Many of the friends of this site, as well as myself, are die-hard Muskingum River bas fishing enthusiasts. Anyone who has ever fished tournaments on the river has probably launched out of Riverside Park in Zanesville at one time or another, and knows that in order to lock downstream you have to idle through the Zanesvile Canal in order to reach the lock chamber. It was announced earlier this week that during an inspection, leaks were identified between the canal and the main river that have created a potentially unsafe condition, and consequently the canal has been sealed off to facilitate further inspection and repair. The ODNR hopes to have the canal repaired and accessible again by the time the summer boating season arrives. Let's hope so, because there are a whole lot of us who don't want to be confined to that Zanesville pool, which with the indefinite closure of the Ellis locks upstream is now a dead-end in either direction at the moment. You can check out the full article along with some video footage from WHIZ TV here: http://www.whiznews.com/content/news/local/2013/01/15/canal-leak-serious-issue
For those of you unfamiliar with the Muskingum River, it really is an interesting waterway as well as a tremendous fishery. I highy recommend it. The river is formed by the confluence of the Walhonding and Tuscarawas rivers in Coshocton, and from there flows 112 miles south to the Ohio River in Marietta. It is home to 10 dams, each accompanied by a hand-operated lock system built over 150 years ago. Nine of the ten locks are functioning and continue to faciliate boat travel upstream and downstream from one pool to the next, anywhere fom Zanesville to Marietta. This system of navigation has been designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and only adds to the intrigue of the river.
Because of the lock and dam system, the river is essentially split into several "pools", each offering unique bass fishing options and a variety of cover and structure. No two pools are the same, and many anglers find that part of the river's appeal. The river is home to largemouth and smallmouth bass, including some heavyweights, but is best known for it's tremendous population of Kentucky Spotted bass. The spotted bass, while not possessing the size potential of a largemouth or smallmouth, is prominent from one end of the river to the other, and is overshadowed by neither of the other two species when it comes to aggressiveness and fight. Spots are often described as being dowright "mean", and are always ready to do battle with the river bass angler.
The Muskingum offers a true river fishing opportunity, similar to what you might see on the Ohio River, only on a smaller scale. While some of the central Ohio waterways are commonly referred to as rivers, the environment and conditions on the Muskingum are much different than what you encounter at an O'Shaughnessy or Griggs. There are also some common misperceptions about the river, including a belief it is too shallow and dangerous to navigate, or that the quality of the fishing doesn't warrant a visit. There are plenty of anglers who would be happy to dispell both of those myths. Like anywhere else, caution should be used when boating in unfamiliar waters, and if you're unfamiliar with the river, high water should probably be avoided altogether. That said, under normal conditions any pool below Zanesville is easily navigated provided simple common sense is utilized.
Tournament opportunities on the river have declined over the years, however fortunately some options still exist. The Team Bass Xtreme Trail's Muskingum Division visits the river twice during it's regular season schedule. Addtionally, there are a number of open tournaments held throughout the season, a couple regular weeknight events in the summer, and a series of pot tournaments in the fall. I'll be sure to get the info on the website as soon as I have the details for this year. Also, if you have information about upcoming river events or river tournament results, please send them and I'll post them on the site. I'd like to provide as much Muskingum information as possible on OBA.