AEP Recreation Lands-Strip Mines and Great Bass Fishing
By Mike Skoczen
I did what I would consider a lot of traveling and fishing this past summer. One of the places I visited was the American Electric Power ReCreation Lands, also known as Ohio Power or just the ReCreation Lands in southern Ohio. The ReCreation Lands are basically "49,000 acres of reclaimed coal lands available for camping, fishing, hiking and hunting or just enjoying the outdoors." Forgive me if my history is a little incorrect but sometime in the 1970’s American Electric Power dedicated themselves to reviving over 30,000 acres of strip-mined lands and making that reclaimed wilderness available to the public free of charge. Many old mine locations were planted, seeded or dammed to create the forests and over 300 small lakes and ponds that are spread out over the Lands. All that is required to enjoy this free getaway is a permit that is available by mail or at a few of the local stores, or from American Electric Power's website. Detailed maps of the ReCreation Land are also available on the website. OK, enough of the history and details, on to the fishing.
I spent an extended weekend at the ReCreation Lands, arriving Friday and leaving late on Sunday. Upon arriving I was shocked to find out I couldn’t see hardly ANY of these 300 plus ponds from any of the roads. I was able to get some very useful information from my campsite neighbors and they pointed me in the direction of several hiking trails that eventually led to a pond or two, one of them requiring over a miles walk to the first of several ponds. I soon learned to spot the tell tale signs of the location of one of the hidden ponds. Now that I could find the ponds, the next dilemma I had was to decide how I was to go about catching some of the monsters I saw in the photographs that were hanging over the cash register at the local supply store.
I have to be honest here, fly-fishing for bass in a lake or pond is still very new to me but I felt confident I could get by. I had fished on my Uncle’s bass lake with hardware for many years, how hard could it be? I would soon find out.
My first adventure took me over a mile down a narrow trail, carrying my float tube and all my gear with me. This trail led me to a very nice 22 acre ‘pond’ that had some beautiful structure in it. Too bad it was spaced out all over the pond and kicking my way across it seemed to take forever. The waters were clear and calm and deep, three strikes against me and my arsenal of deer hair bugs. I saw many large bass swimming in the depths around me, none of them seemed even remotely interested. This would have been a great time to have that sinking tip line I left back in my jeep (over a mile away). I salvaged the day by locating a school of eager panfish under a big shade tree (that would soon become my theme for the weekend).
One benefit I did get was a little nap in the afternoon sun as I floated around in the middle of this pond on my float tube. If you have never used a float tube, I would recommend you try it, it is an extremely relaxing and versatile way to fly fish. The afternoon sun chased me off of this pond and back to the campsite for a little lunch and to regroup.
During lunch I tied up a bunch of rabbit leach streamers and made sure my sink tip line was in the side pocket of the tube, I was not going to be ill prepared again (yeah right). The pond I fished that night was much smaller and much closer to the road although I did have to climb a pretty steep hill through on another narrow path with my inflated tube strapped to my back, again. I reached the edge of the pond and it looked really promising with submerged tree trunks jutting out of one side of the pond and a beaver hut poking out of the other side. Again, the water was crystal clear and very calm. I jumped in and worked my way around the pond, again with no luck. I could see the big ole boys swimming around several feet below me, I just couldn’t interest them.
Again I was forced to find a school of panfish to ease my frustrations and massage my fisherman’s ego. This school proved to be very worthwhile, producing close to 40 bluegill with more than ten of them approaching the one-pound benchmark. All in all, it was a good day. Even with the troubles of my first day, I did manage to catch several bass on the trip, the last one being the best of all.
It was my last day and I went out in the morning determined to land a respectable bass. I put into the small pond and began working a green and white deer hair Diver around the edges and weed beds. A few minutes later, my determination was rewarded as the water exploded beneath my fly. A successful hook set and a short fight later I had a nice 15" bass lying across my float tube. I floated around for a few minutes after releasing that fish and decided I should end the day on a high note, so I packed it up and headed home, already looking forward to my next visit. ~ Mike Skoczen