A cool catch on the first kayak outing of 2019

This 16″ Brown Trout ranks as one of my favorite kayak caught fish

BEREA, OH – It’s always special to get out on the kayak for the first time of the year.  Not just because it is a fun way to catch fish, but it usually (yes it does try to snow in April at times) marks a tangible measure that winter is over for me.  This past winter, for some reason, just seamed exceptionally long.  I had some extra motivation to make Wallace Lake the first outing due to a stocking that had taken place that included Brook, Brown, and Golden Trout along with the Rainbows.  I wasn’t able to get out, even for shore fishing, and was agonized seeing all the amazing catches featured on the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog.  The ‘recent’ stocking suddenly went from days ago, to weeks ago… and I just hoped some were left.

Arriving at the lake, my hope turned to confirmation as a shore angler was leaving with a fine Rainbow Trout on a stringer.  I launched quickly and began covering a lot of water offering an inline spinner.  My only taker was a small Largemouth Bass in the first hour.  It’s impossible to know if conditions, fishing pressure, or total number of fish available was the reason, but the fishing was slow.  I rarely had less than 6-8 fisherman within view and my bass was the only fish I saw caught.  About the moment my mind started second guessing my decision to fish at Wallace over the river or a different venue… my spinner got smacked.  The fantastic strike was followed by the rod revealing a decent sized fish that was giving plenty of fight.  It didn’t take long to get it to the boat, but I did get very nervous about successfully landing it when I saw the distinct markings of a Brown Trout!  It’s a species that I haven’t encountered a lot and I was so excited to get it landed.  Weeks after the last stocking, I had somehow managed one of the ‘bonus fish’!  Pure Joy.

While admittedly the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog has shown plenty of examples of bigger or more interestingly marked up fish, this one was my catch, and it was prized.  In fact I was so enamored by it, I found it almost difficult to continue fishing.  I was so thrilled with that single bite it made me content that I didn’t need to do more.  I fished a little less vigorously but did carry on another hour and a half.  I managed another trout, this one being a small colorful Rainbow Trout, that was returned to the water.

Wallace Lake, ice fishing for trout

BEREA, OH – You know something is awesome if you love it even though you aren’t good at it.  That is me with ice fishing.  There is just something inherently cool about walking onto the water, drilling a hole, and pulling a fish out of it.  I’ve pretty much mastered the first two, but the last is a struggle.  The past few years, I’ve invested a little more time online researching and increasing my knowledge base which has improved my on the water success.  The culmination of this effort recently was realized with a limit of stocker trout (and some bonus catches) at Wallace Lake.  While this day might hardly be a blip on the map for an accomplished ice anger, it probably represents the best I have ever done on an ice outing.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story…

Destination

Hopeful anglers

Where my ice fishing photos usually end

A fine Rainbow Trout through the ice

A good looking trout a bit over 14 inches

A somewhat chunky fish around 16 inches

Side by side comparison of the last two fish

A beautiful small fish that was released

Behind every picture is a memory, and I wish somehow I could translate in words just how exciting every catch was.  Maybe once I have become more masterful with ice fishing, each catch may not be as meaningful.  As it stands right now, any fish caught on the ice is a big deal, and the excitement and ‘newness’ of catching through the ice hasn’t worn off.  I can understand why ice fishing has it’s own niche of people who specialize in it and consider it their favorite method to fish.  My largest fish of the day put up an amazing spirited fight, and trying to get it head first to the hole and then lift out with my other hand was adrenaline packed fun… and this was just a 16″ fish!  After I got it on the ice, the hook came out and it nearly jumped back in the hole.  I scooted it away from the hole and it almost slid into another nearby hole… when I finally got it contained I was beyond relieved and just sat there thinking “how much fun is this?!”.

The day was likely the most successful I have ever had on the ice.  My confidence is improved.  If you’ve read my previous post detailing the Cleveland Metroparks stocking, you know there are some extra special fish swimming in these lakes.  This includes some Brown, Brook, and Golden Trout.  While these remain my most hoped for catches through the ice, my banner day was not diminished in the slightest because I didn’t encounter one.  I just will continue to hope…

Along with the photos included in this post, I did catch a White Crappie and a Bluegill.  I missed a good number of bites, and lost one trout at the hole.  I made some new friends with nearby anglers and also got to see what had to be one of the biggest catches of the day anywhere on the lake.  Near the end of the day, a guy near me landed a Rainbow that was a bit over 18″ and it had some shoulders on it.  From covering the stocking, I knew the size potential of a few of the best specimen, and he certainly found one.  He was stoked over the catch and I have to imagine any angler with a pulse would be.  I was excited just getting to see the catch.

