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Fishing and camping sojourns in southeastern Ohio

By Mike Ryan, OCJ field reporter

This summer, embrace the proverb: ”Everyone should believe in something…I believe I’ll go fishing.”

The Appalachian foothills in southeastern Ohio offer unique camping and fishing opportunities. Although the region is not famed for its piscatorial pursuits, several well-managed state parks with large, picturesque lakes dot this wild, forested landscape, giving dedicated fishermen endless hours of entertainment in a land where the deep woods meet the water.

Outdoorsman Trent Ball frequents these southeastern state park lakes in the summer, taking his children fishing for bass, catfish, and panfish as often as time allows.

A man who appreciates the beauty of nature and the importance of outdoor pursuits, Trent values the time he spends fishing with his family.

“I like to go fishing with my kids, especially at Lake Logan and Burr Oak Lake. I like being able to get to the lake early in the morning and put a full day of fishing in without getting home late at night, so proximity plays a big part in where I can go for the day,” Ball said. “Being from Logan, the state parks I’ve mentioned are the easiest for me to visit. Either from a boat or on shore, we usually do a combination of bobber fishing with worms or minnows, crappie jigging, and bottom fishing for catfish.”

Four hundred acre Lake Logan, which is situated just outside the internationally acclaimed Hocking Hills State Park, well known for its caves and rock formations, is a very popular fishing spot for local anglers and is widely regarded as a top fishing destination in southeastern Ohio. Monster catfish are landed here every year, and abundant populations of largemouths, panfish, musky, pike, and saugeyes also call this body of water home. The dam, the northern levy, and around and under docks and piers are areas frequently targeted by Lake Logan fishermen. Many fishermen hit the water here on jon boats and pontoons with 10 horsepower engines.

For anglers desiring to camp in the Hocking Hills wilderness, there are a multitude of private campgrounds very close to Lake Logan. Though usually very busy in summer months, the state park campgrounds are well rated.

“Hocking Hills State Park offers nice camping spots but they are usually booked up most weekends. They do have non-reservable sites that you can get if you show up early on Friday,” Ball said. “Just down the hill from the state campground is 17-acre Rose Lake, which offers a very scenic fishing opportunity and is stocked with trout in the spring by the state.”

Burr Oak Lake is located in quiet, sleepy Burr Oak State Park, deep in the hills of Morgan County. For those looking for relative solitude as the summer heats up and crowds of people flock to Ohio’s public lands, this is the place to be. Even at the height of summer, this park remains an escape from society, and the 664-acre lake offers excellent fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill. Ball appreciates the rustic, out-of-the-way offerings of this lake and visits it regularly during fishing season.

“Burr Oak doesn’t have the amenities that Hocking Hills offers but if you want a quiet weekend close to Athens with good fishing, Burr Oak is a hidden gem,” Ball said.

The campgrounds at this 2,593-acre state park are rarely full and anglers can bring their own boats or rent one from the marina. There is a 10 horsepower limit on this scenic lake where morning mists cloak the low, hills that line the water. Backpackers can hike the lake trail as well.

In Vinton County, Lake Hope State Park is surrounded by the rugged terrain of 28,614-acre Zaleski State Forest. The park, which is rich in natural and human history, offers a primitive campground and backcountry camping. The 120-acre lake within the park allows boats with electric motors and provides paddle boat and rowboat rentals seasonally. Fisherman can also hike the trail around the lake and wet their lines where they see fit.

“I usually look for anything that offers the fish some cover, like trees that are in or over water, or man made objects like docks,” Ball said. “Sometimes though, places just have a good look to them and I can’t help but throw a line in to try my luck.”

Inside the 2,767 acres of sprawling, uninterrupted hardwood forests at Stroud’s Run State Park in Athens County lies 161-acre Dow Lake, a public fishing destination and part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources spring trout release program. Panfish, bass, and catfish are also targeted by anglers at this lake, who can fish from their own 10 horsepower boats, rent a rowboat seasonally, or fish from the shore. Shore fishermen have success fishing along the dam and those with boats often seek out weed beds and submerged trees to land some fish.

There is a campground at Stroud’s Run and though the park, nestled in the hollers of big hill country, feels remote and secluded, it is just a stone’s throw away from the college town of Athens, where hungry anglers can pick up some excellent fried chicken at Miller’s Chicken or feast on locally grown foods at Casa Nueva Cantina.

Further fishing information, maps, and camping reservations for all of these Ohio State Parks can be found on the Ohio Division of Natural Resources website, ohiodnr.gov. A valid Ohio fishing license is required to fish in all public waters for persons 16 years of age and older.

Adventurers and anglers who know this southeastern landscape know it for its regenerative qualities and Appalachian charm. Few places in the Buckeye state offer more scenic vistas while casting a line than these natural retreats. Wilderness recreation beckons, encouraging outdoorsmen to fish the waters and wander the hills in a sentiment shared by former United States presidents. Jimmy Carter once stated, “Many of the most highly publicized events of my presidency are not nearly as memorable or significant in my life as fishing with my daddy,” and Herbert Hoover rightly observed that “Fishing is more than fish. It is the great occasion when we return to the simplicity of our forefathers.”

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