SIDNEY – Get your fishing gear ready, on May 4-5 as residents of Shelby County and those living elsewhere in the state of Ohio will have the opportunity to try their luck at fishing for free.
“Free Fishing Days” are held annually in Ohio on the first weekend in May and permit fishing without the purchase of a license in all public waters including Lake Erie and the Ohio River. Ohio is recognized as a world-class fishery especially Lake Erie which is known as the Walleye Capital of the World but one need not leave the county to catch a nice stringer of fish. Free Fishing Days allow those not wishing to commit to purchasing a license or those unfamiliar with the sport a chance to try it out for two days at no cost. Many state parks with camping facilities offer discounts for camping on the same weekend.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) offers the Free Fishing Days as an incentive to encourage others to fish and thus become more familiar with the opportunities offered by the great outdoors year-round. The ODNR Division of Wildlife’s six fish hatcheries stocked 70 million sport fish in public waters in 2019, including walleye, saugeye, steelhead, rainbow trout, brown trout, muskellunge, channel catfish, blue catfish and hybrid striped bass, which will provide opportunities for more than 1.3 million Ohio anglers. Chances are those heading out will catch something!
Free Fishing Days also offer the opportunity to create some special memories and all it takes to participate is some basic fishing equipment and a little of one’s time. Most everyone knows a relative, friend, neighbor, co-worker, or acquaintance that spends a little or a lot of time fishing and most (even the ones requiring a little coaxing) will take you out for a try at fishing or loan you some of their equipment for a trial run. Local residents who fish on a regular basis are encouraged to take a buddy fishing especially those who have never tried it like children who would not only consider it an experience but an adventure. Fishing is not only fun but very educational and exposes those unfamiliar with it to a wealth of information and all the very unique features associated with the time-honored activity.
When planning to take a youngster or rookie fishing it is important to remember the object is to just get out there, try your luck, and have a good time not to make the beginner a master fisherman in one day. Consider the following checklist:
• Keep it simple by considering the newcomers age, amount of experience, and skill level.
• Choose a good location that is easy to get to, readily accessible, and a sure place to catch a few fish
• Keep experience in mind, use the least complicated methods and equipment, usually spinning outfits or a simple cane pole are best
• Be patient; plan on spending time untangling lines, baiting hooks, and helping to land fish
• Bring a camera, some snacks, and something to clean your hands with; fishing can be messy business
• Except for taking photos, keep the cell phones turned off, keep the focus on fishing
• Most of all, have fun!
The internet has a wealth of information on introducing someone to the world of fishing and the basic info required to have a safe, enjoyable, successful time while fishing; the following link is a good example: https://www.takemefishing.org/
Warning: many who take advantage of the Free Fishing Days become “hooked” on the sport and pursue fishing for the rest of their lives! The good news is, regardless of where one may live or travel to, odds are there is a decent place to fish nearby; knowing how to fish opens a whole new world of opportunity.
Free fishing is only a two-day event in Ohio and anglers 16 years 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. An Ohio resident fishing license is $19 a year for residents. Fishing licenses are available at participating agents and wildohio.gov. Fishing contributes to conservation in ways most may not realize. The sale of fishing licenses, along with the Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) program, continue to fund ODNR Division of Wildlife’s fish management operations. No state tax dollars are used for these activities. These are user-pay, user-benefit programs, so it is very important to share and promote fishing to insure the sport will always be there, now and for future generations.
There are numerous places in Shelby County and the surrounding area where one has access to public waters. Any and all Ohio State Parks with large bodies of water like those at Fort Loramie and nearby Indian Lake have ample spots to fish and this time of year the fishing -vs- catching ratio is good at both locations. If unfamiliar with the territory of fishing and planning to go for the first time it may be a good idea to check with a veteran fisherman for advice prior to heading out. It’s also a good idea to take a drive to the potential spots, park your vehicle, and have a chat with the locals who are out fishing; if you are a good listener you can learn more in an hour than trial and error will teach you in a year!
Though the Miami River flows through both Logan and Shelby counties much of the land (the banks) adjacent to it are privately owned and permission is required to fish there. It is always best to check on land ownership to determine whether it is public or private before fishing; this allows for a more enjoyable experience in the long run. The river waters where navigable by boat, Kayak, or canoe are accessible for public fishing to those afloat but most prefer to fish from the shore. It’s best to do a little research or check with the local Wildlife officer or park ranger if uncertain about whether an area is public or not. Many public fishing areas are listed @ www.ohiodnr.com
Free Fishing Days are just around the corner, regardless of their age, whether 5 years old or 90, The ODNR suggests you plan to take a “kid” fishing; they won’t be disappointed, and neither will you! Good luck!
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.