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.

Ending and starting the year, at Wallace Lake

Arriving at a favorite fishing destination

BEREA, OH – Just getting out fishing, regardless of success or not, seems to be the goal of late.  I didn’t do nearly as well as I hoped in 2019 as far as the amount of time spent fishing.  With the holidays providing a little extra time off from work, I tried to make up for some lost time.  While I do enjoy ice fishing, if it’s not cold enough to create good safe ice, I prefer it to be mild enough to go out on the kayak in relative comfort.  The unseasonably warm weather allowed just that, and my final fishing of 2019 and first fishing of 2020 would be from the ‘yak.

The last fish caught of 2019

The kayak fishing wasn’t very successful, with just one fish was caught.  While it was a nice fish, a rather healthy Crappie, it wasn’t like I was catching them in great numbers.  It also wasn’t a mixed in catch amongst the trout I was targeting, it was just a lone fish.  I reminded myself what a blessing it was just to be out, healthy enough to be kayaking, and reminisced over 2019.  Fishing is a lot like life in general, moments of great joy and success, and pain and failure.  This past year had it’s share of pain with the loss of two close relatives, that has remained too difficult to blog about.

The author with a limit of Wallace Lake trout

A few fish that will serve finely for table fare

While I would end 2019 with some tough fishing, my second time fishing in the new year was marked by tremendous success.  It may have been that I wasn’t as rusty as I had thought, but just the reality that the fish stocked on December 16th may not have spread out across the lake as I had expected.  With some advice from a friend, I hit an area that I had not covered on the kayak in previous trips.  This resulted in a total of 8-9 landed Rainbow Trout, quite the difference to be catch and releasing after a limit, than fighting to get a single bite!

The color and markings on this small fish were beautiful

It can sometimes be challenging to determine whether to keep or release a fish.  I never want to have more than two until I am leaving, just in case one of those bonus fish find their way to my hook.  If you read the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog, you can see some of those choice specimen get landed now and then.  These fish provide a little more fun and excitement, just knowing they are out there.  I have managed only one, a very interestingly colored Brown Trout on my first kayak outing of 2019 (can see that fish here).  On today’s trip, it was just a wide range of size, shape, and color of Rainbow Trout.  One of the reasons I love the species, is just how much diversity there is within it.  The above pictured fish, was one of the smallest of the day, but most handsome.  It was released.  A nice couple fishing near me, showed me their stunning Brook Trout that was deeply colored with the bright orange fins tipped in white.  A spectacular fish!

An example of two very different variations of Rainbow Trout caught today 

The two fish pictured above are great examples of the uniqueness of each individual fish.  I’m not sure if I am the exception or other anglers are like me, in that I appreciate each catch.  Even if I only inspect it briefly before a quick release, I always find myself taking a quick note of it’s characteristics.  Maybe it’s my inner child, that simply has never stopped enjoying anything I catch!

2019 Fall Fishing Derby at Walker Road Park

AVON LAKE, OH – They say timing is everything and that definitely proved true today.  I had stumbled across an event on Facebook for a “Fall Fishing Derby” and it happened to be on a day I had promised my son we would go fishing.  Also making it worthwhile, was that I occasionally get asked about Walker Road Park and I had never been able to give a direct report regarding it.  Making my son happy while being at a new venue on a beautiful September Saturday, seemed like a great way to spend a few hours.  Little did I know, the day would end up rather memorable.

An impressive crowd assembled for this derby

I am not certain how many years they have done this derby, but the personable friendly staff and volunteers made it easy for me to see why the event was so well attended.  In fact, it was downright amazing considering the derby overlapped with the start of an Ohio State football game!  The event was sponsored by The City of Avon Lake, the Avon Lake Parks & Recreation Department, and Avon Lake Boat Club.  Awards and Raffle prizes were donated by Cabelas and Dairy Queen.  If I am incorrect or have any omissions, please leave a comment or let me know on the CoolWaterFish Facebook Page.  A HUGE thank you to all of them!

Charlotte casts better than kids twice her age and probably some adults

I’ve learned there is often a lot in common between the adults who attend these events.  I guess a kinship in finding the recreation of fishing to be fun and the value of doing it with your kid(s).  I almost always make friends with those fishing near me and this date would be no exception.  The photo above was a few of our new friends and I love the watchful eye of dad as his daughter mastered casting.  It makes me wish my daughter would have attended, but sadly the lure of shopping with mommy won out over catching “slimy fish”.

