Charles Mill Lake, Lucas, OH
Charles Mill Lake has a prominent place in the region as a great recreational fishing and boating lake. The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District manages the water and surrounding land for a variety of visitor uses that include fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, boating and other outdoor pursuits.
The dam was constructed in 1935 to impound 1,350 acres of water. The shoreline stretches for 25 miles. The fishing is, of course, excellent.
Charles Mill offers a smorgasbord of fishing opportunities. There are fishable populations of largemouth bass, hybrid stripers, crappies, bluegills, saugeyes and channel and flathead catfish.
This is a big lake and figuring out where to start is a challenge. It helps to know that the lake is essentially divided into three sections, one being north of State Route 430, the second south of State Route 430 and the third east of the second basin. The section north of State Route 430 is shallow and dredging keeps the channels to the boat ramp open. The lake in this section tends to be turbid with low visibility. The basin south of State Route 340 runs from 6 to 8 feet deep. The eastern basin has several submerged holes ranging up to 27 feet deep and the cleanest water in the lake. There is also a 15-foot deep channel between the southern and eastern basins.
Bait selection is always a problem for visiting fishermen. The key on Charles Mills is to know that gizzard shad are the mainstay diet of the lake’s predators. Any bait that looks like a shad stands the chance of being hit.
The channel catfish is one of the more popular species at Charles Mill and there’s good reason for it. Cats are taken up to 26 inches and live throughout the lake. Chicken livers, stink baits and gobs of worms bring on the action. The peninsula between the beach and the park marina and the State Route 430 bridge are typically good spots to try.
There’s a good chance of taking home 7-inch Charles Mill crappies with some reaching up into the 10- and 11-inch bracket. Submerged crappie cover is abundant in the form of docks and old tree branches. Minnows and jigs tipped with plastic trailers are the perennial favorites of both anglers and slabs.
Largemouth bass are found near the marina or on the rip-rap shoreline near the dam. ODOW surveys indicate that nearly a tenth of the bass measure at least 15 inches.
The eastern basin is where the hybrid stripers roam. The Ohio Division of Wildlife keeps close tabs on the population and reports that most of the hybrids average about 9 inches in length. The biggest found during recent surveys topped 23 inches and weighed in at over 7 pounds. These fish savagely attack preyfish and consequently are hooked on a variety of crankbaits trolled or cast by anglers. Oddly enough the hybrid stripers also fall for nightcrawlers and will pick chicken livers up from the bottom.
Saugeyes are another hybrid stocked by the ODOW. Nearly half of the lake’s saugeye population is at least 15 inches. The marina and surrounding areas are top spots. Saugeyes and hybrid stripers are both found below the dam and in the tailwaters.
Campers arrive throughout the summer to enjoy the recreational opportunities or to just get a little R&R. The campground provides both electric and non-electric sites, group camping and a dump station. The picnic area has a shelter and the beach is open seasonally. There are equestrian, independent hiking and interpretive hiking, off road vehicle and bicycle trails.
The lake is an impoundment of the Black Fork on the Mohican River about three miles east of Interstate 71. The best way for visitors to access the lake is to start at Interstate 71 and then use U.S. Route 30 east. Travel about a mile to State Route 603 and then take the highway south two miles to the dam. Charles Mill is on the Richland-Ashland County line a mile west of Miflin.
The MWCD provides a full service marina on the eastern end of the reservoir in the warmer months and two boat ramps off State Route 430. The park offers a campground, swimming areas, hiking trails, day use picnic facilities and cabins. There is a 10 horsepower limit.
The surrounding communities provide a taste of entertainment and culture. The Kingwood Center formal gardens in Mansfield bloom from spring through the fall. The Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center includes an outdoor amphitheater for a drama about the famous traveler, a research facility and a library.
Additional information is available by contacting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 419-368-4334, the MWCD at (419)368-6885 or the ODOW at (419)424-5000. The address to use when finding directions online is 2203 State Route 603, Lucas, OH 44843.