Winter Hunting and Fishing Activities

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

While fair weather outdoorsmen wait for the first signs of spring before they go outdoors, others who enjoy the winter cold take advantage of what the season offers. For example, if you’re driving around the countryside over the next four days, chances are you might be spotting some hunter-orange along wood and fence lines. January 6 starts a special four-day muzzleloader season and the final chance for gun hunters to bag a deer until next fall. The deer population is solid across the state and that has been supported by the harvest reports provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. As of January 2, 2018, a total of 165,392 deer have been taken by both archery and gun hunters statewide. That’s roughly a five percent increase over last year’s total at a similar time. Auglaize County bow and gun hunters have bagged a total of 767 deer as of last Wednesday. That was an increase over last year and those statistics should give hunters hope that there are still some deer in the neighborhood to hunt.

Although there should be some deer around during this special season, hunters have other obstacles standing in the way of filling a tag. Weather is probably a main concern. Hunters have to be in the field to get a shot, and the bitter cold predicted for opening day may make some have second thoughts about spending a lot of hours outside. The good news is that after the first day, the temperatures are supposed to moderate approaching the freezing mark. There may also be some intermittent snow which many hunters prefer. From what I’ve been told by knowledgeable hunters, deer do move in the snow and are easier to spot when the ground is snow covered. They don’t, however, move during a steady rain or when it’s windy. The wind masks their senses of hearing and smell.

Regardless of conditions, there will be deer hunters in the field through January 9 trying to fill a tag. Others, however, will be focusing on a sport that varies in local popularity because of our geographical location, ice fishing. There are many years when having adequate ice is limited because of our average temperatures. However, this year has been an exception, at least so far. Unusually long-term cold snaps have provided fishable ice since mid-December. Reports on ice thickness have varied running from 7 to 13 inches thick. That’s more than adequate enough to carry a fisherman and his gear. However, water will still move under the ice, and moving water can have a major impact on ice safety. A prudent ice fisherman will always carry a spud bar and other safety equipment.

Ice fishermen are currently active on all of the canal lakes. At St. Marys, fish have to be located, but once found, some decent catches of crappies are being reported. Most of the fishermen are focusing on the channel areas. A few are taking some perch according to some reports. Many fishermen are in the habit of hunting fishermen instead of fish. This is okay, but you will become a more consistent fisherman if you find your own fish. Areas turn off and on with regularity. It pays to know where to try next instead of waiting for others to guide the way.

Lake Loramie is a very user-friendly place for bank fishermen which gives them access to many prime fishing locations. This is probably one of the reasons that ice fishing is so popular there. Bluegills have been biting well with keepers running from seven to nine inches. A few crappies and an occasional saugeye are also being caught. Earls Island, Filburns, Luthman Bridge, and the 119 Bridge are areas to start looking for fish.

Indian Lake has been busy with ice fishermen, and this weekend, the fishing traffic is expected to be heavy. Bluegills have to be located but are being taken all over the lake. Crappies are also being caught with decent catches reported from Long Island and the Game Reserve. A few perch have also been reported. Larger saugeye are also starting to hit and a 7 ½ pound fish was taken last week. Many saugeye fishermen are jigging Swedish Pimples and VibEs. Some fishermen are tipping the Pimples with minnow heads.

Whether you’re hunting deer or hunting fish, now seems to be a good time to do either one. Being successful in getting your deer or bringing home a mess of fish will take some effort and a love for the winter season. I don’t share that passion, so I’ll keep close to the vehicle when I’m out and about. Those who are hunting or fishing, or both, this weekend, be courteous and watch out for the other guy. May sure that everyone does their best to get home safely. No deer or fish dinner is worth a life.