Mid-week is the time to fish and camp in Piedmont

FREE PORT Are you looking for a little vacation, somewhere not too far away, but off the grid, away, and with the possibility of catching a few fish? Well, think of Piedmont Lake Marina and Campground, one of the many properties in the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District in Ohio.

Piedmont Lake sits on the corner of three counties in southeastern Ohio – Belmont, Guernsey, and Harrison – and was built in 1937 as part of the MWCD’s flood control program. The lake is long, with many bays and fingers, and encompasses 2,270 acres of water.

Art Holden

MWCD also has 4,416 acres of land around the lake, so you won’t see many houses dotting its shoreline.

Piedmont is known for its sage-eyed fishery and musk population, with the lake home to some of the largest muskellunge ever caught in Ohio, including the state record of 55.13 pounds caught by Joe Lykins in 1972. In fact, you can see the mount of fish in the marina and campground office, just above the bait tanks. It is impressive to say the least.

All kinds of fish, three kinds of catfish

Muskellunge grow in weed-overrun waters, as Piedmont also has almost every other fish that swims Ohio in its waters. You can encounter both large and small mouth bass, crappies, bluegills, and perch, not to mention three different types of catfish: bullhead, channel, and flathead.

It’s sageeye fishing that attracts a lot of anglers, and the lake seems to offer plenty of it, although most are hammer-handled 14 inches.

The chance to catch all of these species, as well as getting away and camping for a few days, attracted my wife Jean and I to spend three nights last week in Piedmont. As RV camping has taken off since the pandemic and it’s hard to find places to spend a vacation, the middle of the week is a great time to find a campsite at the newly renovated Piedmont Campground. .

As part of MWCD’s system-wide improvement plan, the Piedmont Campground now features 48 hook-up sites complete with level concrete slabs and paved roads. The campsite is small and the lots are close to each other, but it also has a play area and group pavilion, as well as a brand new modern bath. About half of the sites are seasonal, so don’t expect to book much with a lake view.

You might still be able to get a site on the weekends, but your best bet in late summer is to book during the week, Sunday night through Thursday. Campsites, with a 50-amp hookup, cost $ 53 a night, with discounts available for seniors, veterans, and active-duty military.

Piedmont also has six Park Model cabins for rent at $ 125 a night or $ 750 for the week, including two cabins accessible by the ADA.

Water is a boater’s paradise

Piedmont, which has a power limit of 10 horsepower, is a boater’s paradise, with marina slides filled with seasonal boats. If you don’t have a boat, that’s okay as the marina rents pontoons, fishing boats, and kayaks for as little as four hours to a week.

Bring your wallet, as a daily pontoon (10 people maximum) will set you back $ 294 and $ 794 for the week, plus gasoline. Weekend and public holiday rates are even higher.

Regarding our stay in Piedmont last week, Jean and I enjoyed the new, clean campground, although it lacked the “woody” feel we usually look for in a campground. As for fishing, the possibilities are endless as the lake stretches indefinitely.

However, this is a difficult lake to fish if you don’t have a history, and while I love bass fishing, I haven’t found them anywhere. I fished many expanses of water lilies and weed beds, and only managed one big mouth and not even a blast in the pads. I even tried the rocky shore of the dam for the little ones, but only got to touch green sunfish.

We were more successful at catching sageeye, but we didn’t have a keeper in the peloton, and we didn’t try muskellunge, because no net and fishing in a tandem kayak is a recipe for disaster with these big, toothy critters.

A walk through the 18,000-acre Egypt Valley Wildlife Area offers stunning views of reclaimed surface mining land.

As much as he tried the bass was hard to find

We even drove to the south end of the lake to look for sea bass, the last part on a gravel road that made us think we would be the only fishermen at the Reynolds Road launch pad, only to find 10 trucks and boat trailers in the grassy parking lot. It’s weed and lily pad heaven there, but again the little sageeye were all that bit our presentations.

One breezy night we stayed out of the lake and decided to hike part of the 1,444 mile statewide Buckeye Trail, which goes past the campground and along the lake to the dam. While I doubt we were the first two to hike this section this year, it seemed to be as the trail was unmaintained, overgrown, and a bit boring.

On the other hand, if you are looking for some alone time deep in the woods, this section is a great choice.

Perhaps the highlight of our trip was a walk through the Valley of Egypt Nature Reserve, which spans over 18,000 acres of land. If this is not the MWCD land around the lower part of Piedmont Lake, it is probably the area of ​​the valley of Egypt, reclaimed surface mining land now owned by the state which are open to hunting, fishing, quad biking and wildlife viewing.

While there are no real hiking trails in the Egypt Valley Nature Reserve, there are plenty of four-wheeler trails, places to park, and hundreds of surface mine ponds. to fish. We enjoyed the stunning views and the fields of wild flowers.

To learn more about camping and boating on Lake Piedmont, visit www.MWCD.org or call the Marina at 740-658-1029.

External correspondent Art Holden can be reached [email protected]

A 1,444 mile section of the Buckeye Trail runs along Lake Piedmont in the lands of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.

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