So there you have it, the most fun I’ve ever had on the ice.  I can’t wait to get out again!

Cleveland Metroparks Winter Trout Stocking 2019

HINCKLEY, OH – This week I had the opportunity to observe a few Cleveland Metroparks trout stockings.  This was the final of two rounds of winter trout stockings that occurred at Wallace, Shadow, Judge’s, Ledge, and Ranger Lakes.  I suppose I will state the obvious, now is the time to get to any of these lakes for this awesome annual fishing opportunity.  Along with the sheer numbers of fish, there are some exceptional individual specimens that are worthy of trophy status in anyone’s book.  If you read this post in it’s entirety, I will elaborate more on that.

Owen and Michael all smiles despite the actual hard work it takes to do the stockings

A net full of memories waiting for skilled (or lucky) anglers!

They make it look effortless, but that can is HEAVY  (I was happy to be the photographer!)

I was surprised that the stocking of trout actually was quite laborious.  It involved manually netting the fish and then lifting them into a large rubber trash can. After that, the trash can full of fish and water has to be carried down to the water for the release.  I’m certain many of you assumed that it was just a tank that pulls up to the lake with a giant hose that shoots them in.  I myself, assumed that from media I had seen online, and from watching an ODNR stocking some years ago at Swanton Reservoir in Northwest Ohio.  While it does seem like ‘fun’ work, it truly was work.  I only assisted on a couple trips down to the water and my back let me know it was work!

What a beautiful Brown Trout

An equally stunning Brook Trout

An eager Brook Trout didn’t need dumped, it jumped to its new home

There wasn’t a single fish that I observed that wouldn’t have put a smile on a fortunate angler’s face, but there were some that would be extremely special catches.  This included some Brown and Brook Trout, some Golden Trout (only at a few locations, not all lakes), and some of all species that were substantially large.  While my personal target would be these special species stocked in lower numbers than the Rainbows, a giant Rainbow would certainly be exciting!  I am always impressed by the overall quality of trout that the Cleveland Metroparks stock, and this round was no exception.  I pray some of these fish have a future encounter with me in the coming weeks.

I remain grateful to the Cleveland Metroparks for their efforts to provide recreational opportunities.  Specifically, their associates like Michael and Owen who carry out the mission so well.  They are not simply astute and credentialed in their chosen field, but passionate fisherman too.  I am certain this contributes to how these lakes are managed so successfully.

I hope all of you get a chance to target these fish and feel free to shoot me an email about how you do or leave a comment.  Don’t forget to visit the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog to get fishing related news and view some of the catches.  Finally, please consider making a donation to the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund if you want to make a monetary gesture of gratitude – that also helps continuation of programs like these trout stockings.

A simple pleasant start to 2019

MEDINA, OH – The unseasonably mild winter had me start the year with several trips to various local lakes for open water fishing with my son.  Two trips yielded plenty of willing Largemouth Bass who were quite spirited in fight considering the time of year.  While nothing overly noteworthy stands out, I just enjoy spending time with family and the simple joy of catching fish.

Open water bass fishing in January?, I’ll take it!

The above fish was pretty representative of the catches.  No giants, just good numbers providing plenty of fun.  I even brought the 4 wt. fly rod and nabbed a few on a minnow pattern.

Kids love the bass, even if they are on the ‘small-ish’ side

It may not look like I am having fun, but this is usually what I look like hoping the camera works right, everyone is actually looking at it, no one at risk of getting a hook in them, and the concern of getting the fish back in the water quickly.

Another successful release

I always try my best to demonstrate good ethical fishing and that most often includes catch & release.  Along with enjoying our resources, I nearly always have conversations regarding responsibility.  I loved this shot of my son with his cousin watching a bass swim away.

While the first fishing of 2019 may not be that exciting to most… as a dad especially, I just love these simple fishing trips.

An evening on Lake Erie

Bryce’s first time on a boat

MARBLEHEAD, OH – As part of a family mini vacation to the familiar stomping grounds around Ohio’s central coastline, I thought I would take the opportunity to try Bryce’s ‘sea legs’ out.  As much fishing as Bryce and I have done together, it’s never been from a boat.  The fishing trip was somewhat short notice as I had randomly gotten an ad in my Facebook feed from Rock Harbor Cottages & Reef Bobber Charters that seemed perfect.  It was offering a couple hours of evening fishing for a very reasonable rate.  What better way to see how prone Bryce would be to sea-sickness?!, no huge investment if he was miserable, yet plenty of time for some fun if it went well.

