Whether you're an Angler, Boater or Fisherman...Findley Lake has it All!
By Richard Martin
Boating, fishing and camping are three sports that have always gone hand in hand, but pursuing these activities in big state parks like Salt Fork, Pymatuning, and Buckeye can be a hassle. Even after Labor Day these well known parks often have crowds of people making too much noise, and lakes with far too many boats crisscrossing and pulling water skiers. But there are small parks around too, parks that offer good camping and fishing, parks that you've seldom heard of and never visited. Findley State Park is a classic example.
Findlay lies just a modest drive from northern cities, a 903 acre area along SR 58 just south of Wellington. It has a nice wooded campground with 272 sites, and a pleasant little lake of 93 acres. The campground these days seldom has more than two or three campers in residence, maybe a few more on weekends, so it's an ideal place to set up camp, smell wood smoke on crisp morning air, eat a fire blackened hotdog, and just lay back and enjoy peace and quiet. Readers interested in trying the sport of camping, but lack equipment, can spend time in one of three camper cabins at Findlay, and at least get a taste of outdoor living.
It may be a small lake, but there are still basic facilities, including two launch ramps and in season, rental boats and a commissary. Unfortunately, motors are electric only, but that makes peaceful and quiet exploring with little distracting noise. The lake is worth exploring too, with backwaters, secluded coves, and a tiny island. Boaters are likely to see waterfowl from ducks to geese, shorebirds, and along wooded shores anything from deer coming for a dawn drink to squirrels.
The lake has all of the standard fish, bass, channel cats, bluegill, and crappie, and bass fishing is first class during these autumn months. Catfishing is good at night, especially along a right angle channel by the swimming beach, which ends in a dozen or so rental canoes. One local angler fishes there after every rain, and hammers the cats, which are probably drawn by a fresh supply of washed-in worms and insects. A park ranger said "The biggest cat I've seen the man catch there weighed 17 pounds!"
Another good aspect for boater/camper/anglers here is that Spencer Lake Wildlife Area is just a few miles away. It's about one mile east of the town of Spencer on SR 162, then another mile north. Spencer is a prime fishing lake, two actually, separated by a nice cement and grass causeway. It has a launch ramp, two good wooden fishing piers, and a fine supply of channel cats and bass.
Boaters who like a little hiking with their water sports will find 10 miles of trails, including a portion of the Buckeye Trail, and those who like mountain biking can use the trails, too. There's even a self-guided interpretive trail that starts and ends at the camp check-in building.
A second pleasant little (and almost unknown) state park is Van Buren State Park. It's just north of the town of Findlay, 251 acres of wooded land with a 45 acre lake and a mile stretch of river running through it. LikeFindley Lake, electric motors only are allowed, and its 45 acres offer their own brand of quiet boating. The campground has 78 sites which, like Findley, lack electricity, and pet camping is permitted on designated sites.
The lake has a good population of largemouth bass, channel cats, bluegill, bullheads, and crappie, and a mornings catch is only minutes away from the campfire skillet. Van Buren also has hiking trails, lots of birds and other wildlife, and six miles of multiple-use trails that mountain bikers can use. A place worth seeing.
Then there's Jefferson Lake State Park, another spot I'm betting you've never heard of. It lies east of New Philadelphia almost on the Pennsylvania border, 945 acres of rolling, hilly land cloaked with beech, oak, maple, and walnut. Those who walk its 22 miles of trails, or horseback there, and do so in early morning or late evening, will likely see deer and wild turkey, maybe ruffed grouse, surely squirrels and other forest creatures.
The campground has 57 non-electric sites with basic amenities, and the 17 acre lake can provide good fishing for the usual bass, cats, and panfish. Again, it's electric motors only, but there's a fair launch ramp for small boats. Hunters might want to combine this sport with their fishing and camping, since designated areas of the park are open to hunting. And while they're enjoying a woods walk, the kids can try a game of volleyball, basketball, or horseshoes. But, again it's all low key and campers are likely to find few people sharing their pleasures.
There are lots of other places, and readers searching for out-of-the way boating, camping and fishing might try Wolf Run which has trout as well as other fish, or scenic Beaver Creek, or maybe just search "ohio state parks" and click on Pick a Park. Then choose any that please you. Lots will.