By JIM ABRAMS

Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, is proving to be an innovative leader for the organization. She’s placed competent leadership at the helms of her flagship divisions and knocked the dust off of the mothballed Division of Natural Areas and Preserves (DNAP) by appointing Jeff Johnson, an experienced DNAP employee, as chief.

Her office has now launched the Conservation Teen Advisory Council (ConTAC), which will serve as a statewide network of student leaders working together to enhance ODNR’s youth outreach and program efforts.

To fill those positions, ODNR is reaching out to all Ohio residents entering grades nine through 12 and asking them to consider applying to become a member of ConTAC. They hope to find highly motivated students who are interested in natural resource conservation, outdoor recreation, wildlife or simply making a positive impact within the Buckeye State.

Please don’t misinterpret this as some kind of summer camp. This yearlong commitment will allow these young people to have an impact on ODNR’s programs, allow them to interact with its various divisions and quite possibly direct them toward a career choice.

Some of the work expected of ConTAC members include:

• Provide new and unique perspectives, ideas and recommendations for engaging today’s youth.

• Develop and implement youth-focused strategies, resources, campaigns and events.

• Work individually and collectively to empower others to enact conservation-focused initiatives in their communities.

• Research problems, activities and concerns of youth as they relate to conservation.

• Share project social media posts.

• Represent the council at events, conferences and important meetings.

• Spend an average of 10 hours per quarter on council activities.

ConTAC provides the opportunity for students to meet new peers from across the state with similar interests, develop leadership skills and provide outdoor opportunities to youth from the shores of Lake Erie to the rolling hills of Appalachia.

Applications and references will be reviewed by ODNR’s policy and education staff. A maximum of 30 students will serve on the council at one time with no more than two members from one county. The goal is to put together a diverse network of teen leaders from across the state.

This program gives a voice from young men and women directly to ODNR leadership and offers a great opportunity for a positive impact on the immediate and long-range future of our natural resources. I also see it tying directly to the R3 programs that involve the recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters and shooters as well as how these historical pastimes are viewed.

Applications for a position with ConTAC must be submitted by Friday, June 7. For information, to download an application or to apply online, visit http://ohiodnr.gov/teens

“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there.” — John P. Kotter

Along the way:

The Division of Wildlife has released its northwestern Ohio fishing forecast’s top inland lakes. Listed by species, these lakes give you the opportunity to improve your chances of catching a “Fish Ohio”-eligible trophy.

Black bass: Clear Fork Reservoir (Ashland and Richland counties) ranks in the top 10 spots in Ohio for large bass, and this beautiful destination provides the perfect spot to find that largemouth lunker. Try the western, shallower end and fish around the fallen trees and stumps. There’s a multilane concrete boat ramp, unlimited horsepower and 8 mph speed limit. This lake is also known as a top destination for muskellunge fishing.

Crappie: Pleasant Hill Reservoir (Richland and Ashland counties) offers plenty of keepers over 9 inches. Fish along the rocky ledge on the south shore and the small coves along the southern neck of the lake. It’s best to focus around submerged trees and logs. The northern edge is more productive during the summer months. There’s an improved boat ramp and an accessible fishing dock. This lake is an unlimited horsepower lake that attracts many boaters. Try fishing in the upper end of the reservoir when the reservoir gets crowded.

Sunfish: The lakes and ponds on Lake La Su An Wildlife Area (Williams County) are managed for large populations of big bluegill larger than 8 inches. For the largest lake, Lake La Su An, the east shoreline and the south shoreline directly across from the fishing dock are tops. Waxworms and redworms draw plenty of bites. The main lake has a concrete boat ramp and accessible fishing dock. The lake is unlimited horsepower with a no-wake restriction. Other area ponds have primitive ramps suitable for small boats. Fishing is available from early May through late summer on Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Visit wildohio.gov for a full listing of special site rules.

Channel catfish: Van Wert Reservoir 2 (Van Wert County) is an upground reservoir offering good bank access. Fish the deeper water during the day using cut baits or nightcrawlers. For nighttime fishing from shore, the southern end produces good numbers. From boats, try fishing the middle of the reservoir where the lake shallows from 20 to 9 feet. This is an old dike that was partially removed when the reservoir was expanded in 2012. The reservoir has an improved concrete ramp and is limited to electric motors only. Boats with larger motors can keep them tipped up and out of the water.

Saugeye: Pleasant Hill Reservoir (Richland and Ashland counties) offers good opportunities. When possible, fish the flat just outside the marina as well as where the reservoir bends south to the dam. Saugeye fishing can also be good just off the beach area in 10 to 15 feet of water. Try fishing that area at night with a jig tipped with a live minnow near the bottom. There’s an improved boat ramp and an accessible fishing dock. Try fishing in the upper end of the reservoir when the reservoir gets crowded.

Yellow perch: Williams Reservoir (Allen County) offers good numbers of large perch that are often larger than 13 inches. If fishing from a boat, start along the north or south shore where the old haul roads are still in place. These features often attract fish of all species. Shoreline fishing in the spring and fall can be productive. There’s an improved concrete ramp and launching dock with an electric-motor-only limit.

Step outside:

• Today and tomorrow: Ohio Free Fishing Days are the only weekend all year when those age 16 or older are not required to obtain a license to fish in the state’s public waters, including Lake Erie and the Ohio River.

• Today and tomorrow: Tri-State Gun Collectors show, Allen County Fairgrounds.

• Tomorrow: Trap shoot, 1 p.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186.

• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.

• May 11: International Migratory Bird Day allows you to celebrate by exercising your legs and your binoculars.

• June 8 and 9: Become a hunter education instructor, Division of Wildlife, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay. Training is free, but a background check is required. Submit your registration at least two weeks in advance. For questions, contact Jaron Beck at 419-429-8324.

Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at jimsfieldnotes@aol.com

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