11 Best Walleye Fishing Lakes & Rivers in Ohio

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Ohio is undoubtedly one of the best states in America for walleye fishing. From the depths of Lake Erie to the rolling waters of the Ohio River (and numerous lakes and rivers in between), it’s not hard to find great walleye fishing in Ohio.

Walleye are not only widespread but are also available to anglers year-round.

Spring and fall offer great fishing, and some would argue that the winter months are the best time to catch walleye in Ohio. And while the dog days of summer can be challenging, plenty of big ‘eyes are still caught on deep structure during the hottest months. 

When fishing for walleye in Ohio, keep in mind that walleye are, for the most part, bottom-oriented fish. They’ll occasionally suspend to follow schools of baitfish, they usually stay tight to bottom structure. 

The best fishing for them is during low-light hours, or even at night. Walleye have extremely sensitive eyes, which give them great night vision, but also make them averse to harsh sunlight. 

During the day, you’ll have the most success when it’s cloudy, or when there’s a chop on the water to break up the light. Waters that are stained or slightly turbid are also better than crystal-clear waters. 

Ohio lakes and rivers offer abundant walleye weighing 3 to 7 pounds, and anglers have a real shot at a 10-pounder in some waters. The Ohio state record, weighing 16.19 pounds, was caught in Lake Erie in 1999.

Whether you’re out to catch a wall-hanger or just want a few tasty walleye filets for your next fish fry, the following are simply the best walleye fishing lakes and rivers in Ohio.

Lake Erie

Three people fishing in a boat on Lake Erie in Ohio as the sun goes down.
Photo by bobdaveant (Depositphotos)

One of a handful of lakes that could conceivably be called the best walleye lake on Earth, Lake Erie is the undisputed king of Ohio’s walleye fisheries. It’s the shallowest and second-smallest of the Great Lakes, forming Ohio’s 210-mile northern coast. 

Walleye get moving early in the year on Lake Erie.

Fishing opportunities start right around ice-out in February⁠—Lake Erie is the only Great Lake known to completely freeze over⁠—as walleye head toward the mouths of tributaries where they will spawn about a month later. 

Maumee Bay and Sandusky Bay are the best places to catch these early season walleye.

Fish are lethargic this time of year, and a slow-moving bait like a fat nightcrawler on a worm harness rig is the way to go. Keep your bait close to the bottom, and keep it slo-o-o-ow. 

While rivers like the Maumee and Sandusky are known for their abundant spring walleye runs, it’s also worth acknowledging that not all Lake Erie walleye spawn in the rivers.

A lot of them spawn on rocky reefs and shallow shoals in the bays and on the main lake, and anglers catch them there throughout March and April. Some massive walleye pushing 30 inches and 10 pounds are caught this time of year.

Post-spawn is many walleye anglers’ favorite time to fish on Lake Erie. Walleye return to the lake throughout April and May, and they return hungry. As the water continues to warm up, the best bite generally moves deeper, but there’s great fishing as late as July.

The rocky ledges, drop-offs, and deeper reefs of Lake Erie’s western basin (roughly Toledo to Sandusky) offer some amazing spring walleye fishing. Many fish migrate eastward in summer, seeking deeper, cooler water in the eastern basin. 

The whole area around Catawba Island, Kelleys Island, and Put-In Bay offers truly extraordinary walleye fishing. This stretch of the lake is roughly at the juncture between the west and central basins.

Catawba Island State Park and Kelleys Island State Park are a couple of great places to start.

Walleye stay mobile in summer and often make use of the entire water column as they follow schools of shad and emerald shiners.

Trolling crankbaits is a popular fishing method, and if you’ve never fished for walleye on Lake Erie, consider hiring a guide your first time out. 

Erie Tributaries

Rivers that feed Lake Erie offer some of the year’s first walleye fishing opportunities, as many fish stage for their spring spawning run as early as February.

The spring walleye run is nothing short of epic, but these tributary rivers also support modest populations of resident walleye year-round.

Maumee River

Just about every tributary along the shore of Lake Erie hosts walleye in springtime, but nowhere is there a more legendary spawning run than in the Maumee River. Every spring, approximately 500,000 walleye flood into the river from Lake Erie’s western basin.

As soon as the ice recedes from Lake Erie’s bays, you can count on seeing hardy local anglers out on Maumee Bay. They’ll be out there catching a few monster walleye and cleaning the ice out of their rods’ guides between casts in late February. 

But the run really gets going once the calendar turns to March. Walleye spawn when water temperatures are between 42° and 52°F, and the peak of the run on the Maumee River is late March through mid-April. Some stragglers will linger well into May.

