Once upon a time when I was attending Ohio State University (OSU) at Stone Lab on South Bass Island, I took a few hours off and went smallmouth bass fishing along Peach Point at Put-In-Bay.  I caught nothing.  It’s a prime spot and I was curious, so I put on a face mask and snorkel I’d brought along, and dove the necessary eight or nine feet to see if anything was down there.  There were bass all over the place, including several that came right up to goggle at my face mask!  I swam up elated and started fishing again.  And caught nothing.

Several years ago a friend of mine went scuba diving in a campground lake, and was amazed.  He found a stump bed well offshore that had a school of crappie hanging among the stubs.  “Some of those fish were 12 or 13 inches.” he said.  “and no one knew they were there.”  Then there was another friend who was fishing off Kelleys Shoals in Lake Erie, caught little, and put on a tank and face mask to scuba a little bay along Kelleys Island.  He hoped to find a few anchors and maybe some snagged fishing lures, but what turned up was much better.

“The bottom of that cove was paved with fish,” he said.  “I don’t know why they were there, but there were dozens, maybe hundreds of nice walleye and smallmouth bass.  I got back in the boat and limited out on both with not another boat within half a mile.”

 Those are typical experiences among outdoorsmen who’ve taken to snorkeling and scuba diving, an activity that’s slowly growing around the area and state.  Most of us have sat in a boat on some lake or river and wondered just what was down there.  This sport offers an opportunity to find out, and not only see where fish are swimming, but find some interesting things on the bottom.

Scuba diving is a fun sport, but it’s much more than a matter of buying a tank and basic gear and splashing over the side of a boat.  Like anything else, there’s an element of danger, whether you dive freshwater or salt, and you’ll need some basic training.  Luckily, there are plenty of places to get it. 

There’s an organization called Ohio Scuba with qualified instructors that has offices within a 20 mile radius of Centerville, Wilmington, Columbus, and over 20 other cities around the state.  Visit Ohio Scuba and the web should turn up one nearby that will teach you the basics and offer certification with instruction in a handy swimming pool, then hands-on diving at a nearby lake or quarry. 

You might look into the Ohio Council of Skin & Scuba Divers, too.  Secretary Vivan Duff is based at New Holland, Ohio, and can be contacted for more information.  And once you’ve learned this fascinating sport, there are plenty of places to try your luck.

The Division of Wildlife allows scuba and skin diving at 29 of its lakes, including clear water Dow Lake just outside of Athens where you’re likely to see rainbow trout as well as bass, catfish, and crappie.  There are private places to dive too, like Twin Quarries near Circleville, two 10 acre nearly transparent quarries where, according to their website, you can take courses in anything from basic open water diving to wreck diving.  Call them at (740) 474-9530.  And Gilboa Quarry in northwestern Ohio not only has trout but paddlefish waiting to be watched.  Their number is (419) 456-3300.

In fact, if you check out Ohio scuba diving on the web, you’ll not only find instructors and places to dive, but new and used equipment, charters to Lake Erie for wreck diving (that can be exciting), and even a magazine called Scuba Diving Magazine.

Here’s a final thought.  I love to snorkel in salt water, and I’ve watched beautiful fish and coral reef denizens from Hawaii to Bonaire and Aruba.  It’s a wonderful experience to swim among teeming schools of brightly colored yellowtails, parrotfish, and angels.  And even more fun if you can don tanks and face masks, and go right to the bottom to swim for hours among them.  That alone is reason enough to learn scuba diving.

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