Wallace Lake Fishing Derby, 2018

BEREA, OH – The annual tradition of attending the spring Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Derby at Wallace Lake was continued in 2018.  I also continued my tradition of not catching fish.  Remember last year?, you can read that here.  For whatever reason, I do poorly at the organized events (minus last year’s epic N. R. Corn Festival Derby) helping the kids get on the fish.

Bryce with his new friend Heidi, and the tiny toad they caught

No matter how the fishing goes, the event is always a lot of fun.  I nearly always find myself fishing around like minded folks that just want to see their kids have fun and hopefully make a memorable catch.  While this ends up being a reality for many, I find myself making great memories even if it doesn’t involve a catch(es).  This year was no exception, the family next to us having similar poor fishing results, but enjoying all of our kids playing and exploring the woods together.  I’m confident none of the kids will remember the lack of fish, but will remember playing tag, wagon rides, finding critters like baby toads, and making new friends.

Cleveland Metroparks staff just prior to the awards

For those fortunate enough to find the fish, and there were plenty that did, the awards presentation is enjoyable to watch.  Seeing those proud parents… and those kids walking up with their self-esteem and confidence boosted is fantastic.  There are tons of well deserved ‘high-fives’ and the vibe is always upbeat and exciting.

That’s a lot of fishing swag waiting to be won!

As you can see from the above photo, many young anglers leave with some nice new gear in tow.  As an adult, I view catching the fish itself is the reward, but imagine catching fish AND getting a reward for it.  Sign me up for that!  No wonder why all of the kids are so excited and the events are so well attended.

Bryce always loves the education ‘stations’

Jen talking about invasive species with Bryce

The Cleveland Metroparks always do a great job of having some type of interactive education.  From year to year it varies on what exactly it might be, but it is always present.  I can speak for not only my children, but the all of the ones I observe, that they love interacting with the staff and volunteers.  It is also safe to say that they are having fun while not realizing they are learning.  This speaks volumes about the people providing the education and how they present it – as it so well received.  I always learn something new myself.

Bryce ‘horsing around’ with a ranger

So another year has gone by and my fishing results for the kids was the same.  But just like last year, we had the same great overall experience.  If I can make a case for how much fun you will have even if you don’t catch fish – just imagine how awesome it is if you do!  There’s really no risk of having a bad time either way.  As always, I want to say a huge thank you to Mike Durkalec, Aquatic Biologist, and all of the other staff (and volunteers) from the Cleveland Metroparks… not just for this event, but for all of the wonderful resources they maintain for us in NE Ohio.

First kayak outing of 2018, with a memorable catch

LORAIN, OH – I always say, “it just takes a single bite to change a day”.  That was exactly the case on my first kayak outing of 2018 on Cinco de Mayo.  I woke up to a forecast that demanded I hit Lake Erie (only slight wind and out of the SW) and the only decision would be whether I wanted to hit a regular launch location or try somewhere new.  After combing through info on some kayak fishing groups on Facebook, I settled on heading to Lorain.

A couple photos of what I consider one of my best kayak catches to date!

I would launch at a small un-groomed beach next to Jackalope Lakeside.  This area was familiar to me from shore fishing on the Mile long Pier, but I had never taken the kayak out anywhere near here.  As I was running a little bit late, I somehow managed to leave my paddle leash at home, a minor annoyance but the type of distraction that can mentally start making you assume it will be a bad trip.  Nonetheless, I found myself trolling two crankbaits by 4:15 p.m. with all the hope and optimism that had been stored from the long winter.

After an hour with no action, I began to do some free fishing with a variety of tactics employed.  This resulted in nothing more than a few Round Gobies picking at some nightcrawlers when I tried live bait.  I suppose this lack of success was a good thing as it prompted me to return to trolling the crankbaits.  After resetting for trolling, it only took a couple minutes before the rod on my right side suddenly bent in half.  The rod didn’t bounce, it just quickly had weight on it.  I was worried that it actually had just become hung up on something but once in hand I could feel the movement of a fish.  As I played the fish closer to the boat, I could see in the clear water it was a Walleye!  I suspected from the fight style, it was, but there was nothing like the confirmation when my eyes saw it.  I managed to get it netted on the first attempt, and overall from strike to landing everything was smooth.  Just the way you like it on a good fish.

