It may seem both a shade premature and even presumptuous for many hardcore fans frequently disappointed by mild Ohio winters, but the fact is that in almost all northern Ohio winters in almost all winters there is some window of opportunity to get out without pushing the limits and risking unsafe ice. With that kind of optimism in mind, here are my suggestions for District #3's five best ice-fishing waters per our five most popular ice fishing species.
Good luck and keep safe-primarily by not wandering out alone.
(includes redear, sunfish, warmouth and pumpkinseed)
5. Mosquito Reservoir -- notoriously shallow reservoir long about Rt. 11 is best known for it's crappie -- and deservedly so, for both average size and potential numbers -- and it's walleye-numerous but often smaller than the crappie. Panfish possibilities get short shrift, though there are some real dandies. Try primarily around the state ramp area.
4. Portage Lakes -- sprawling impoundment offers many choices for many species, both deep and shallow. Smaller sister lakes Rex and Mud most underrated and earliest to freezeup. Try legendary local guide Ron Slater at his "Portage Lakes Bait & Tackle" -- open all winter at 354 Portage Lakes Dr. for reliable and informed insight on all lake goings on. You can call Ron at 330-644-0316 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a great start to any excursion.
3. LaDue Reservoir -- Geauga County fishery is loaded in its backbays and weedy shorelines in particular with quality 'gills. Knowing where those summer weedlines were would be a great start.
2. Wingfoot Lake -- newly public option is a primary focus of the state's ongoing panfish stocking program. Surprisingly deep in many spots.
1. MOGADORE RESERVOIR -- longtime legendary panfishery is particularly known for it's sizeable redears. Popular east end well known for it's early freeze-up potential , but savvy locals know to concentrate West and North when able.
5.Wingfoot -- promising numbers have shown little average size so far.
4. Mogadore -- potential for numbers always there, but recent catches of bigger slabs have been over increasingly deep water.
3. West Branch Reservoir -- hit or miss, but catch it right and this is the stuff memories are made of.
2. Berlin Reservoir -- as above, but more reliable with greater size potential.Narrowing down huge expanse of water often the challenge.
1. MOSQUITO -- almost by acclamation the state's very premier crappie fishery. Concentrate along Pikie Bay or off the cemetery.
5. Lake Milton -- best bet down by the river where an occasional muskie is not out of the question.
4. Nimisila Reservoir -- separated Portage Lake is full of weeds and shallow bays, particularly the south end near legendary Eddie's Bait Shop.
3. LaDue -- though indeed connected to the Cuyahoga River, don't expect that kind of premier potential here, though there is often enough action to keep you thoroughly entertained.
2. West Branch -- pike often overlooked here --a big mistake. Decent numbers with an occasional trophy hooked.
1. MOSQUITO --arguably Ohio's very best lake for northerns. Try about 10-to-20 feet off notoriously weedy shorelines and along causeway.
5. LaDue -- try jigging weedier shorelines with Vib-E's or other blade baits.Mid-lake section premier.
4. Berlin -- along old train trestle an old favorite though overfished spot. Try jigging Swedish Pimples garnished with minnows over mid-lake humps.
3. West Branch -- as above, but shallow bays also a plus.
2. Milton -- pre-ice-up a local bladebait jigging tradition 15-to-20 feet off eastern shoreline. Same areas to concentrate on when water safely hardens.
1. LAKE ERIE -- big lake least likely and last of all to safely freeze, but like gold when it does.
5. West Branch -- concentrate various minnow offerings and delivery systems on and around deeper humps.
4. LaDue -- lots available, but sizes often disappoint.
3. Milton -- surprisingly large perch regularly a bonus to late fall/early winter -- and beyond --anglers.
2. Mogadore -- as in open-water months, check out the deeper areas to the south and west.
1. LAKE ERIE -- the country's best perch fishery is impossible to ignore, even in the mildest of winters. Curiously, ice bite never seems to match reliability of open-water one.
Well, there it is. If you want to get out and cure that inevitable scourge of cabin fever, here is a cursory guide that I sincerely wish will be of fundamental help.
Jack Kiser is the host of TV's "Buckeye Angler" and is co-host of radio's "The Hunting & Fishing Show," heard Sunday evenings from 6-7 p.m. over Akron's WAKR-1590 AM. You may contact Jack at either show's Facebook page.