Fishing techniques are fairly simple. A Carolina rig with about an 18” leader is standard issue, usually baited with a soft plastic lure and possibly tipped with a minnow or bit of nightcrawler. You might have to adjust your sinker weight based on the flow. 

Curly-tail grubs in white, hot pink, chartreuse, and other high-vis colors are also great options. Most anglers choose to don chest waders and wade out into the chilly water to make a better cast. 

Most of the walleye action on the Maumee River takes place on the stretch from Orleans Park in Perrysburg to Side Cut MetroPark in Maumee. Both parks offer ample bank access, and Orleans Park also has a boat launch. 

Wading can be dangerous in high water, so use caution. The river is usually a bit lower by mid- to late April.

In summer, the Maumee is a great river for bank fishing and wading, and resident walleye emerge from the deeper pools (mostly 5 to 7 feet deep) to feed after dark.

Sandusky River

The Maumee River gets more attention (and rightly so), but the Sandusky River is home to what is almost certainly the second-most impressive walleye run in Ohio. 

The Sandusky River flows across 133 miles of North-Central Ohio, emptying into Lake Erie through Sandusky Bay. This river tends to warm up a little quicker than the Maumee in spring, and the walleye usually get moving earlier. 

Most years, the last week of March and the first week of April represent the height of the Sandusky River walleye run, but there are likely to be fish in the river as early as late February.

As soon as the water temperature hits 40°, the word gets out and anglers show up in droves.

The city of Fremont is ground zero for Sandusky River walleye fishing, especially the area from the Route 20 bridge up to the Ballville Dam. Within this stretch, Rodger Young Memorial Park is the most popular place to access the water. 

You’re likely to see anglers wading out into the river shoulder-to-shoulder in this park on prime spring weekends. River Cliff Park, a little farther upriver, is a good alternative that may be a bit less crowded. 

Curly-tail jigs are the go-to lures for most folks who fish for walleye on the Sandusky River, though a wide range of other soft plastics also work, including paddle-tail swimbaits like Mister Twister Sassy Shad.

Under normal river conditions, ¼-oz. jig heads are perfect, but you might need something a little heavier if the water is really moving. Many anglers also choose a floating jig head to reduce snags, and attach a split shot or two about 18” up the line. 

Grand River

One of the larger Lake Erie tributaries in Northeastern Ohio, the Grand River supports the most significant walleye run in this part of the state. While it doesn’t quite compare to Western Ohio rivers like the Maumee and Sandusky, it’s one of the best bets near the Cleveland area.

The Grand River actually offers one of Ohio’s best steelhead runs, and most anglers who come here in late winter and early spring are out after these big lake-run rainbows. But it’s also common for steelhead anglers to catch a few walleye incidentally. 

Late March is the best time to fish for Grand River walleye, and a lot of big ‘eyes are caught around the mouth of the river in Lake Erie throughout February and into March. 

Once the run is underway, the stretch of river around Painesville is the best place to take advantage of it. Excellent access is available at Kiwanis Recreation Park, where there’s plenty of room to stretch out along the bank. 

As usual, fishing the deeper pools with curly-tail grubs is the go-to tactic. Marabou jigs work well too, and colors like hot pink and purple are just as likely to tempt steelhead as walleye.

The fishing opportunities on the Grand River don’t end when the spring walleye run is over. There’s a solid resident population in the river, and a lot of them are caught during October and November in the tailwater below Harpersfield Dam.

Inland Lakes

Let us not forget about Ohio’s inland lakes. Walleye have adapted well to large reservoirs across the state, and some of these lakes are capable of producing walleye in the 10-pound class.

Pymatuning Reservoir

The vast, 13,349-acre Pymatuning Reservoir straddles the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania, and is easily one of the best walleye fisheries in Pennsylvania as well as Ohio. Pymatuning State Park provides the primary access. 

Historically, Pymatuning has been known as a good trophy walleye lake, but not the type of place where you’re likely to load up the boat.

More recently, it’s come to be seen as more of a numbers lake, but it’s likely that we’ll see the fishery continue to shift back and forth. 

Surveys conducted on the PA side of Pymatuning in recent years have revealed a tremendous abundance of walleye, with lots of fish in the 5- to-7 pound range. There’s an outside shot at a 10-pounder here too.

Pymatuning has a fairly shallow upper basin and a deeper, rockier lower basin, with the Route 85 causeway serving as the approximate dividing line between the two. Some walleye are caught from the bank access right along the causeway in spring. 

