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

Cleveland kayak fishing… again

CLEVELAND, OH – I had so much fun that was documented on the last post… I had to go back and do it again!  Sure enough, plenty of cooperative fish with multiple Walleye, Rock Bass, Freshwater Drum, and even a Common Carp caught.  There really isn’t any additional commentary to add, just that I enjoy this venue a lot.  There is a substantial amount of boat and wave runner traffic, but this setback does not outweigh the good fishing and neat urban environment.

A freshwater bonefish, AKA Carp from the Lake Erie near shore

  A small Rock Bass at the marina

Lots of small throwback Walleye in the lake this year

This Walleye went 14″, the best of the day, but still not a keeper

The pictures speak for themselves at how fun of a day it was, but I did want to acknowledge one thing I noticed.  My PFD was not on.  I was fishing very close to shore and was hot, most often I do wear my PFD and would always recommend that.  I can assure everyone the PFD was right behind me, not even an arms length away.

Cleveland shoreline fishing, from the kayak

CLEVELAND, OH – One of the top things on my ‘to do’ list after getting into kayak fishing was to get to the downtown Cleveland area to fish the shoreline and near shore waters of Lake Erie.  For whatever reason, I just hadn’t made this a reality.  I guess I’m a creature of habit and usually end up launching off Huntington Beach in Bay Village, Ohio.  Nonetheless, I am happy to report my first trip to fish downtown is in the books.  Of course, I am now kicking myself for not doing this sooner as it was a lot of fun.

The energy of the area was downright awesome.  There was some kind of festival with live music and the unbelievable smell of barbecue.  I watched a steady stream of people posing with the iconic script Cleveland sign.  A short way from there, a high school band prepared for a performance while the flag corp. rhythmically practiced their routine.  All this to entertain, while fishing!

Being true to my craft of multi species fishing, no matter how interesting, new, or exciting a venue is, it still is all about the fish.  The fishing itself was a series of highs and lows.  I won’t ever complain about fishing if I am catching, and plenty of fish were caught.  I will start with the lows so I can end with the good stuff.  So here it goes; my goal was to target Smallmouth Bass – I threw tubes for hours with none caught, I only carried two rods and early into the excursion one was lost to the lake – a reminder to tether or have a float as I had to fish one rod all day, I fought and landed the largest drum of my life, well over the elusive 30″ mark – only to have it swim out of the net before a single photo.  For most, those might not seem all that horrible, but for me were rather depressing.  Probably the least big deal for most would be the drum, yet that was my biggest disappointment of the day.  I plan to a post about that single fish, as it is deserving of a story.

The photos above represent the fishing high points of the day.  Easily the most noteworthy catch was my first ever Walleye from the kayak.  It wasn’t quite a keeper, but the simple fact it was a Walleye, was awesome.  The next fish worth noting was a Largemouth Bass, not that it had any considerable size, but rather the fact I got something even anything, to bite on tubes that I desperately threw for hours trying to get a Smallmouth.  Finally, a 26 3/4″ Fish Ohio Award Freshwater Drum for my first award sized fish of the year.  Never knowing how often I can fish, getting the first is important to receive each year’s unique pin.

This day’s plan, is definitely something I look forward to doing again!

Memorial Day Weekend, Wallace Lake

The tail end of my kayak and the fountain at Wallace Lake

BEREA, OH – It’s fair to say I am more patriotic than most people.  I love our country and especially our veterans.  I am a strong believer and supporter of American exceptionalism and no words can describe how I feel about those who have laid down their lives for this great nation.  While my fishing blog is not used as a political platform, I just wanted to acknowledge my fantastic weekend both fishing and enjoying my family was a direct result of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

One of six Largemouth Bass caught

A week had passed since the Children’s Fishing Derby at Wallace Lake that I had blogged about here.  I thought there would be a strong likelihood of trout remaining and of course my shot at a Golden Trout.  The Cleveland Metroparks released 100 of them in conjunction with their Centennial Celebration.  The Golden Trout would continue to elude me, but their was plenty of action to make for a banner day of kayak fishing.  In the end, I tallied six Largemouth Bass caught and released and my three fish limit of Rainbow Trout.  A few more trout were released after hitting the limit.

