A buddy and myself spent Sunday scouting the Little Miami River and the enjoining Todd’s Fork for smallmouth habitat. We definitely found some areas worth checking out again. The pool at Todd’s Fork was full of some large fish but I think overall it probably gets a lot of pressure judging by the large parking lot in front of it. The confluence between it and the Little Miami River in Morrow looked good too but I have a feeling that is the same story. We also went over to my secret spot in Loveland which still had some fish in it which was cool, however, it was getting overrun by an aluminum hatch (canoers). Overall, the Little Miami River is a fun river to fish but it definitely has places that are plentiful and those where the fishing can be stingy. That’s why it’s so important to get out and scout water before committing to a full dayout so that you’re hitting the best water at the best time. Which begs to question, how does one successfully scout water in the first place?
Scouting water properly requires a multifaceted approach. The first step is to find public access. Typically this is done via Google Maps, which is a tool that has become incredibly helpful for planning excursions. Look for access around bridges, parks (both state and municipal), ball fields, utilities (water intakes/discharge areas), schools, or businesses that might be closed for the weekend. If you can’t find one easily, also consider looking for access on feeder creeks, where you can hike down into the main river. Drop down into Google Street View to see the area in more depth for a quick look around. You’ll also need to park a car, so a place with that readily available and devoid of tow zone signs is of utmost importance (unless you’re floating, where you’ll need a proper takeout point as well.)
Once you’ve established access, start using Google Maps to look for bends, riffles, or dark colored pools. Sometimes these are hard to see when the satellite captures photos in the summer time or after a big rain, but you can at least establish interesting places to fish. You can now circle back to the first step to see where the nearest access point to that water lies. Sometimes I’ll do this step first and then look for access points, so they are kind of interchangeable, but in the end there’s no point in mapping water that is inaccessible.
Your next step is to get wet. Yes, you’ll be tempted to fish but the biggest challenge is to explore and look for drop offs that hide pools and spot submerged rocks that offer a current break. You should also kick rocks and watch for fish that dart out so you can establish the popular ambush points where fish like to hide. The summer time is the best for this, where you can slip in and see how deep a hole is without worrying about getting wet. Good and often overlooked spots to find are drop offs where feeder creeks confluence with bigger pieces of water. The biggest fish a stretch of river often cruises that slope looking up for food to wash in so just don’t limit yourself to runs and riffles. Likewise, if you choose to infiltrate through the creek you should know that these fish can see you a mile away, so stealth is important. Likewise, I would also look for steep cut banks that telegraph deep channels. Often times these chutes, especially coming off a bend that has current, can hold some pigs in it.
Lastly, you should judge how heavy the fishing pressure is on that piece of water. Forked sticks jammed into the bank, beer cans, worm containers, broken bobbers, and cigarette butts are good indicators that a spot gets fished heavily. My experience is that the heavily fished areas are hard to get bit, but if you walk a little bit away your chances improve considerably.
Now that you have some spots to try you are good to plan a trip without having to worry about getting lost or hurt if you arrive at twilight or stay until dark (oftentimes the best times to bass fish). I will warn you though, if people find out you know where to catch fish they’ll pepper you with questions and rarely offer back any information. My recommendation is if you’re asked this question make sure you get to trade spot information. I used to get pretty frustrated with people who would ask exactly where I caught fish. Like exactly, what rock I stood on even. Hey bud, I put in the time, you can too. But, if you know of some spots I’ll trade you information!