Winter doesn't officially end for a couple of weeks, but temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s in recent days have already lured some area anglers to their favorite fishing holes.
The Muskingum River was running pretty high Thursday afternoon, but that didn't stop Matt Reynolds and his dad, Ron Reynolds, of Marietta, from wetting a line at Devols Dam.
"It's one of our family traditions. Every March 1-rain or not-we're fishing," Matt said.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Ron Reynolds, left, and son Matt Reynolds enjoyed a day of fishing at Devols Dam off River Road in Devola Thursday afternoon.
Father and son were seated on a grassy section of riverbank, casting into the quieter waters just above the locks.
"I've been doing this since I was 12 years old. My dad always took the day off work on March 1 so we could go fishing." Ron said, adding that they're usually accompanied by a couple of his brothers.
"We just moved here in August from Rittman, near Akron," he said. "And we're always looking for some good fishing spots."
An annual resident Ohio fishing license costs $19. A one day fishing license is available and may be purchased for $11 by residents and non-residents.
Ohio residents born on or before Dec. 31, 1937, may obtain a free fishing license where licenses are sold. Persons 66 and older who were born on or after Jan. 1, 1938, and have resided in Ohio for the past six months are eligible to purchase a reduced cost resident senior license for $10.
More information about Ohio fishing is available at www.dnr.state.oh.us
Information about West Virginia fishing www.wvdnr.gov
The Reynolds' and other local fishermen don't have far to go for some great fishing opportunities, according to Asa Boring with Little Hocking Bassmasters.
"In addition to the local rivers, there are some nice lakes close by, like Forked Run (near Reedsville), and Dow Lake along Ohio 50 near Athens," he said. "Fox Lake west of Athens is also a good spot. They're not large lakes, but they have some good bass fishing."
In Washington County, Veto Lake still offers some good fishing, too.
"You can catch bass and catfish in Veto, although it's so silted in some places you can't get a bass boat in there," Boring noted.
He said the Ohio River is probably the area's most popular fishing spot.
"In fact, we're having a bass tournament on the Ohio May 5 at the Belpre boat ramp," Boring said. "The prize will be split between the winner and the local American Cancer Society."
He said the abundance of smallmouth bass is good news for local streams and rivers as the fish won't thrive in polluted waters.
"There are a lot of smallmouth bass in the Ohio River now, as well as saugeye, walleye, and hybrid striped bass," Boring added.
Marietta Councilman Denver Abicht is another avid local angler.
"One of my favorite spots is on the Ohio side of the Willow Island Locks and Dam (along Ohio 7 between Reno and Newport)," he said. "You have to walk around the fence to get down to the river, but just below the locks there's an area of slack water where we've caught a lot of saugeye, walleye, and smallmouth bass."
Abicht said another great fishing location is the former Ohio Power strip mine lakes along Ohio State Routes 83 and 78 north of Beverly, between Cumberland and Hackney.
"In order to fish there you need to obtain a free permit by contacting AEP Ohio or from one of the local bait shops or convenience stores in that area," he said. "I started going up there in 1964 with my dad. The bass fishing is great-I hooked one that was more than 7 pounds."
Local creeks also provide good fishing, Abicht said, noting he often puts on waders and fishes the Little Muskingum along Ohio 26.
"Paw Paw Creek near Lower Salem is also a good spot for smallmouth," he said.
Boring said there are many tributaries along the Ohio River that also provide good fishing.
"There are plenty of great places to fish in this area without having to drive very far," Boring said. "Just get a map and check them out."
In West Virginia the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge Center provides fishing piers, including handicapped access to the Ohio River from the headquarters property along Waverly Road, a few miles east of Williamstown.
The center has also constructed fishing access sites on the Middle Island refuge in St. Marys, W.Va.
Back in Ohio, more than 96,000 rainbow trout will be released into 61 state lakes and ponds, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
The 10- to 13-inch rainbow stocking will occur at Wolf Run Lake, just off I-77 in Noble County March 29, Forked Run Lake at Reedsville March 22, and Dow Lake near Athens April 5.