Brown Trout caught on first kayak outing of 2021

A beautiful Brown Trout caught from the kayak at Wallace Lake

BEREA, OH – Nearly a month and a half since the last trout stocking at the Cleveland Metroparks, Wallace Lake, I had guarded optimism for my first kayak trip of 2021.  Any doubt would be removed rather quickly.  I had barely gotten everything adjusted and set up from the long winter break (from the yak), and had an eager fish slam my inline spinner.  Fumbling to get the net while keeping tension on the rod, I caught a few glances of the fish with no evidence it wasn’t the typical Rainbow Trout.  Maybe it was all the splashing and commotion, but it was one of those very rare occurrences where I didn’t realize what I had until it was in the net.  If you read my post from February 6th (here), you know how stoked I was to catch one of the ‘bonus’ fish.  I was near speechless having caught this beautiful, just under 16″, Brown Trout!

Stocker trout make for guilt free table fare

The trout stocking program is one of those unique opportunities to catch & keep without anyone judging or a need for any personal remorse.  While I am an avid catch & release fisherman, it is unlikely there is any carryover through the summer.  This makes it very easy to keep your catch for table fare.  I ate this fish, grilled with lemon and dill, and it was delicious.

A small caught & released bass

After the near immediate success of the memorable Brown Trout, the fishing got very slow.  I went from thinking I would have my three fish limit in 45 minutes, to wondering if I would even get a second bite.  Well over an hour, possibly two, I finally had another hookup.  Instead of a typical Rainbow Trout stocker, it was a small Largemouth Bass.  It was released, and helped to provide a bit more motivation to continue fishing.  That would be it for the catching though, the only additional action being a very nice Rainbow Trout that followed my spinner right to the side of the kayak.  I never thought to try a ‘figure eight’, but maybe the next time that happens, I will!

While not a day for catching numbers, the Brown Trout more than made up for it.

Ice Ice Baby

BEREA, OH – Alright stop, collaborate and listen, I walked on ice and did some fishin’.

Okay, sorry about that, 1990 was calling me.

As someone who is hyper-cautious about ice being safe, it’s pretty rare when I can get out ice fishing.  It just doesn’t seem like we get those nice long periods of time below freezing.  Many winters, I don’t even make it out once.  With the recent prolonged freeze, I was ready to take full advantage of the opportunity.  What made it even better, I sufficiently assured my wife it was safe, so my son could join me.  I’ll get right to the point and acknowledge we were skunked, which was beyond disappointing as it was my son’s first ice fishing experience – but surprisingly he still thought it was fun!  Kid’s can be pretty amazing, and today I learned from him as he played and laughed, thoroughly filled with joy, despite a single bite.

Bryce with his created fishing buddy!

We felt isolated, no action, and found ourselves talking to “Wilson”

Big shout out to my buddy Greg for providing sled rides while I watched the rods

Fishing is always more fun when you are catching, there’s no denying that.  I’m sure there are even people wondering why I would post on a trip that wasn’t successful in the slightest way.  I guess it is an attempt to remind people it isn’t only about the fish.  If I would have stayed home, I wouldn’t have remembered what I watched on TV within a few days, my son wouldn’t have remembered what video game he played.  I am certain he will remember this day, how much fun it was, and only marginally diminished by not catching fish.

If you were here only to see fish, and were unmoved by attempt to inspire, remember you can always view the more talented anglers around the Cleveland Metroparks on their Fishing Report.

Cleveland Metroparks, winter trout stocking

Cleveland Metroparks Aquatic Biologist Mike Durkalec displays trophy Brook & Golden Trout

A beautiful Brown Trout

A huge Rainbow Trout that would surely make any angler’s day

BEREA, OH – I started this post with pictures for a reason, I can’t possibly come up with words that capture the excitement of actually seeing some of the amazing trout available to us via the Cleveland Metroparks trout stocking efforts.  I have come to learn it is a recurring theme with the overall amazing quality of fish they stock.  Along with the Rainbow Trout, a good number of Brook, Golden, and Brown Trout are mixed in.  Across all these trout species are about every size, shape, colorization, and/or markings you could imagine.  While you will encounter some Rainbows that are more less clones of each other, there is plenty of diversity.  It makes every hookup exciting!