The top walleye pattern on Pymatuning is fishing shallow points and humps in the lower basin. Walleye are drawn to these areas as early as March, and often bite well in the rocky and gravel-bottomed shallows during twilight hours through May. 

A lot of the best structure is on the Pennsylvania side of the line, but thanks to a cooperative agreement between the two states, anglers may fish the Pennsylvania portion of the lake from a boat with an Ohio fishing license, and vice versa. 

Shad and alewife-imitating crankbaits like Shad Raps and Flicker Shad are among the most effective lures on Pymatuning. Troll over rocky stricture with a crankbait at dawn, and then make another pass with worm harnesses after the bite slows down.

Figure you’ll also catch largemouth bass on some of your lures, as this is also a very good bass lake.

More: Complete Guide to Pymatuning Lake Fishing

Mosquito Creek Lake

Referred to simply as Mosquito Lake by many, Mosquito Creek Lake is a large 7,199-acre impoundment in Northeast Ohio. It has long been known as one of the real walleye heavy-hitters in the state.

Gravel humps toward the south end of the lake are some of the best spots in spring. Tossing a marabou jig or a curly-tail grub tipped with a live minnow is a great early-season tactic. Keep your bait on the bottom, and keep the presentation as slow as you can. 

Once the water warms up in the summertime, walleye adjust to the changes by moving to a wide range of depths. It’s best for anglers to stay mobile and adaptable this time of year. 

Mosquito Creek Lake supports very abundant submerged weed growth, which usually grows thick to a depth of about 7 feet in summer. Successful walleye anglers fish deeper weed lines this time of year, working them slowly with jigs in a manner similar to bass fishing. 

There are some productive stump fields in the upper part of the lake as well.

Mosquito Creek State Park provides great access, including several boat ramps and bank fishing access near the dam and on the Route 88 causeway.

Most anglers in the area would agree that Mosquito Creek Lake has been in something of a slump in recent years, but it’s unlikely to last. The Ohio DNR stocks more walleye here than anywhere else in the state, and an abundance of smaller fish suggests good years are ahead.

C.J. Brown Reservoir

The Ohio DNR has been consistently stocking walleye fingerlings in C.J. Brown Reservoir for decades at a rate of several hundred thousand per year. This Springfield-area lake is without a doubt the best bet for walleye in Southwest Ohio. 

Spanning 1,969 acres, C.J. Brown Reservoir has very steep drop-offs in its lower end, while the upper end of the reservoir is made up of broad, gently-sloping flats. The best places to fish depend on the season. 

Early in the spring—from ice-out into April—the deeper lower end of the lake is the place to be. There’s a great night bite along the riprap near the dam this time of year, with stickbaits and jigs being some of the best lures. 

Some of the biggest walleye are caught early in the season, and C.J. Brown reservoir definitely harbors some big walleye. Multiple confirmed 10-pounders have been caught here, and state-record caliber fish have been rumored to swim in its depths. 

As the water warms up from late April into May, walleye start to move into coves and creek mouths seeking warmer water and spawning grounds. The best walleye fishing generally moves uplake throughout spring and into summer. 

C.J. Brown stratifies in summer, and the steep nature of the lower lake’s sides make it nearly unfishable this time of year. Trolling the flats in the upper half of the lake is the go-to summer tactic. 

Access to the reservoir is available through Buck Creek State Park, named for the stream that was dammed to create the lake. There’s also a great tailwater fishery below the dam.

C.J. Brown also is a very solid smallmouth bass fishing lake.

Berlin Lake

Another excellent Northeast Ohio walleye lake, Berlin Lake spans 3,341 acres at the intersection of Stark, Mahoning, and Portage counties. A lot of big walleye are caught here. 

In contrast to nearby Mosquito Creek Lake, Berlin Lake is quite deep. Depths up to 55 feet are available, and the lake offers a diverse assortment of walleye habitats ranging from steep rocky ledges and drop-offs to broad, shallow flats. 

The walleye fishing tends to get going a little later in Berlin Lake than in many other Ohio lakes. Most years, the bite heats up in May, and often goes strong well into July. 

In May, the best fishing is in parts of the lake where willows grow along the bank. The lake is drawn down during winter, and the shoreline willows become flooded when water levels rise again in May. The willows along the Route 225 bridge are especially productive. 

Many anglers wade for walleye early in the season, casting around the willow trees during the morning and evening hours. Try a jig tipped with a nightcrawler or leech. 

