next highest number was 25 at West Branch State Park.

“As the word gets around about what C.J. Brown has to offer, more people will find it,” Walters says.

Anyone wanting to try fishing for the first time can get the basic gear needed for as little as $50 and can easily find online videos to teach themself how to do it, Nickerson says.

“The joy of fishing just comes from being able to disconnect from the worries and stresses of daily life,” Nickerson says. “Fishing is just mentally taxing enough to keep you occupied, but not so taxing to be stressful. It’s just great to be outside not looking at a screen.”

Nickerson will celebrate the first anniversary of owning Leen’s on Saturday, April 30, with a creek cleanup in Reid Park from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and a party at the store from noon to 5 p.m. Find more details on the Leen's Facebook page or by calling the business at (937) 717-6040.

All anglers must have a fishing license in their possession when fishing from any Ohio body of water. Fishing license fees vary by age, residency, and length of permit, from $10 for a senior Ohio resident one-day license to $599.04 for a lifetime Ohio resident license. Free fishing days are scheduled for June 18 and 19.

For more information about fees and requirements, visit ODNR or call (800) 945-3543.

Read more articles by Steve Schlather.