Knox Lake is 495 acres of pretty water in Knox County just 1.5 miles northeast of Fredericktown off Ohio 95. It's surface is usually clear blue or green, thanks to plenty of timber and meadows around its shores to halt muddy waters, with about half of its length (west end) flooded timber that's shallow and has dozens of standing trees. There aren't super elaborate facilities for anglers, but the lake does offer basic marina and launch facilities, and plenty of fish are waiting for fall visitors.
Some folk come to Knox just to motor slowly along and enjoy the little bays and backwaters that might show sightings of deer and wild turkeys in early morning and late evening, and bird watchers will find lots of waterfowl, shorebirds, warblers, and other species flitting through bankside trees. But most come to fish, and it's great for that activity.
The reason is partly that the Division of Wildlife placed an 18 inch length limit on bass years ago, which allowed the local fish to grow and thrive and reproduce at least once or twice before being caught. These days it's easy to take plenty of fish below that length limit and catch some more that might be six pounds or better. In fall one top spot is around flooded timber, some of it well offshore, but Knox's shoreline is both rocky and laden with downed trees in many places, and an early morning visit with spinnerbaits in white, black, and chartreuse, smaller crankbaits, pig and jig combinations, and plastic worms in black, purple, and motor oil will likely give you enough action for anyone.
There are channel cats here too, some in spectacular sizes, and you can night fish near the flooded timber or off a little fishing pier with shrimp, nightcrawlers, cut bait, and other goodies to sometimes take fish of five to six pounds, even more. Don't forget black crappie, which are coming back strongly, and will be waiting around deeper downed timber at this time of year, along with bluegills of six to eight inches, which are tasty and deserve their title "panfish."
If you like to hike and watch wild plants and wildlife in non-fishing moments, Knox Woods State Nature Preserve is nearby, just a mile northeast of the Mt Vernon city limits on U.S. 36. It's only 30 acres, but has two nice trails that total 1.5 miles and lets visitors see a lovely mixed woods forest with huge specimens of tulip trees, black gum, sugar maple, and the current state record Norway Maple. A nice place to spend some hours. There are other spots close by worth a visit, and one is Malabar Farm State Park.
It's not far north of Knox Lake, 914 acres of land on Ohio 13. It once belonged to famed writer Louis Bromfield, a successful author and farmer who entertained guest from Humphrey Bogart to Loren Bacall, and his "Big House" is worth a visit for its insights into the past, as well as the barns and outbuildings with their livestock, and hiking trails that have their own attractions. There are ponds for fishing, and a good restaurant, the Malabar Inn, where visitors can find traditional foods or old time offerings from navy bean soup to cornbread.
There are more good things just a short drive from Knox, from Mohican State Park with prime camping, a first class lodge, and trout fishing in the Clear Fork River. Plus boating and fishing on Pleasant Hill Lake, and yet more offerings in Mansfield just a bit north, a place where kids can find a carousel in the downtown area, a lovely place for flowers at Kingwood Center, and plenty of shopping at several malls Hard to go wrong around Knox Lake. Nice boating, good fishing, and plenty to do. Reason enough to go there.
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HOOKS & BULLETS
• Ever wonder just how popular outdoor sports really are? The answer is "more than you might think." I checked with the Division of Wildlife and found that 4,563 anglers bought fishing licenses in Huron County, along with 2,403 hunters. In nearby Richland County, 9,538 bought fishing licenses and 4,817 hunters did, too. In the six counties that cover northcentral Ohio, there were 34,569 anglers and 18,259 hunters. Of course, there's quite a bit of overlap since many anglers also hunt and vice versa. Add in lots of campers, boaters, hikers, backpackers, bird watchers, and general nature lovers, and one statistic said that well over half of all Ohioans indulge in one outdoor activity or another. That's a lot of people!
• Fishing has been good this fall along Lake Erie's Western Basin. The best reports for walleye are coming around B Can at the Camp Perry firing range, near Crib and Niagara reefs, and near the Kelleys Island Shoal. Top offerings have been mayfly rigs tipped with worms and trolled crankbaits and spoons. Perch fishing has been best near the Maumee Bay lighthouse, just off Turtle Island, off Little Cedar Point, west of Catawba Island, near Gull Island Shoal, and between South Bass and Kelleys Island. There's still time to catch a good meal.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.