When I was a kid, one of my favorite ways to go fishing was to take a canoe trip with the family down the Kokosing River to catch smallmouth bass. There is no better way to go fishing as a kid then a canoe ride on a river. Kids love canoe rides and combine that with the adventure of the river and a picnic lunch, you have the makings of a great day outdoors.
The Kokosing River, which starts near Fredericktown, was designated as a state scenic river in 1997. Since that time, ODNR has worked hard to create better public access points to the river so boaters and fishermen could use it easier. With the official opening this past spring, twenty-eight miles of river with nine access points can be found from Mount Vernon through Gambier, Howard, and Millwood ending where it almost meets the Walhonding River. That is some of the most beautiful country in the state. Throw in some quality river smallmouth and you have a great day trip or two.
With nine different access points, you can float as little as 1.6 miles to the longest stretch between Gambier and Howard, which also is the most beautiful, being 7.4 miles. Each access point is fairly easy to get a boat in and out of and there are very little portages along the way. Also at each access area, the ODNR has plenty of brochures available that are excellent in mapping out the access points and guiding you on the dos and don’ts of floating and fishing the river.
Kokosing River is also part of the Paddle Ohio program. The Paddle Ohio program rewards individuals who visit eligible waterways with a commemorative pin. Participants submit information about their paddling trips on four of the designated waterways, and ODNR sends a pin to qualifying individuals. Paddling trips can be submitted online or on a paper form.
The smallmouth on the Kokosing don’t get huge compared to Lake Erie standards but battling a sixteen inch jumping smallmouth on spinning tackle and light line can be quite the thrill. If you have a canoe or small john boat and decide to give this beautiful river a try, remember to really downsize your tackle and bait. All bait should be considered tiny compared to normal standards.
Most baits should imitate a crawfish as well. Ultra light crawdad colored crankbaits and brown hair jigs would be my first two choices for smallmouth fishing. I would suggest no more than eight pound test fishing line and would prefer six. Take extra line with you in case you break off a lot.
There obviously are some stretches of the river that are better than the others in terms of fishing. I will let you learn that from trial and error. It will force you to go over there more, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the sections of the river. Concentrate on the deeper pools, larger rocks, lay down logs, and faster moving areas for most of your fishing and paddle through the shallow slow moving areas. Predator fish need places to ambush their prey and the rapids bring new food to them so that is why they prefer those areas.
The one downside of river fishing is that it takes two vehicles to do it; one to leave at the point where you plan to quit and then the other to take you back to the starting point. But, that only makes you have to take a partner and having a buddy or family member along makes the trip more enjoyable.
It also makes fishing easier with two people. The person at the front of the canoe can concentrate on the fishing while the guy in the back can control the canoe. There will be times where both of you can fish at the same time but much of the river will require the back person working the canoe. You can just take turns in the front of the boat like we do.
If you like to bike, you could do a float trip by yourself by leaving a bike at your take out point and peddling back to your vehicle as there is a very nice bike trail along parts of the river just outside of Mount Vernon. Finding a way to lock up your gear at the take out point could be difficult but it is possible. For more information about canoeing the Kokosing River, visit ODNR’s website at www.ohiodnr.com.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!
Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.