I’m the type of angler that appreciates every catch, but my hope is always to get one of the ‘bonus’ fish.  This would be any of the trout besides the predominantly stocked Rainbows.  I seem to have disproportionately bad luck with these ‘bonus’ fish as I have only caught a single Brown Trout despite a pretty good overall success rate of catching the trout.  The elusive Golden Trout is my Holy Grail as I have never caught one, stocking or wild.  I would like to take a moment to thank every little kid and grandma fishing around me that has allowed me to see one up close, when they caught it right beside me <insert disgruntled humorous sarcasm>.

If you want to keep up on the stocking schedules or want to see a weekly report that chronicles some of the catches, the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Report is your resource.  It can be seen here  I keep it conspicuously posted in my links on the top right of this blog.  This is done with purpose, as I want people to visit for the great information it provides.  I also find it entertaining to see the pictures and read the small associated stories that sometimes accompany.

Good luck chasing these beautiful stockers, I hope to see you out there!

Trip to Ocean City, MD. (Part 2)

OCEAN CITY, MD – My first post related to my trip highlighted my own catches and fishing experiences.  This part celebrates some of the people I met and fishing related memories that weren’t my catches.  As one might expect in an oceanfront town, there were often people fishing near me, and their catches became memories for me as well.

I met these two fish bums (endearing terminology) while they were organizing tackle by their vehicle.  The vast plethora of gear in their vehicle could have fully supplied a small tackle shop.  My kind of people.  Left to right, that is Noah (Instagram – coolerfullofish) and Joe (Instagram –jmnorton_fishing).  I appreciated their willingness to share information and we met early enough in the week that we were hopeful we might get a planned fishing session in together.  My decision to leave on Saturday instead of Sunday, is one that I regret.  My call to go shark fishing came, but I was well on my way back to Ohio.  Hopefully, I can make that happen next trip!

Here we have Kiley and Anthony, a very handsome college student couple that work full time in Ocean City in the summer.  I watched Anthony catch a fish about as quickly as he put his Jeep in park after arriving.  I learned Kiley was just as avid and competent as an angler, as she showed me some of her recent catches and also provided guidance.  They both preached the virtue of the spec rig, with Anthony giving me one that I caught a Bluefish on.  I can’t thank them enough for being so gracious with their time.

Surprisingly, I only spent part of one day at the actual Ocean City Fishing Pier.  This was largely due to the fact that it sits so high above the water and I had no idea if my gear was appropriate or how to actually land something.  I had seen plenty of Youtube videos where pier nets were used, but I didn’t realize their was a ‘community pier net’ available.  After being on the pier for a little over an hour, I had already assisted with the net and learned enough that I was bummed I didn’t head over to it sooner.

While I don’t recall his name, the guy on the left was a regular to the pier and fun to hangout with.  Anything he caught, he would show tourists and especially made it a point to make sure any kid who wanted to see or touch something, could.  He’s pictured in one of those moments, showing a Skate.  The middle photo I could dedicate an entire post to.  There were two couples fishing next to me and mid conversation with this guy, his rod bends in half and the drag starts screaming.  What ensued was a lengthy battle with masses of people crowding to see the action.  I would have taken more pictures or video of the fight, but I was recruited to anchor the effort with the pier net.  As we counted and pulled in sequence, the Cownose Ray was eventually hauled up.  There were lots of people recording so I have been monitoring Youtube with the hopes that it ends up posted.  If it does, I will surely link it here.  It was very exciting to not simply see a neat catch, but to get to be an active participant in it!  The last picture is a guy named Josh, who was staying in the same hotel as I was.  We fished a lot of the same stretch of shoreline throughout the week, and he was the fortunate angler that caught the Rockfish (Striped Bass) everyone was hoping for.  We all were envious, but of course were good sports in congratulating him on the great catch.  Getting one like that, will be my mission next trip!

