The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife announced Friday that May 4-5 will be Ohio’s free fishing weekend, when Ohio residents may fish without the concern of a game warden asking to see a fishing license in any of Ohio’s public waters — from local bodies like Rocky Fork Lake and Paint Creek to larger ones like Lake Erie and the Ohio River.
Adam Somerville, natural resources officer at Rocky Fork Lake State Park, told The Times-Gazette it is the only weekend all year when those 16 and older are not required to obtain a fishing license to fish in the state’s public waters.
“What the free fishing weekend does is to give people a chance to get out and see if they like it,” he said. “It’s like the free trial period when you get Netflix, so this is our trial version of it when it comes to fishing, that way if you decide you enjoy it, go out and get a fishing license.”
A fishing license is never required when fishing on private property, he said, but is required if a large waterway such as a creek feeds into a private pond.
An ODNR news release stated that the Division of Wildlife’s six fish hatcheries stocked more than 44 million sport fish in public waters last year, including walleye, saugeye, steelhead, rainbow and brown trout, muskies, channel and blue catfish and hybrid striped bass, any of which would give a child the thrill of a lifetime when on a fishing outing.
The free fishing weekend offers Ohioans of all ages the chance to experience the fun of catching a fish, Somerville said, and the officer offered some helpful tips for taking a youngster out fishing.
“First of all, keep the outing simple and choose a pond or a lake where kids can easily catch a fish,” he said. “Young kids want excitement and they want to be yanking a fish out on every cast, so put some live bait on the hook and let them tear into a little bluegill who will fight them at every turn.”
For the best time fishing with a young child, he recommended getting permission to fish in a private pond since the fish are in a more confined area, and advised lots of patience and to plan on spending time untangling lines, baiting hooks, and, of course, helping land a fish. He also recommended not forgetting the most important item:
“Bring a camera or your phone to take a picture of that little boy or girl proudly holding the fish they caught, and definitely lots of snacks since you know how kids like to eat — I can’t think of a single time since I was 16 years old that I didn’t bring along a bunch of goodies in my sack,” he said.
Anglers 16 and older are required to have a valid fishing license to take fish, frogs or turtles from Ohio waters when not fishing on Ohio’s free fishing weekend, he said. He also said the sales of fishing licenses, along with the Sport Fish Restoration program, continue to fund the Division of Wildlife’s fish management operations.
He said fishing licenses, which cost $19, can be purchased at Walmart or area bait and tackle shops, or by going online to www.ohiodnr.gov and clicking on the green “Buy Your License” button.
“You can save a copy of the license on your smart phone now so you don’t have to carry around a paper version,” he said. “And starting this year, they are good for one year from your date of purchase.”
A fisherman himself, Somerville recommended not only the “twin lakes of Highland County,” Rocky Fork and Paint Creek, but also for starters areas of Rocky Fork Creek and Paint Creek in addition to Clear Creek, Brush Creek and Whiteoak Creek.
“Another place to go is Paint Creek over by Bourneville,” he said. “If you want the fight of your life with a fish that looks like a dinosaur, go over there and hook into a Gar; they’re not that good to eat, but they have a long snout that’s full of teeth and they’ll fight you until your arm falls off.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.