By the time June rolls into July, trolling becomes more productive. Focus on the flats in the upper part of the lake in 6 to 10 feet of water, or troll right along the drop-off to the river channel. Worm harness rigs often do the trick, as do crankbaits and stickbaits. 

A number of walleye are caught during the day here in spring, but by summer, the night bite is definitely the best. Multiple boat ramps and access sites around the lake are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Findlay Reservoir #1 & #2

Located just outside of Findlay in Northwest Ohio, neighboring Findlay Reservoirs #1 and #2 both offer prime walleye fishing opportunities. The two lakes are upground reservoirs, originally built as municipal water supplies. 

Findlay Reservoir #2 is the larger of the two lakes at 644 acres, and generally offers the better walleye fishing. But 186-acre Findlay Reservoir #1 also produces plenty of good-sized ‘eyes, including some over 5 pounds. 

The reservoirs have good water clarity and flat, mostly featureless bottoms. Most walleye are caught by trolling crankbaits and worm harnesses out in the middle of the reservoirs, though plenty of anglers also catch them from shore. 

Early spring is the best time to catch walleye from the bank, though there’s often a good shallow fall bite too. Try fishing around the intake/outlet structures on the lakeshore using curly-tail grubs and Rooster Tails, or from the fishing docks at the reservoirs’ boat ramps.

The Findlay Reservoirs are also very popular for ice fishing. Jigging through the ice often results in a mixed bag of walleye and perch. The city of Findlay maintains public access all around the shores of both lakes. 

Hoover Reservoir

Hoover Reservoir was once known as one of Ohio’s powerhouse walleye lakes… until the DNR discontinued walleye stocking in favor of hybrid saugeye. Thus began the decades-long decline in Hoover Reservoir’s walleye fishery. 

That all changed in 2019, when walleye were stocked for the first time in recent memory. Since then, a little over 288,000 walleye fingerlings have been introduced to Hoover Lake every year. 

Will this catapult Hoover Reservoir back into the ranks of Ohio’s best walleye lakes? It’s too soon to tell. But as many of the walleye stocked in this lake are growing into the 18-inch range, we’re including it on this list as a lake to watch. 

Hoover Reservoir is located in Central Ohio about 20 minutes north of downtown Columbus.

The primary access is through Hoover Reservoir Park, a city park that provides multiple bank fishing and boat launch sites, mostly along the lower half of the lakeshore.

Ohio River

Other than Lake Erie, there’s no place in Ohio that produces more walleye than the Ohio River. This massive waterway stretches along 451 miles of the state’s southern and eastern border, and supports a truly exceptional walleye population. 

Walleye on the Ohio River average 2 to 3 pounds, but many fish here are much, much bigger. Plenty of anglers have wrestled 10-pound walleye to the Ohio’s banks. Sauger⁠, walleyes’ smaller cousins⁠, are also common, most of them weighing a pound or two.

Walleye inhabit every pool of the Ohio River—the term ‘pool’ is used here to denote the sections of water between each of the Ohio River’s dams—though as a general rule, the farther upriver you go, the better the fishing gets. 

The best places to fish for walleye are the New Cumberland, Pike Island, Hannibal, and Willow Island pools of the river, which are lined up from the Pennsylvania state line all down along the Ohio/West Virginia border.

Walleye are caught in the Ohio River year-round, but for many anglers, the best time to fish for them is during the colder months. From the time the water dips down into the 40s in November right up until the spawn in March, walleye lock into predictable winter patterns.

Throughout this season, walleye gravitate to any spot with relatively slack water, and they typically stack up in these spots in great numbers. Look for them below any structure that provides a current break, from bridge pilings and piers to islands and gravel bars. 

Walleye also congregate around tributary mouths throughout the chilly months. Creek mouths attract baitfish, and both walleye and sauger usually follow. Warm water discharges can be productive for the same reason.

Once the water starts warming up again from February into March, walleye become more active again, and start moving upriver as they prepare to spawn. Of course, each dam at the top of the aforementioned pools blocks their progress. 

From March through May on the Ohio River, tailwater areas offer outstanding walleye action. Fortunately for anglers, most of the Ohio River’s lock and dam structures have excellent bank access.

The fishing piers below the Hannibal Dam are especially productive for spring walleye.

The massive rivers system has a variety of fishing options, including some of Ohio’s best catfish fishing.

Catch More Walleye

Follow the tips on timing and lure and bait choice in this article to catch plenty of walleyes in Ohio.

If you are looking to continue your education with a moe in-depth how-to article, check out our free guide to walleye fishing.