North Ridgeville Corn Festival, Fishing Derby

CWF08132016derbyNORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – The Annual Corn Festival for 2016 was plagued with rain and poor weather.  We were fortunate though, that Saturday morning’s kid’s fishing derby had near perfect weather, maybe even the best half day of the entire weekend.  I guess it’s just proof that God loves fisherman!  In all seriousness, I was pleased with the forecast and happy that Bryce woke up eager to go to the event.  The derby was organized by the North Ridgeville Fishing Club, some of the nicest folks you can meet.  My son and I have attended other events they have been affiliated with, and always have had a great time.  Today would be no exception.  I will say attendance was down for this event, I think likely due to impending late day weather, and a lot of people were cheated of a great day of making memories.

CWF08132016derby4Bryce stopped for a picture with Mike, who got no rest from my son all day

There was not a new stocking of fish for the event, and overall, the fishing was slow.  We did have enough Bluegill biting to keep us occupied and provided some fun.  We also were catching some crayfish which entertained Bryce more than fish.  My son ‘adopted’ a couple of volunteers, Mike and Karen, who got little rest as he would yell for them to come over regardless of whether we had a new catch.  They were good sports about it, and Bryce soaked up the attention.

CWF08132016derby5A Snapping Turtle that we somehow landed on 6# test line

The highlight of our rod and reel action was what I thought was going to be a nice heavy fish.  Bryce was manning the rod and it had a considerable bend, much bigger than the Bluegill we were catching.  As he reeled it in, it came into view and I could tell it was a Snapping Turtle.  I used the metal rod holder to hoist it onto shore to get a few pictures, before letting it head back into the water.  It was Bryce’s first turtle catch and quite the surprise!

CWF08132016derby6Bryce wins a fishing pole!

CWF08132016derby2One happy and very proud kid

When the whistle sounded ending the event, Bryce had caught the most fish in his age group.  This earned him a cool new blue Zebco fishing rod.  The only thing that had his attention more than the crayfish, was this new prize.  He was super excited and made sure everyone heard all of his fishing stories from the day.  He needs to work on being humble, but that’s a tough concept at 4 years old.

CWF08132016derby3All I can say about this group photo is, “yep, that’s my son”

There were plenty of group photos where Bryce posed appropriately, but the photo above cracks me up.  Like a conquering hero, this is how he wanted to hold his new rod.  Amongst his 4 year old peers, I do somehow think he convinced them the rod was even more awesome – because of how he held it.  My next big catch, I think I’m going to strike this pose with the rod, after the release.

CWF08132016derby8Bryce with Keriann (from the Corn Festival Committee), reviewing an ODNR fish booklet

It was a day well spent with my son, catching crayfish, fish, and even a turtle.  We won something, ate some good festival food, and made new friends.  A big thank you to the North Ridgeville Corn Festival Committee (Corn Festival Website) and the North Ridgeville Fishing Club (NRFC Website) for the great time!  If there is a fishing event on the schedule next year, we will be there!

Cabela’s opens in Avon, Ohio

CWF08112016Father and son, yep, we were there opening day!

AVON, OH – In case you live under a rock or otherwise do not communicate with the outside world, a Cabela’s (www.cabelas.com) store is now in Northeast Ohio!  The doors opened to the general public on August 11th with quite a bit of fanfare.  Being that it was a weekday, I was unable to go early for any of the fanfare and giveaways, but I did take my son that evening.  I guess I do consider this something historic, and wanted to be there on day one.

Cabela’s has a special place in my heart, which might be hard to understand without explanation.  Years ago, while living in Toledo, Ohio, I came to enjoy the Cabela’s in Dundee, Michigan.  I have many great memories shopping there, and fishing in the local area (River Raisin).  The extended family would also do an annual fishing vacation to the Upper Peninsula, and this store was always a stop on the way for gear/supplies and our Michigan fishing license.  Lastly, it was a destination that my future wife and I did a road trip to, when we were newly dating.  All of these great memories, make it a bit of a landmark on the map, and my life.

I am so happy they are now closer to home.

Greater Cleveland Aquarium

PrintCLEVELAND, OH – If you can’t be out catching fish, the next best thing is either telling stories about fish or looking at them.  When it comes to looking at them, there is no better place in the area than the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.  Northeast Ohio has no shortage of great venues to visit, but to fish crazy folks like myself, this place is in a class by itself.  I love that a short drive can get me up close to the fish I love, as well as, saltwater and other exotic species that I would otherwise not encounter locally.

I’ve been to the aquarium a handful of times, and I can summarize this post by saying, “it is worth a visit”.  More accurately, it is likely worth multiple visits and at least a trip annually.  I probably sound like a paid spokesperson, but don’t worry, I am offering my honest appraisal.  As I dive in (pun intended), one of the first things to prepare for is the cost.  I think many people would consider the price steep.  My family of four that included a 4 and 2 year old, was just under $70.  This included 2 free return tickets for the kids and 2 free hotdogs.  When you think about the number of staff and other costs with maintaining so many tanks, it does make sense that tickets might need to be a little pricey.  Also, if you are savvy at coupon hunting, they can be found.