A hopeful Bryce early in the event

In what has become the norm, Bryce spends more time capturing critters on the shoreline as he does actually fishing.  This includes netting small fish, crayfish, tadpoles, snails, frogs, toads, or anything else he can find.  The actual fishing is usually me yelling “hey your bobber is going under” as he runs back to the rod only to have the bait stolen.  This repeats over and over until some unfortunate fish manages to gorge itself on a worm enough to get the point of the hook in it’s mouth.  More than half of the event was over before something other than that finally happened.  We had one rod tight lined off the bottom, which got a much stronger strike than the small Bluegill that were playing with the offerings under the bobber.  This time, the fish was solidly hooked.  Bryce fought the fish to shore, where I assisted with the net.  We did a quick High-Five and then ran to a judging table.

A solid 14.5″ Channel Catfish

A lot of great award and raffle items were given out

With most people fishing under a float, the plentiful Bluegill were the typical catch.  Bryce only caught that single fish, but due to bottom fishing, ended up getting the Channel Catfish.  He was excited to learn that his fish was rumored to be the largest caught for the day, and I know it seemed an eternity for him to wait (asking me every 5 minutes if the derby was over) until it was confirmed during the awards/raffle ceremony.  He received some nice fishing swag and everyone was very kind in congratulating him.  The event organizers did a real nice job recognizing winners while also validating every child there and the efforts they made to catch fish.  The focus truly was about family and getting outdoors together.  I firmly believe that is more important than any single fish, even a derby winning 14.5″ Channel Catfish.

One very happy boy!

Once again, thank you to everyone involved with this fishing derby.  It was very well organized and we would have had a great time whether we caught a fish or not.  We hope to be back in 2020!

UPDATE:  A special thank you to Mayor Greg Zilka for acknowledging this post, seen here.

2019 Corn Festival Fishing Derby

The derby winners with their proud parents! 

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – The tradition continued with Bryce and I participating in the fishing derby on the Saturday morning of the North Ridgeville Corn Festival.  I sound like a broken record giving praise to the very nice folks of the North Ridgeville Fishing Club, who always are generous of their time in providing such a great experience for young anglers.  Whether you have a lot of success and land that trophy fish like Bryce did this one time, or if you just catch a few, it is always a fantastic time.  The fishing was a little slow (just a few Bluegill) for us this year, but my son had a blast netting crayfish, minnows, and tadpoles.  In fact, I think he looks forward to this more than actually fishing.  By the end of the day, he had recruited an army of kids collecting critters who only passively were paying attention to their rods.  They were having fun and I’m certain that is all that matters.  To those kids pictured above who did put their time and effort into fishing and earned an award, congratulations!  I am so happy the club was able to reward you with some awesome gear!

We’ll see you next year!

Atlantic Ocean fishing aboard The Ocean Princess

OCEAN CITY, MD – Mid June found the family heading east to Ocean City for a sorely needed vacation.  Of course Bryce and I worked some fishing into the week’s plan.  This would not only be my son’s first time fishing saltwater, it would be his first time fishing in the ocean.  Bryce had done fine on Lake Erie, but in case he was ill or for inclement weather, I decided a bigger vessel would be the safest route.  This meant a head boat, and we decided on The Ocean Princess.

Bryce was ready for his first trip out in the Atlantic Ocean

The weather was perfect and I really hoped to the fish would cooperate being that it would be a somewhat lengthy motor out to where we would fish.  Bryce has been fishing a lot for a kid his age, so he understands concepts such as not catching or missing bites… but I desperately hoped his first trip would be successful.  Not simply for the memory, but the desire to do it again.  I hated the feeling of extra pressure, but if it only ended up being a long boat ride, maybe he would opt out in the future.  Being that I had done this type of fishing before out of Myrtle Beach, SC (Black Sea Bass & Spiny Dogfish) and also Clearwater, FL (Grouper), I will say I had cautious optimism.  The positive Google reviews also helped the psyche.  Whether I got my mind in the right place or not, the reality was that as nearly fast as the captain said we could drop our lines, I got bit.  And also just as fast, I missed it.

