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Cowan hp increase rejected; Acton still in limbo

Two lakes in southwest Ohio have been considered for an increase in horsepower limits. The temporary decision has come down on one, but the other is still being considered.

There will be no increase in the 10 horsepower limit at Cowan Lake in 2014, the Ohio Division of Watercraft has announced. At Acton Lake (Hueston Woods State Park) a public meeting was held on Tuesday and it will likely be sometime in May when some kind of decision is made.

At Cowan Lake, near Wilmington, the decision followed public meetings over the winter. In a news release the division said: “Public feedback was evenly split on either side of the horsepower issue,” said Gary Obermiller, chief of the ODNR Division of Watercraft. “We are going to take more time to study this possible change at Cowan Lake.”

Deb Green of the Division of Watercraft said after all the testimony is heard, studied and considered, the decision on raising the 10hp limit at Acton will be decided by the Ohio Legislature’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). That committee could decide to change the limit, keep it the same or table the issue.

Opposing sides on horsepower controversies usually include sailboaters, paddlers and those with strong environmental concerns on one side, while the people proposing the increase (idle speed only) often are fishermen, boat dealers and merchants wishing to draw more people to the area.

Personally, I have never understood the philosophy behind the 10hp restriction. I tried fishing at Cowan Lake with my 14-foot, 30hp boat. My intention was to use my trolling motor to work around the fishing spots on the north side, across the lake from the boat ramp.

It was fine going over, but after a couple of hours of going from one spot to another, a storm kicked up and we decided to head back to the ramp. Using a trolling motor that has been used off-and-on for a couple of hours to cross the lake directly into a headwind is a little bit crazy, especially with two big guys in the boat.

Quite frankly, it didn’t work. The storm was kicking up quickly and we were still in the middle of the lake, not making any progress.

So what did I do? I broke the law.

I tilted that 30-horse Johnson back down in the water, fired it up and -- at idle speed -- made it safely back to the ramp before the storm hit.

To me that’s no-harm-no-foul all the way. I didn’t make a wake, didn’t pollute the lake any more than a 9.9hp would and safely returned to land.

But I have never fished at Cowan since. Why not? It’s not because I don’t like to fish there, because I do. It’s a fun lake for catching crappies, bass, bluegills, catfish and saugeyes.

The reason I never went back was because of the 10hp limit. You can’t rely on the limited power of a trolling motor, so anyone who does not have a 10hp or smaller motor on his boat is left out.

Sure some larger boats have 9.9hp kickers, but smaller boats do not. So those of us who have motors larger than 10hp won’t likely be fishing there, or buying our gas there or eating in a nearby restaurant, or buying our tackle, bait and snacks at the local marina or … you get the idea.