SAM’S TACKLE BOX – By Sam Dillon


An Ohio fishing paradise is only short drive away

Imagine a body of water that seems like it hasn’t been touched by another angler. A pond that just emerges from the trees as if it is a mirage and looks like it is just teeming with fish. It is so remote that you can hear nothing but a symphony of insects chirping in the woods around the clear water.
Then you see that familiar splash of something that has just leapt from the water. In Ohio this seems like something that is probably hard to come by, but guess again. There is a place tucked away in the southeastern portion of the state where it seems like every angler can have their own little piece of fishing heaven if they know what to look for.
It is called American Electric and Power ReCreation Land. It is 60,000 acres of strip-mined land that the Ohio Coal Company, a subsidiary of AEP, mined for coal in the 1940’s. The land was then returned to the state after some lengthy reclamation efforts to return the environment to what it was prior to the strip-mining. The end result is a large expanse of land that has nearly 600 lakes and ponds that range from the smallest of just under two acres to the largest, a 27-acre lake.
The real beauty of this place, from an angler’s perspective, is that you can get what you put into this place. There are bodies of water that are easy to access by car. One can pull over, hop out and be fishing in seconds. For those that like a little more adventure, you can walk into this vast wilderness and stumble upon a lake that not many have the gumption to go looking for.
The good part about this place is that it is managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). That means these lakes and ponds receive the same protection and operation as other state-owned parks with some benefits of being privately-owned.
All the bodies of water are stocked with either Largemouth Bass, bluegill, crappie or catfish. The only drawback to this is not every pond or lake is created equally, so some might have more fish in it then others.
These pockets of water can be fished from the bank if they are not socked in with tress, but the real way to experience the AEP ReCreation Land is by getting on the water. This can be achieved by a canoe, kayak, John boat or another option, a Belly boat.
For those who are unfamiliar, a belly boat is an inflatable tube that you sit in and get around by paddling with your feet while you cast away. They are light and portable and you can jump from pond-to-pond with ease.
I have been here before and on my first trip, I was not prepared for the adventure. I caught next to nothing and spent a lot of time just trying to figure out where I was exactly.
On subsequent trips, though, my experience has paid off with more fish on the line and an understanding of where I was. It has been a trial-and-error process.
The other great part about this land is that it provides you a place to lay your head after a hard day of fishing at six different campsites with a total of 380 different campsites from which to choose.
Unlike state parks, the camping here is free of charge. It is first-come, first-serve, but I have never had a problem finding a place to set up shop.
For those who may not be into fishing – I don’t know why someone wouldn’t be – AEP ReCreation Land has 30 miles worth of equine trails to ride in along with 10 miles of mountain biking trails and hiking throughout the 60,000 acres.
There is something for everyone at this outdoor oasis. Just to go and experience the land and what it has to offer is an adventure, regardless if there is a fish on the line or not.
I truly enjoy going to that part of the state to get away for a while and experience nature as it was supposed to be.
For those who have questions or want to talk about fishing, feel free to contact me at



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