Alum Creek Lake Fishing: Complete Angler’s Guide

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One of the best fishing lakes in Central Ohio, Alum Creek Lake is a large reservoir that spans close to 3,400 acres in Columbus’ backyard. It’s one of the top spots in the region for bass fishing, and saugeye are also very popular.

Alum Creek Lake was built between 1970 and 1974 with the creation of a dam on its namesake Alum Creek. Most of the reservoir consists of one large main body, though it does fork at its upper end, with the main Alum Creek Arm to the northeast and the Big Run arm to the northwest. 

The lake is oriented from north to south, with numerous small coves that form sawtooth-like points along the east and west sides of the lake. These coves provide ample spawning grounds for bass, crappie, and other game fish. 

As is typical of Ohio’s large reservoirs, the habitat varies quite a bit throughout Alum Creek Lake. Deep, rocky, and fairly clear near the dam, it is shallower, softer-bottomed, and more turbid at the upper end. 

All of the above adds up to a wide range of excellent fishing opportunities.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provide ample fishing access at the lake, also known as Alum Creek Reservoir.

Alum Creek Bass Fishing

Alum Creek Lake is easily one of the best bets for bass fishing in Central Ohio. Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are both abundant, though the lake is generally considered more of a smallmouth lake.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouths have real trophy potential here, with 5- and 6-pound fish being caught fairly often, especially in the lower half of the reservoir. The bottom end of the lake, closer to the dam, abounds in rocky smallmouth structure. 

Dropping jigs and drop-shot rigs around rocky points in the lower half of the lake is a great way to nab some of these scrappy smallmouths. Some of the lake’s lower coves—especially the large, Y-shaped cove on the lake’s southwestern side—are phenomenal spring and fall smallmouth spots. 

The face of the dam is lined with more than half a mile of riprap, and some of the best bass fishing takes place right along this stretch in the early morning hours.

Try a shallow-diving crankbait, or pick your way through the rocks with a tube jig, but expect to lose a few lures.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are widespread throughout Alum Creek Lake but are more dominant in the upper half of the reservoir. This area is shallower, weedier, and loaded with woody cover.

Though largemouths tend to run a little smaller than smallmouths in Alum Creek Lake, the reservoir produces no shortage of healthy 3- and 4-pounders. They’re known to eagerly gobble up Texas-rigged worms in shallow cover.

The Big Run Arm of the lake is a great area for largemouths, with a broad stump field near the creek channel. The east side of Cheshire Bridge is also a good spot.

Flooded timber is abundant up in the Alum Creek Arm of the reservoir, and anglers catch a lot of largemouths here in spring and summer. Try a flashy spinnerbait early in the year when the water is especially turbid.

Alum Creek Saugeye Fishing

The Ohio DNR’s decades-long saugeye stocking program has proven to be a massive success story. Stocked abundantly in large reservoirs across the state, these walleye-sauger hybrids provide a lot of great angling opportunities.

Alum Creek Lake deserves to be credited as one of Ohio’s best saugeye lakes. Annual stocking keeps numbers of 15- to 20-inch saugeye healthy, and significantly larger fish lurk in the depths. 

A former state record saugeye weighing close to 13 pounds was caught here in 2002. That fish grabbed a crankbait fished along a stretch of riprap during the dead of night in January, highlighting two important aspects of saugeye fishing: they don’t mind the cold, and they’re most active at night.

The largest saugeye, in particular, are usually caught from dusk until about two hours after sunset. And while anglers can catch them in any season, winter and spring are usually the best.

Saugeye favor rocky habitats and are caught at a wide range of depths (general rule: deep during the day, shallow at night). Some anglers troll for them using worm harnesses and other techniques similar to walleye fishing. 

But saugeye are often quick to bite, and hands-on techniques like jigging and casting can be a lot more fun than trolling.

Jigs tipped with minnows are the classic offering, but rattling cranks, blade baits, curlytail grubs and stickbaits are all great choices.

Many areas in Alum Creek Lake can be productive for saugeye, especially in the lower half of the reservoir. The riprap along the dam is often excellent, as are the rocky banks of the Cheshire Road Causeway. 

Deeper haunts include ledges along the creek channel near the dam, where the bottom drops to about 60 feet.

Old submerged roads are key areas, too, particularly the roadbed that runs parallel to the eastern shore. Another prime spring spot is the tailwater below the dam. 