Bryce is hooked up

A White Perch

Plenty of good sized Channel Catfish

I’m not even going to attempt to build suspense (okay maybe just a little because their was a big fish), everything exceeded all expectations!  Weather was amazing, Bryce wasn’t sick at all, the fish were biting, and Captain Brad was fantastic.  For a bit of a novelty type trip that wasn’t high dollar, I was amazed how hard the captain worked – some casting instruction for my son, would do a long cast and let him reel in, worked hard for his own hook ups and hand the rod to him, set the boat up multiple times for new drifts.  All I can say is that I was impressed.  I helped Bryce too, but admittedly haven’t been able to fish much, so I enjoyed that the Captain’s efforts allowed me to do a bit of fishing too.  I had expected to need to be ‘hands on’ with Bryce the whole time.

Yep, there was a big fish story!

I’ve fished with professional anglers that have explained the editing process often used when they record fishing shows.  I mean do you really think every time they do a show the best fish is magically caught in the last 5 minutes before the episode ends?!  Well our trip really followed that format without any editing… we ended on a couple very high notes.  As we all were satisfied that we had achieved our goal to simply go out and catch fish, whatever was biting regardless of species – we would be treated to a giant fish hookup.  Bryce was already tired from bringing in many fish and this one would take everything out of him.  After 5 minutes of gaining ground and then hearing the drag scream – he asked for some daddy help.  I was happy to oblige as I really wanted to see what it was.  I also will say I didn’t do any better than him at controlling the fish, but simply had the stamina to wear it down.  When I was able to finally get it close enough to see, we all were I awe of the giant catfish.  Captain Brad did an expert net job once I finally managed to get the feisty monster to come head first towards the boat.  He also took some great photos for us.  At 30″, I don’t recall ever catching a Channel Catfish any bigger and certainly none more memorable!

Bryce checking out my Walleye before release

After the big fish, we were pretty much ready to head back to dock.  In yet a another unexpected blessing, I felt the tug of a fish and a completely different feeling fight.  I was kind of glad Bryce was tired so I got to bring in the decent sized Walleye.  A cool toothy fish was a great end to the night and Bryce wasn’t too tired to steal some glory with a picture with it.

Pure happiness

I know this post isn’t about filling a cooler full or tasty Walleye or Perch… or even targeting the amazing sport fishery of Smallmouth Bass that Lake Erie offers.  This really was a more personal post regarding a father getting to see his son catch fish on the beloved big pond and hopefully shaping memories of a great childhood.  I hope one day he will have more days fishing on the lake that he could ever count or recall – but would know the first time.

The elusive full family photo

My daughter had well established before the trip that she was not interested in going on a boat yet.  At 4, just a little scared despite loving the water.  I was thrilled that she was willing to get on the boat at pick up, a good first step.  It also gave me the chance to get all of us in a picture.

2018 North Ridgeville Corn Festival, Fishing Derby

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – After last year’s epic catch (you can read about that here), we were pretty excited over the fishing derby that takes place as part of the North Ridgeville Corn Festival.  The derby, ran by the great folks from the North Ridgeville Fishing Club are always a joy to be around and do a fantastic job coordinating the event.  The fishing this year was very slow but my son still enjoyed himself by using a small net to catch minnows which he then placed in a bucket.  These ‘pet’ fish provided him plenty of entertainment and he recruited many other peers to assist in the effort.  All of the kids in the area we fished had a lot of fun whether they were catching or not.  Had my son allowed me to use one of his pets as bait, I could have likely helped him have success fishing, but he was not having any of that.  We did see a number of Bluegill caught, surely enough for some good competition for the age groups.  See you next year!

Wallace Lake, multi-species from the kayak

BEREA, OH – I returned to Wallace Lake a few days after the fishing derby, solo this time with the kayak.  A bit of mixed emotion with the day’s success after the poor showing with the kids.  I would have gladly traded these catches for just a single fish for each of them to reel in.  That’s how fishing goes though and I certainly wont say that just because I didn’t catch any with them, that I hoped I wouldn’t catch any without them!  Just a little fisherman’s honesty there!

A very nice sized Wallace Lake catfish

The fishing started fast as I caught a Largemouth Bass on one of my first few casts.  I had also used a second rod to still fish (and slightly drift) which yielded a very nice 22″ catfish.  After those two catches I decided to focus on the trout as that was my main target of the day.  While I did have to work for them, I did get a limit.

Typical stocker Rainbow Trout

After catching the 3 fish limit of trout (only 1 was kept that wasn’t fit for release), I played around in the shallower areas sight fishing.  I got a few bumps and follows but nothing else was caught except a single Bluegill.  The day had grown exceptionally hot, and I was pleased with catching four species and accomplishing the trout limit goal.  Being more than content, I called it a day.

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!