A Black Sea Bass well over the 12″ minimum keeper length

My mistake of missing the quick bite right when my sinker hit the bottom, would not happen again.  The next nibble, the hook was soundly set, on the smallest Black Sea Bass I had ever seen.  I had to laugh thinking, if I can actually get the hook set on such a small fish, I should have no issue setting it in a bigger mouth.  Sure enough, the next bite a short time later, was the bigger fish I was hoping for.  To ensure the first ‘keeper’ Black Sea Bass was caught, Bryce wanted me to reel it in and do everything.  He really wanted to look at one a long time and not have to throw it back, I was happy to oblige!  For the remainder of the trip, including the three additional keepers, he reeled them all up.  I was happy that we did not have a single fish come off.

Exactly the photo and memory I hoped for

The photo above was everything I wanted the day to be.  If it had ended with only that single fish, Bryce and I would have been happy.  The fact that we caught three more, just made it that much better.  The day truly had exceeded our expectations.  Little did we know, we were not done.

First Mate Tim hooked up, then assisting Bryce

I’m a little jealous of this photo, well done guys!

First mate Tim, in between helping the anglers on his side of the boat, was casting artificial lures from his personal open face rod.  This is not unusual on head boats.  I have often observed mates on Lake Erie trying to nab a few personal fish for their box.  As long as they don’t neglect their duty to assist customers, it never has bothered me.  Other than taking an interest in his technique, I really wasn’t paying much attention.  What did catch my attention was when he yelled, “Bryce, get over here!”.  I had no idea his goal was to get a solid hook up on a good fish, only to give my son an opportunity to bring it in.  In the excitement I was happy I had enough sense to grab my camera and get some pictures.  The fish was landed, a nice keeper Flounder, that provided one more great memory to what was now an epic day!  I have no words that can express the gratitude I have towards First Mate Tim.

Four Black Sea Bass and a Flounder

This was without question, the best head boat fishing experience I have ever had.  I couldn’t have asked any more of the captain and crew of The Ocean Princess.  The mates explained what to do, the captain put us on top of the fish, and all the anglers had to do was simply use a little bit of skill in detecting bites, a quick set of the hook, and reel in the fish.  The extra attention given to my son was not even requested, it was simply given.  This half day trip early in our week long vacation, not only set a wonderful tone for the week, but created a lifelong memory for a dad and a son.

Multi species day on the Sandusky River

FREMONT, OH – Maybe the Sandusky River knows the spiritual connection I have with it or knows my efforts to see the natural flow restored through the Ballville Dam removal… whatever it is… the river is nearly always good to me.  Today was no exception.  By the day’s end, between myself, son, and a couple friends we would catch seven species (White Bass, White Perch, Yellow Perch, Freshwater Drum, Channel Catfish, Rock Bass, & Golden Redhorse) and a total number of fish that was impossible to keep track of.  A truly banner day of Spring river fishing!

I’ll take the pull and fight of a big Freshwater Drum any day

A couple of the nicer sized Channel Catfish from the day

Now in typical fashion of someone who enjoys catching rough fish, there won’t be a picture of the Yellow Perch or White Bass.  While this wasn’t really intentional, I just noticed the few pictures that I had tagged for the blog just happened to not include them.  I guess a nice sized drum or catfish I consider more noteworthy and fun over an average White Bass or Yellow Perch.  I also wanted to highlight them as they seemed to be the most prevalent catches.  Overall, the mix of fish took everything from tight lining nightcrawlers off the bottom, to live minnows under a float, and inline spinners.  The most interesting catch was the single Golden Redhorse, as I have only recorded a few other sucker catches ever on this stretch of the river.  The other surprise was the volume of Yellow Perch, while I have encountered them here, never in the numbers as I did today and certainly never in abundance over the White Bass.

Bald Eagle

Northern Watersnake

Along with the great fishing, we encountered some wildlife without fins too.  I always welcome these bonus sightings and my son is always especially excited to see what we come across.  Today included a toad, a Northern Watersnake, and many types of birds and waterfowl.  The highlight had to be that as often as I see Bald Eagles, I finally was able to get a somewhat decent picture of one.  I do not have a professional camera with a great optical zoom – I carry rugged cameras that can handle the abuse of the outdoors and water.  This makes the practical application of fish pictures easy, but not so much for running around pointing it in the sky at moving birds.  Somehow, I did pull it off and was pleased with what I captured considering the device used.