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!

Urban kayak fishing, Cleveland style

Catching fish in Lake Erie, by First Energy Stadium

CLEVELAND, OH – I can never find enough time to fish, but when I do get the opportunity, I have tried to get out on the kayak.  A couple trips out have not yielded anything of significance, but I am always happy to get a workout while chasing the fish.  I’m hard pressed to think of any trip where there isn’t something neat to see or experience, even if it isn’t a trophy fish.  The above pictured Sheephead, is probably the biggest fish of the recent trips.  I also thought the photo was cool in it’s own right, having caught a football shaped fish in front of the Brown’s stadium.  Unlike the Browns receivers, I apparently CAN catch a ‘football’. <insert devilish grin>

2017 North Ridgeville Corn Festival, Fishing Derby

A happy Bryce, ready to catch some fish

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – The past few weeks, I had gotten the kids pretty excited over the upcoming fishing derby that takes place as part of the North Ridgeville Corn Festival.  The derby is ran by some of the nicest folks you could ever meet, the North Ridgeville Fishing Club.  While I had a great time last year (you can read that post here), I was especially excited for this year’s derby as my daughter was now old enough to participate.  With both kids eager to attend, and the idea of sharp hooks and only daddy supervision, I knew my wife would be joining us.  While my wife is deserving of a nice Saturday morning to sleep in, I was thrilled to have the entire family with me.  The fishing may not be of much interest to her, but the cabbage and noodles, chicken paprikash, or deep fried pickles that awaited us when the fishing concluded, surely did!

Alexis and mommy waiting for the ‘big one’

Expectations always remain low for me at any formal fishing event.  My luck just usually is worse, if there is any type of extra pressure to have success.  Today would be especially bad due to having everyone with me and the fact that I had hyped it up so much with the kids.  In the end, I know time together is priceless, but a 5 and 3 year old having fun and being content requires catching fish.  Today that meant having all the gear needed (and more), and prayers!

Mommy and daddy enjoying Alexis, fishing isn’t just for Bryce

Despite my best efforts, the first few hours were typical… doing everything to keep just enough bites going so the kids didn’t fade on me.  I eventually determined I would try one rod, still-fishing off the bottom, while they continued their bobber fishing.  This new strategy didn’t provide any instant result, but after about 30 minutes I saw the rod getting some action.  A slight bend, and I handed the rod to Bryce.  I was shocked to see the rod bend in half and Bryce suddenly yelled, “It’s too heavy!”.  Initially, I thought a fish had simply thrown the hook into a submerged log or got him wrapped around some rocks or debris.  But after he asked me to help hold the rod with him, I could feel the heavy fish fighting.  I encouraged him he could do it, and he reluctantly took full control as I removed my hand from steadying the rod.  When I saw the fish jump, I knew it was a trophy, and desperately hoped he would succeed.  Not just for him, but for all of us – we really wanted to see this fish!  I took up the net and it was funny how he yelled which way the fish was heading (even though I could see).  I can’t begin to describe the angst I had while he was fighting the fish and then the overwhelming joy when he successfully brought the fish in.

Bryce’s big bass, the largest I have ever seen come from a small urban lake

My already rather fun day, suddenly turned epic.  Now that it was landed, I became more aware of my surroundings and could hear everyone fishing around us shouting “what did he get?!”.  I responded, “A huge Largemouth!”.  I was so excited for him and it was truly a surreal moment.  I came to my senses fast enough to know I wanted some quick pictures, before sprinting with it in a bucket, to the judges station.  I normally let Bryce carry the fish – or fish in the bucket, but I left him trailing behind me.  I wanted this fish to live.  Bryce did catch up by the time the fish was measured (at 20 and a half inches), and the fishing club did a couple more photos.  As much as I wanted to admire the catch – and let everyone else and Bryce admire it too, it needed to get back in the lake.  A few back and forth motions in the water, and the fish strongly swam away into the depths.  The exact ending I wanted for a fish giving my family a lifetime memory.  I pray it does this again for someone else, with the same outcome.

Happy kids assembling for the awards ceremony

After the catch, there was about 45 minutes until the event ended.  We were treated to seeing the largest fish of the derby getting caught, a 26″ Channel Catfish.  Thankfully, the polite young man who caught it was in an older age group, or Bryce would have been devastated that his catch wasn’t the largest.  There were a lot of ‘parenting moments’ as he dealt with his own sense of accomplishment, while having to be excited and happy for someone else.  I can’t recall ever noticing his competitiveness as much as today, when he kept asking whose catch was better.

Derby winners and runner ups

Bryce’s catch earned him a new fishing rod combo and loaded tackle tray.  While everyone was enjoying the drinks and hotdogs provided by the fishing club, I sought out a boy that didn’t win anything.  Unbeknownst to Bryce, I gave away his combo.  He was given one last year, and at 5, didn’t have the maturity to understand the right thing to do.  I was happy to make this kid’s day, as he didn’t leave empty handed.  It got even better, when the adults with him said he didn’t have his own fishing rod until now.  This banner day, couldn’t have ended better.

A parting shot of the big fish