CWF072916nativetankA native species tank with Bluegill, Crappie, and Largemouth Bass

As you enter the aquarium, it may not be what you expect.  For me, I thought it would be a huge wide open area.  The layout would be better described as a labyrinth.  This has grown on me after multiple visits, but the first visit it made me feel a little claustrophobic.  Now the idea of following ‘a path’ through corridors and rooms gives it a more intimate feel.  I also prefer smaller pockets of people distributed across the entire complex over a ‘grand ballroom’ of the masses.

CWF072916garCWF072916bryceA couple Longnose Gar & my son on ‘tip -toes’ to get a different view

The first area you enter has the more familiar species.  I like that the aquarium pays homage to our local fish and shows a lot of the fish diversity we have.  This seems important to me for education.  I know many schools do field trips here and I think it is awesome that they get to see what is swimming in the waters around them.  I have to believe this encourages appreciation for what we have.  It is also worth noting that the aquarium doesn’t just have our fish, but some huge examples.  Just because you know a place to catch a Bass, Bluegill, or Crappie, doesn’t mean you can find ones like they have in their tanks!  Many are well over “Fish Ohio Award” size.

CWF072916fishCWF072916catBryce isn’t just looking, he is wishing he could fish for these! (dad thinking the same)

As you venture further into the aquarium you encounter fish from all over the world.  This includes other freshwater fish and saltwater.  One neat aspect is that a good number of the tanks are open top and low enough to let visitors get a birds-eye view.  This is a cool perspective and not the typical side view only, as most other places.  For a fisherman, this gives the view you use when site fishing and it is very appealing to view the fish as you would if you were targeting them.  This might not be appreciated or noticed by most visitors, but as an angler, it is neat.  I also like it that all of the tanks are not uniform.  The tanks have variety in shape and size.

CWF072916eelA Snowflake Eel

The diversity of fish represented is quite good.  Around every turn, every tank, has something new and interesting to see.  Lighting is low, with the tanks both figuratively and literally having the spotlight.  It really makes them stand out and they truly are the star of the show so to speak.  I’m not sure if it is this lighting, the thickness of the glass, or just that the fish are often moving – I find it difficult to get good pictures.  I also get reflections from the glass.  Maybe better equipment or a more skilled photographer could navigate these variables better than I can.  This is in no way anything against the facility, just something I wanted to note.

CWF072916rayYou can pet a Stingray

One unexpected surprise on my initial visit was the multiple areas of direct interaction.  The photo above is a tank where you are allowed to put two fingers into the water to pet the passer-byers.  Another area you can put your hand in the water to feel different live critters.  My most recent visit, I had my hand in a tank with some kind of shrimp or prawn that likes to eat dead skin.  It was very neat to watch and feel this.  Certainly, this type of experience was far more interactive than anyone would anticipate.  I also want to note there are a few play areas where my 2 year old could run around and enjoy, when her attention span was lacking.  I also like the wall with a beach mural, with chairs in front of it creating a cool photo op.  There’s more, but I don’t want to spoil it all!

CWF072916sharkThe silhouette of my family, eyeing a huge Sand Tiger Shark

As you wind your way through the aquarium you will encounter neat features, such as an area where the tank goes from both sides and across the ceiling.  It is immersive and expansive in length.  All of this leads to the final focal point, a massively large 250,000 gallon saltwater showcase of sharks and other awesome fish species.  While the sharks are the main draw for visitors, I find myself always looking equally at the fish that co-habitat the tank.  I recognize a great deal of the species from my Instagram feed of anglers that fish saltwater.  I once again can say the fish aren’t just represented, but represented well in their size.

CWF072916alexisParting shot

At the exit is a gift shop, and by gift shop standards, the prices are modest.  My son had his heart set on a 50 piece underwater playset, which we purchased for $19.99.  This seemed the same for an equivalent item from Toys-R-Us or other major retailor.  In my closing comments I want to add that the staff are all friendly and I have only had positive interactions on my visits.  I find it very professional that if you don’t want bothered, they leave you alone. If you want more information, they are eager to share their knowledge.  This is perfect.

Getting to and from the aquarium is easy and parking was just $3.  I’ve only been to the aquarium earlier in the day, so I am not certain if the price jumps at night/weekend.  The lot is plenty big and I’ve never had any issue finding a spot close to the entrance.  The aquarium itself has a great location on the Flats West Bank.  You can easily incorporate some other fun such as food/cocktails at Shooters, a ride on the Nautica Queen, or a kayak/jet ski rental at Great Lakes Watersports.  The water taxi is also close by in case you want to cross the river to another venue.

My overview makes it pretty obvious I enjoy the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, please feel free to comment with your thoughts/ experiences.

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