Alum Creek Crappie Fishing

Anglers pull numerous bragging-size crappies out of Alum Creek Lake every year. Populations of both black and white crappies are abundant, with lots of healthy fish ranging from 9 inches (the minimum length for a keeper here) to 14 inches.

Spring is the time to go get ’em.

Crappies ebb and flow between deeper haunts and warming shallows in early spring, starting almost immediately after the lake’s limited ice cover has receded. They follow points and creek channels up into the lake’s many finger-like coves.

Coves on the east side of the lake tend to be best, with the cove adjacent to the Galena launch ramp being a favorite. Great crappie fishing usually starts in early April and goes strong until around Memorial Day. 

When the spring crappie action is in full swing, practically any cove along the eastern shore can produce a mess of crappies. Many of these coves are loaded with brush, laydowns, timber and stumps, all drawing spawning crappies like magnets. 

The go-to tactic is dropping a minnow under a slip float in and around brush and timber. Africa Road runs along the east side of the lake, crossing several coves and providing some great access for bank fishing.

Most anglers focus on the lower two-thirds of the lake, from the US-36 bridge south.

But don’t neglect the shallow areas above the bridge. This upper section is a no-wake zone, which keeps pressure light, and offers some great crappie fishing in a forest of standing timber.

If it’s too early (or too late) in the season to find shallow crappies, check out the submerged roadbed that runs up and down the lake near the eastern shore. It serves as a fish highway, connecting deep and shallow areas as it crosses each point and creek channel.

More: Find the most productive crappie fishing lakes in Ohio and then learn how to catch a bucketful of them with the top crappie fishing tips and tricks.

Alum Creek Muskie Fishing

Muskellunge are at the top of the food chain in Alum Creek Lake, and these toothy monsters are known to give anglers a run for their money.

Lots of muskies measuring 36 inches and up are caught here every season, and it’s one of the best places in Ohio to hook an elusive 50-incher. 

The best place to look depends on the season. Muskies spawn in springtime and migrate up the lake this time of year to shallow spawning areas. One of the best areas for spring muskies is the Big Run Arm. 

Abundant woody cover in this arm produced a lot of quality fish. But try casting around the mouth of Big Run and off the point that separates it from the Alum Creek Arm. Multiple submerged road beds converge here, making it a musky mecca.

But this is by no means the only good area. Most coves all around the lake can produce spring muskies on oversized jerkbaits and bucktails. The longest and deepest coves are generally the best. 

By summer, muskellunge fan out across Alum Creek Lake, and trolling becomes a more efficient method than casting.

One of the most popular trolling routes is around both lengths of the Cheshire Road causeway, out beyond the riprap.

The same approach works just off the riprap face of the dam. Many anglers also troll up and down both sides of the lake in summer, crossing each point and cove mouth. When the lake stratifies, keep your lures running right above the thermocline.

The hottest months of summer are often some of the most productive for muskies. Expect another flurry of activity at the end of fall, when muskellunge feed aggressively in anticipation of winter.

The deep pool below the Alum Creek Dam tailwater always holds some big muskies too.

More: Find the best fishing for muskies in Ohio

Other Fish Species

Alum Creek Lake is the type of lake where you never quite know what you’ll find at the end of your line. In addition to the species listed above, these additional fish are also common. 


Alum Creek Lake supports an ample population of channel catfish, though these fish tend to get overshadowed by many of the other species that reside here. It’s also safe to say that Alum Creek Lake doesn’t have the best trophy cat potential in the state, but the numbers are solid. 

Expect to catch a lot of 18- to 24-inch channel cats hare. Bigger fish are available, but they’re not especially common. 

The best area for Alum Creek catfish is the upper end of the reservoir above the Howard Road Bridge.

Though it has a few spots over 20 feet deep, this area is mostly made up of shallow flats, with indistinct creek channels and a few sunken roads, bridges and culverts. 

Drifting cut shad, shrimp and chicken livers in the lake’s upper end produces many nice channel cats.

There’s excellent catfishing from May through the end of summer, and the water up here is usually turbid enough that you won’t need to wait until nightfall to catch them.

Catch More Catfish

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White Bass

Wherever white bass swim, there’s a dedicated core group of anglers who like to catch them. This is certainly the case at Alum Creek Lake, even if these fish are ignored by most folks who fish here. 

