By JIM ABRAMS

Since the advent of more enlightened manufacturing and agricultural processes with accompanying pollution and littering regulations, Ohio has spent the last century continually improving water quality and angling opportunities.

Today Ohio’s sport fishing has become some of the best and most accessible in the Midwest. Many of the state’s streams and inland lakes can be reached by visiting one of 75 state parks, 21 state forests, 118 wildlife areas and countless locally administered sites and parks.

Of special interest, anglers may also consider exploring the fishing opportunities on one of the 17 rivers and streams that have been especially recognized by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves Wild and Scenic Rivers Program.

Ohio pioneered the river preservation movement in 1968 with the passage of the nation’s first scenic rivers act. This legislation created a program to protect our remaining high-quality streams for future generations.

One of the first rivers to receive this distinction was the historic Little Beaver Creek in my home county, Columbiana. Having spent countless hours of my youth searching it for smallmouth and floating its currents through pristine, unglaciated hills, I highly recommend you consider a visit. Other rivers that have qualified for recognition include the Mohican, Chagrin, Little Miami, Kokosing, Grand, Sandusky and Maumee.

Information about any of these areas can be easily researched by visiting the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website at www.odnr.gov. Maps, access points, special regulations and a description of any facilities are provided.

When we turn northward, we find Lake Erie. The big lake, which would more properly be considered an inland sea, is considered Ohio’s most sparkling jewel in its angling crown as a real sportsmen and boater’s dream destination.

This enormous warm-water fishery is managed through joint cooperation between all of its bordering states as well as Ontario, Canada. Their goal is to provide a healthy and sustainable sport fishery, and their work has been accomplished admirably.

While Erie is best known for its stellar walleye, perch and smallmouth bass angling, one fishery is quickly and quietly growing into a new and nearly as prominent opportunity for sportsmen. Largemouth bass numbers have been climbing over the last decade without the comprehensive management given to other lake inhabitants.

These improvements are being attributed to the lake’s slightly warmer temperatures that have increased nearshore aquatic vegetation, a habitat well suited to rearing largemouth.

According to recent Division of Wildlife surveys, biologists discovered that largemouth are now abundant in Lake Erie’s western basin nearshore areas, not just in harbors. In fact, creel surveys are finding that catch rates along the lake’s shoreline are as high as two fish per hour during the best years, not including angling trips that focused on marinas or harbors.

For more information about fishing for bass or other species on Lake Erie, check out the ODNR Division of Wildlife’s recently updated Lake Erie Fishing Guide available at wildohio.gov. It includes fishing tips, techniques, public boat launching locations and other valuable information to help those new to fishing Lake Erie.

With all these water resources so readily available, it’s time for you to wet a line, drown a worm or bob a bobber — whatever floats your boat. It’s time for you to fish Ohio (and camp, hike, explore, boat and hunt).

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” “” Doug Larson

Along the way:

As witnessed by the state budget successfully passing through the House of Representatives (and now being sent for review by the Senate), Governor Mike DeWine and ODNR Director Mary Mertz have been successfully explaining the importance of a healthy and active ODNR through the Governor’s Conservation Reinvestment Initiative.

According to the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, “Gov. DeWine and ODNR Director Mertz have quickly recognized the problem faced by Ohio sportsmen and women, and have shown their willingness to step up and provide the leadership necessary to help fix these issues and ensure the future of conservation in Ohio.”

The Conservation Reinvestment Initiative includes provisions that encompass funding to address American Electric Power (AEP) acquisition and operational needs for the ReCreation lands project, which includes Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area.

Access to land for hunting and fishing, an ever-important issue facing Ohio sportsmen and women, is essential to the future of our outdoor heritage. ODNR’s pursuit to procure the AEP properties is of special importance in helping to alleviate some of these needs. It’s important to note that if legislators are unwilling to fund the purchase of the property, it would likely be sold into private ownership.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance points out that Ohio hunters, anglers, trappers and recreational shooters had become increasingly unhappy with the backlog of projects that would help improve their outdoor experiences, including shooting ranges, fishing and boating access, wetland and marsh repairs, and other badly needed work that has been delayed for years due to a severe lack of funds.

The Conservation Reinvestment Initiative includes the implementation of a very modest increase on resident fishing licenses and some hunting permits, estimated to provide $40 million over the next 10 years. It also allows the Division of Wildlife to approve small incremental fee increases to keep up with increasing costs and forestall large “all-at-once” upsurges required when necessary and financially responsible adjustments have been avoided, ignored or neglected.

Funding to repair Ohio’s deteriorating shooting ranges, fish hatcheries and boating/fishing access would also be addressed in the initiative as well as improvements and updates of daily operations.

The governor’s budget is a critically needed shot in the arm that will enable the Division of Wildlife to make improvements to meet the needs of its customers now, along with ensuring the future of our wildlife resources. It deserves our support.

Step outside:

• Field and Stream Bowhunters have announced this year’s archery events: Mixed animal targets will be shot on Saturday, May 25; Sunday, June 23; Sunday, July 28; and Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24 to 25. The popular 30-target 3-D deer season warm-up will be Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21 and 22. Registration opens at 8 a.m. for each shoot at Field and Stream Bowhunters, 11400 Allen Township 109, Findlay. Contact Harold Spence at 419-423-9861.

• Last chance to get signed up to become a hunter education instructor, Division of Wildlife, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay. Registration is required this week. The June 8 and 9 training is free. For questions, call Jaron Beck at 419-429-8324.

• Tomorrow: 50-bird monthly trap shoot, practice opens at 11 a.m., program starts at 12:30 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.

• Thursday: Hunting film tour, sponsored by the Sportsmen’s Alliance, 7 p.m., Drexel Theater, 2254 E. Main St., Columbus. Enjoy an evening of awesome cinematography featuring dream hunts from around the world. Raffles are available for some great prizes. Traditional movie snacks and drinks, as well as your favorite adult beverages, are available. Admission is $12, $6 for children 12 and under. Contact 614-888-4868 or email info@sportsmensalliance.org.

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

• May 31 to June 2: Ohio Dragonfly Conference, University of Rio Grande in Rio Grande, Ohio. For details, visit https://u.osu.edu/ohioodonatasurvey/2019-ohio-dragonfly-conference/.

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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