My timing could not have been better when I pulled in to Fish Tales.  I arrived to see the crew of the Flyin’ Late with their #120 Bluefin Tuna doing a photo op.  I jumped right in to do some pictures too.  It was an awesome fish and I have put some messages out to try to locate them (in case they want some additional shots).  The fish was cleaned right at the dock and I’m certain there were a lot of folks hopeful for some fresh sushi!

I have a lot of footage and photos from the trip that would fall into the ‘tourist’ category.  Scenic shots, landmarks, boats, dolphins, crabs, waterfowl, and such.  I’m sure there are plenty of professional pictures that my contribution to the subject matter wouldn’t really do anything.  That considered, these two parts seem sufficient to cover all ‘fishy’ related content from the week.  I hope everyone enjoyed the read!

Read Part 1 here!

Trip to Ocean City, MD. (Part 1)

OCEAN CITY, MD – In what has been a crazy year with the pandemic, an odd turn of events awarded me an opportunity to take a week long solo fishing trip to Ocean City, MD.  With only a week from the idea of doing the trip to actually leaving, I had little time to research in advance.  I was fortunate to find a very nice guy on the Roughfish Facebook Group for some conversation and also found some decent Youtube videos, and that would be the extent of what I was armed with.  This truly would be an adventure.

After the eight hour plus drive I was pretty tired, but not so tired as to not try fishing right away.  After catching a Horseshoe Crab and also some type of Spider Crab, I began catching some small fish (pictured above).  Locals fishing near me would ID these fish as Tautog, with me later learning they were actually Bergall Wrasse (Cunner).  I caught many, hoping for a larger specimen, but none exceeded 8 or 9 inches.  I was pleased to be catching something, and it was a species that I had never caught prior.

The first full day in Ocean City, I decided I would bottom fish with a rotation of trying squid, raw shrimp, or minnows while intermittently casting various offerings.  Sadly, everyone was talking about how slow the fishing was and I found myself changing what I was doing too frequently.  I wish I would have just slowed down and stuck to something with more patience.  There would end up being no magical lure or bait to catch fish.  The highlight of the day, was a solid strike that came off about as fast as I felt the hit.  The pictured swimbait is what I reeled in, a short strike that missed the point of the hook and simply sheered off the tail.  Locals I showed this to, said a Bluefish was the likely culprit.

I am not sure if that hit was a blessing or a curse.  On the positive side, it caused me to spend countless hours throwing the same thing which provided two awesome huge hookups (unfortunately both fish coming off).  It also helped me to stay in the same area and watch and learn about the tides.  On the downside, I lost focus and attention on keeping other rods for bottom and bait fishing going.  I have to believe if I stuck with those, I would have had some catches to show for it.

At some point, I did finally realize that I could potentially spend all week hoping for the big hookup and landing of a massive fish.  Sure, if I got it, a single fish could have made the whole trip… but if I didn’t get that bite I would be kicking myself for not moving around and trying other things.  Thankfully, I made a move and committed to using bait for awhile.  I was rewarded with a series of catches of American Eels.  This is a new species that I had never encountered before, with the largest eel being 24 inches.

Mid-week I caved on my solo exploration, I stacked the odds in my favor of getting to catch fish by booking my spot on the party boat The Angler.   I was treated with consistent Black Sea Bass action throughout the trip, with 7 or 8 being keeper size (12.5″+).  Along with being plenty entertained by my own catches, I witnessed a 15# fish get ‘almost’ caught by an angler at the front of the boat.  The angler was inexperienced and proceeded to reel his fish out of the water and into the air before the mate got up to him with the net.  As expected, the fish did a few head shakes and dropped back into the water.  I’m not sure what species it was, but I had a clear view of the event, and I felt pretty bad for the guy.

The following day after the party boat, weather took a turn for the worst.  Fishing was slow but I did manage another new species catch, a Skate.  I learned quickly in the week that the anglers look at the skates and rays with disdain for the most part, but I was happy to add something new to my life list.  With the fishing being slow, any bite was welcomed, let alone a new species.  On a whim, I decided to get myself a spot on the Tortuga, but I did not manage anything on the three hour trip.  The Captain worked hard to get us on the fish, but it just was slow fishing, I would go out with them again.  The highlight of the trip was the kid sitting next to me that managed the only keeper, winning the big fish pot.