Throughout most of the year, white bass are hard to pin down. They roam the lake freely, and when they are caught, they’re usually caught incidentally by anglers targeting other species. But that changes in spring, when white bass head upstream on a huge spawning run. 

From April through the end of Amy, white bass are available in vast numbers at the upper end of the reservoir above Howard Road. Hundred-fish days are possible at the peak of the run, with many fish measuring 12 to 15 inches.

Small, flashy minnow imitations like Roadrunner jigs, Mepps spinners and Johnson Beetle Spins are some of the fishing lures of choice for white bass.

It’s also possible to get into some good white bass action in the fall, when schools of them follow shad around the lake’s main basin.

Bluegill & Sunfish

Bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish are plentiful in Alum Creek Lake, though neither species are especially noted for their size. Still, these panfish provide fodder for many family camping trips, slurping up red worms beneath bobbers with little hesitation.

Inhabiting most of Alum Creek Lake’s coves, bluegill and sunfish typically relate to vegetation or woody cover. They also congregate below docks in summer and are common around the lake’s marinas.

Bluegill are also commonly caught through the ice in winter.

Though the main body of Alum Creek Lake seldom offers safe ice, many coves freeze over by February, offering a chance to drop jigs, larvae baits and minnows for panfish.

A mixed catch of bluegill, crappie and the occasional saugeye is common when ice fishing at Alum Creek Lake.

More: Learn the easy ways to catch bluegill and other sunfish species.

Planning Your Trip

Alum Creek Lake has a minimally developed shoreline, though there’s no shortage of lodging and other amenities nearby.

Beyond the ring of wooded parkland surrounding it, the lake’s upper end is essentially in farm country, while the southern end pokes into Columbus’ northern suburbs. 

Because of its proximity to Columbus, Alum Creek Lake gets a tremendous amount of recreational boat traffic between Memorial Day and Labor Day, especially on the weekends.

Fortunately, a lot of the best fishing takes place in spring, before pleasure boaters churn the lake to a froth.

If you are fishing here in summer, your best bet is to start early in the morning in some of the more sheltered coves or head north to the no-wake zone at the upper end of the lake.

Getting to Alum Creek Lake

It’s a pretty straight shot from Downtown Columbus to Alum Creek Lake via I-71. The drive often takes less than 30 minutes if traffic conditions are agreeable.

Several additional routes will take you farther up the lake, most notably Africa Road, which skirts the east side. 

Several significant roadways cross the lake as well, the most notable of which is the Cheshire Road causeway, which splits Alum Creek Lake roughly into upper and lower halves. US-36 crosses about two-thirds of the way up the lake, and Howard Road crosses even farther up.

Bank & Boat Access

There are more than a dozen places to launch a boat or fish along the banks of Alum Creek Lake, the vast majority of which are part of Alum Creek State Park, which spans virtually the entire lakeshore.

Good access areas within the park include: 

  • Galena Boat Ramp: Located at the mouth of the southernmost major cove on the east side of Alum Creek Lake, the Galena Boat Ramp is a popular four-lane launch site close to the dam. Ample parking and bank fishing access are also available. 
  • State Park Beach/Kayak Launch: A hand-launch site for kayaks is located on the west side of the lake, north of the state park swimming beach and almost directly across from the Galena Boat Ramp. 
  • Alum Creek Marina: The largest boat launch site on the west side of the lake, the Alum Creek Marina offers docking, boat rentals, and an onsite restaurant and marina store directly adjacent to a four-lane state park boat ramp with ample parking. There is bank fishing access as well. 
  • Cheshire Road: A handful of access facilities are in the immediate area around the Cheshire Road causeway. The State Park Campground is located at the west end of the causeway and has its own boat launch. Separate boat launch and bank access sites are located just off Africa Road, near the east end of the causeway.
  • US-36 Causeway: The west end of the US-36 causeway features a hand-launch kayak site. A modest parking area with limited bank access is located at the east end.
  • Howard Road: The northernmost major launch on Alum Creek Lake is located just off the west end of the Howard Road bridge. It’s a single-lane ramp with a large parking area and modest bank access.
  • Kilbourne Canoe & Kayak Launch: This small hand-launch site is on Kilbourne Road at the extreme upper end of the reservoir where Alum Creek feeds it.

The only non-state-park access on the lake is Alum Creek Park, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility that provides bank fishing at the dam and in the tailwater below it.