The relief of seeing the fish in the net

As most people know, I am a huge fan of catching ‘rough fish’.  I can’t help but mention that I felt good about my credibility as kayak angler by catching this fish.  For nearly everyone around here, if you are on Lake Erie, this is the target and generally accepted as the most coveted sport/food fish.  While I’m not the type to be overly consumed with what people think of me or my angling ability, it mattered to me to get this fish, maybe because I needed to prove it to myself.

While the fish looks small, I love this photo showing the entire kayak (Photo credit John Peden)

In a rare moment of luck, there was a photographer on the pier that looked eager to get good subject matter for some photos.  I yelled out asking if he would take a few fish pictures for me, and he obliged.  After exchanging contact information, I was treated to some really nice images that just made a great day even better.  I remain appreciative that the memory of the day was uniquely captured by this chance encounter.  Thank you John Peden! (view his Instagram here)

Parting shot (Photo credit John Peden)

Look for me to return to this destination soon as I hope to build upon my initial success!… maybe a larger fish or multiple keepers or God willing, BOTH!

Myrtle Beach, S.C., vacation fishing

MYRTLE BEACH, SC – Anyone who knows me or follows this blog is aware of how much of a proud Ohioan I am.  There is a lot to love here, and when it comes to fishing freshwater – being near Lake Erie is about as good as it gets.  That being said, the handful of times I have gotten to fish saltwater, always seem to humble me and provide experiences that leave me envious of those that can fish it regularly.  This past week was no exception, as I had the opportunity to venture out in the Atlantic Ocean on a 1/2 day charter with Captain John (Reel Action Fishing Charters).

Don’t worry Bryce, you’ll go next time

I love the above photo, albeit it also breaks my heart.  My son was looking back at me while being lead away, as the weather was just a little too suspect for him to make the trip.  Mom is pretty protective and Bryce simply hasn’t had enough experience on a boat to know how he would handle it if things got choppy or we got a downpour.  With a very unpredictable forecast, it was the right decision at the time.  I must admit I may not forgive myself until we get back and he can go.

“I will love you this much if you put me back”

Along with Captain John’s kid-friendly approach that won me over as a dad, I also appreciated his honest no-nonsense appraisal of fishing this time of year and what to expect.  He let me know it was a bit early for some of the more typical sport fishing that occurs in the area.  He offered me options of more sure likelihood catching or hard fishing that could yield the end result of being empty handed for the effort.  In the end, we agreed to try for a short bit of fishing the Oyster beds for Redfish and then heading out in the ocean for Black Sea Bass and Spiny Dogfish.  Knowing dogfish are in the shark family, and I had never caught one, had me plenty excited.

As it would turn out, the Oyster beds did not yield any fish but I did catch the above Blue Crab on rod & reel.  It was not expected and something kind of cool to see for someone from Ohio.  I had to laugh as it made me think of the Dude Perfect video of Fishing Stereotypes (specifically at 2:24).

A cool bonus sight on the way out to fish the big water

Black Sea Bass

Spiny Dogfish

After a short while of motoring to the reef, we set up to fish again.  I no more than felt my weight hit the bottom and instantly had a bite.  True to his word and expertise, Captain John immediately had me on fish.  Countless Black Sea Bass were caught, varying in size, never more than a minute apart between fish.  As predicted, this action soon triggered the attention of the main targeted species for the day.  It didn’t take long until I felt a much heavier fish that fought well and occasionally could peel some drag.  Sure enough, the Spiny Dogfish.  After some instruction on how to safely handle them, I was enjoying quite a few photo ops with the species.  These ‘mini-sharks’ if you will, were getting caught after about every 5th or 6th bass.

A very happy author adding a new species to the life list

It was pretty cool to see the dogfish occasionally follow a bass that was hooked all the way to the surface.  I also had a few dogfish follow a hooked dogfish to the surface.  I actually have footage of this happening and hope to add a video to this post sometime soon.  The trip was awesome as I love catching something new and the fact that this species was decently sized and ‘shark like’ made for another saltwater experience I will never forget.

I can not wait to get back, and most assuredly will fish with Captain John again!