As the trip was coming to an end, I put some time in throwing a Spec Rig.  This had been introduced to me in a Youtube video, but more importantly and of more influence was some new friends I had met (will be seen in Part 2) who recommended it.  While neither the Bluefish or Striped Bass (Rockfish) I caught on the rig were very big, the catches meant a lot to me.  Not just for the simple fact of how hard people were working for a bite and how much time it took, but rather it made me feel like I had legitimized myself as an O.C. shore angler.  I celebrated these small fish and their release as a big accomplishment.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t land any great trophy type fish.  I didn’t really have a lot of time to set goals for the trip, and I have wavered between wondering if I had set the bar too low or too high for expectations in my mind.  In the end, I had a great time.  I caught some fish, made new friends, found new areas to fish, and learned a lot.  By any definition, that has to be success!

Read Part 2 here!  

A daughter’s first fish

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – Often in life, the most splendid memories are at times you expect. A marriage, a birth, a special vacation, a happening that is on the calendar circled in advance for weeks, months, or years. On the other hand, sometimes a wonderful memory unfolds when you least expect it, on the most mundane of days. That is exactly what happened recently, and this post will document it so that I can always recall it vividly.

Amidst this COVID-19 pandemic, the family was eager for any time getting out of the house, even if it simply meant fishing in the backyard pond. Being ‘cooped up’ so long, actually caused my daughter (who currently is going through a very ‘girly’ stage) to want to fish. I was thrilled. Additionally, her strong willed independent nature had her telling me she didn’t want any help. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… unlike most pre-pandemic situations where I am having to bribe or coax her into fishing, she wanted to do it and on her own.  This was a fishing milestone.

I was allowed to bait her hook, and give a little casting instruction. After that it was just “Dad, let me do it”. She even moved down from me, wanting sufficient distance to not deal with my constant attempts at ‘coaching’.  As fate would have it, about 15 minutes into her solo fishing, I heard some splashing and saw she was hooked up.  I expected her first catch to be one of the more plentiful Bluegill, but instead was pleasantly surprised to see a small Largemouth Bass jumping out of the water.  The pre-spooled Barbie rod had heavy enough line for a much larger fish, so she was able to easily reel it in.  In fact, she reeled it right out of the water and across the grass until the bobber got stuck on the last eyelet of the rod.  Anyone who has fished with kids knows this is not uncommon, I just loved the eager reeling to make sure she got it in.  She was super excited and so was I, high-fives were exchanged, and after she was assured it had no large teeth, she was even willing to lip it.  After the quick photo session, the catch was completed by her releasing it back into the pond.

Anyone who follows this blog or knows me, is aware my son is usually my fishing sidekick.  He showed great maturity allowing Alexis the spotlight and even helped me by doting over her catch too.  I’m certain her sense of accomplishment and fun were heightened knowing not only dad was impressed, but also her brother.  As she continued to make catches, Bryce worked his way down to the opposite end of the pond after celebrating her first catch.  In what surely was a bit of sibling rivalry, I watched Bryce fishing with a lot more rigor and intensity than usual.  He was rewarded with plenty of catches, including a really awesome looking hybrid Pumpkinseed.  The largest of the species that we have ever caught.

Most of the evening I was resigned to unhooking fish and retying lines, but I did manage to get a single rod out for bottom fishing.  This was the best I could do to get a little fishing in myself.  After missing one fish because of those aforementioned duties, I was a bit more alert to the next bite, and caught a decent sized Bullhead.  Being the pillar of maturity for the family, I made sure the kids knew I had caught the largest fish.  My fun loving arrogance ended up backfiring, when they both reminded me I only caught “one” fish!

I’ve done other posts like this, not an exotic location, no trophy fish, just highlighting the simple joy and fun of fishing.  I also believe these fishing ‘moments of accomplishment’ have a profound positive effect on kids that is more far reaching than just recreation.  In my daughter’s case, a new 6 year old, with a bit more confidence with whatever comes her way.

I hope she continues to join her brother and dad fishing. In time, she will realize sometimes it is all about the fish, but every time it is always about so much more than that!

 

 

Cleveland Metroparks, Bonnie Park, trout fishing

STRONGSVILLE, OH – I’m usually a person of many words.  Lately, not so much.  During this pandemic, I needed to do something that would provide salve to the soul of a thoroughly exhausted person.  Thankfully, the Cleveland Metroparks would provide the prescription.

I had only been to Bonnie Park on one previous trip, and it wasn’t to fish.  That didn’t matter.  This is not in the sense that I had an abundance of confidence that I could catch Rainbow Trout considering they had just been stocked.  It was more simply that I was outside with a fishing pole in my hand watching my kids having fun running around and playing outside.  The world once again seemed normal, at least for a few fleeting hours.

On a day that was destined for perfection, the fish had no choice but to cooperate.  I had my two fish limit within the first hour.  The Rainbow Trout measured 17.5” and 16” respectively, both being marked up handsomely with a bright red stripe.  I found myself content and my fishing effort waned, as I took in the surroundings and enjoyed the peace of the beautiful evening.  I’m convinced I could have assisted the kids to get our three person limit had I tried, instead I believe those extra four fish still swimming were meant for someone else who is arriving to the park in the same state I did.  I hope they catch them.

Cleveland Metroparks Event – Lake St. Clair Muskellunge Fishing with Mike Durkalec

NORTH OLMSTED, OH – Those that know me personally or even those who have followed my blog over the years, know how much I am pained over the fact that I have never caught a Muskellunge.  Each year that goes by without getting one, just makes the species grow in mystique and elusiveness.  Admittedly, I have long since given up on targeting them, but I still convince myself annually that I ‘should’ catch one inadvertently.  I know this isn’t a likely catch, and my optimism is foolish.

When I learned Mike Durkalec, Aquatic Biologist (and general ‘fish guru’) for the Cleveland Metroparks would be doing a presentation about Lake St. Clair Muskie Fishing, I knew this couldn’t be missed.  While I don’t have any immediate plans to head to Lake St. Clair, I knew I could pick up some general tips for the species that I could apply anywhere the fish is present.  It goes without saying this proved to be true.  Being originally from Northwest Ohio and living nearly a decade in Toledo, Lake St. Clair doesn’t seem like an intimidating trip to make, so I’m also not ruling it out.  If I do, attending the presentation was invaluable in increasing my odds for a hookup.

It would be impossible to share every detail of the presentation, all I can say is that all those in attendance had a very rare treat.  The lake was analyzed with first hand fishing knowledge sector by sector.  The forensic approach to the discussion was undeniably the biologist in Mike, and it was coupled with the sheer passion of a die-hard fisherman.  Attendees were educated, entertained, and sufficiently had their fishing motivation fuel tanks filled.  As I walked to my vehicle after the event, I’m certain I could hear “Eye of the Tiger” playing as I thought of my next fishing effort.

I wish I could end this post on a positive note, but I can’t.  The worldwide situation with the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 had progressed to the point that it became necessary for the Cleveland Metroparks to suspend all public speaking events like this.  It was the right decision, a responsible one, that saddens me deeply.  Maybe attending this event, just makes the cut a little deeper, realizing the wonderful things we are now without.  Know that I am praying for all of you during this difficult time that is still evolving.

The blog, for “The Land”

CLEVELAND, OH –  For some time, I had been thinking about a blog revamp to better capture the connection between my multi species fishing and the Greater Cleveland area.  I’ve always been very protective of keeping the blog specific to fishing, but I felt like I was missing the mark with acknowledging where the majority of my fishing now takes place.  I kept putting it off knowing how big of an undertaking it is (even on WordPress) to find a new template and then create all of the art to build around.  As fate would have it, about a week ago I was browsing templates and accidentally activated one rather than simply looking at a demo version.  I immediately saw my error and went to revert it back, only to learn that template was no longer available or supported.  So if you kept it active, no issue, you uninstall it, you’re done.  After a scathing exchange with the WordPress Support via chat, I came to peace with the fact that maybe there was a reason this happened.

So in an odd turn of events, I achieved my goal of incorporating a bit of a Cleveland ‘vibe’.

(photo is the author at one of the Script Cleveland Signs, this one at Edgewater Park)