The author with a rare smiling photo

A quality sized stocker measuring a bit over 14 inches

The bass were caught on 1/32 ounce jigs with Berkley Gulp! Minnows, and the trout all were brought to net via inline spinners.  I have no idea what size a keeper bass is as I only release them, but if it is 12″, a couple would have been a little better or under that mark.  Two of the three trout kept were rather decent for stockers, I only measured the largest, that fish a tad over 14″.

The end of the day

Memorial Day Weekend tends to offer time for a lot of folks to fish.  I was excited to see so many people, especially kids, fishing on my Facebook and Instagram feeds.  I couldn’t have been happier with the results of my day (well unless I finally caught a Golden), and hope others had success.  Even if the fish didn’t cooperate for you, I am certain the time was well spent!

How a fish almost destroyed Allie’s childhood

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – I rarely, if ever, do a direct post about someone else’s content.  But on great occasion, I find something so awesome that I want my small audience here to see it too.  Such is the case for a post I came across on the blog HYPERBOLE and a Half named “How a fish almost destroyed my childhood“.  I will warn that it is a bit graphic in language and description, sensitive readers be warned.  Trust me though, it is worth the read.

As I wiped the tears of laughter off my face the first time I read it, I couldn’t help but think of my own children and even my own childhood.  Myself, and currently my kids, all had initial fishing experiences expecting to keep a fish pet.  While I am not as gifted as Allie at story telling, I will say mine involved a dying fish and my brother trying to stuff a quarter sized aquarium de-chlorinating tablet in it’s mouth as medicine.  The fish was a whopping 3 inches, there were no fish tacos.

Cleveland Metroparks, Wallace Lake Fishing Derby

BEREA, OH – With my wife out of town for work, I had a little assistance from the Cleveland Metroparks (www.clevelandmetroparks.com) with keeping the kids entertained today.  In what has become an annual tradition, we participated in a kids fishing derby at Wallace Lake.  These are very well organized, a lot of fun, and create some wonderful memories.  Staff and volunteers are always eager to assist in any way to help participants have a good time.  It never ceases to amaze me how Cleveland Metroparks Aquatic Biologist Mike Durkalec amidst all the logistics and chaos of the day – can give so many different kids some personal attention.  Pretty amazing.

Along with the tradition of going to these events, is my inexplicable tradition of not being able to help put my kids on fish during the event.  I really can’t explain it, but it reminds me to never consider tournament fishing.  If there is any degree of competition or I am ‘on the clock’ of an event, I do bad.  Thankfully, my kids are forgiving and there is enough going on that they still have a blast.  Maybe I need a big button that says “MEDIA” that I can wear, and claim my poor efforts are due to the distraction of covering the event.

I love the photos posted above.  The shot of my son and daughter with their arms around each other getting along, both smiling naturally (not the usual cheesy Bryce insists on) is captured very rarely.  I also loved seeing them admire some of the catches that make their way into the tank.  This is a very popular attraction for all the kids, not just mine.  I thought the huge 19.5″ bass was exceptionally kind to frame itself so nicely in my daughter’s photo.  That fish, was actually caught by a young girl similar in age to Alexis… surely others were dealing with the same thoughts I was of being excited for her while just a tad bit jealous!  What a catch!

Being in the Cleveland Metroparks never limits you to a specific a single type of wildlife.  We saw many neat creatures, critters, and animals of all types and sizes.  Of note, Great Blue Herons, Orioles, Egrets, turtles, and a toad.  My kids did not leave the event sad or disappointed they didn’t catch fish, instead I was treated to conversations throughout the day regarding everything they did see and do, and especially the toad.

Despite somewhat cool weather and overall tough fishing for most, attendance was pretty impressive.  This photo taken a few minutes before the morning session awards, shows only a small sampling of the population around the event area and doesn’t account for the numbers that  continued to fish.  I am glad so many people, with those kids, make it out.

I live about 20 minutes from Wallace Lake, this photo was 5 minutes after we left.  Needless to say, they were spent.  I love knowing they played that hard.

***UPDATE 5/26/17***

Shortly after we arrived, I recalled that we spoke to a gentleman who was covering the event.  It was Michael Iglewski, who runs a YouTube Channel “Michael Iglewski Outdoor Sports“.  The image capture above is from his event video which can be seen here.  I wish there was footage of us reeling in a monster, but that would have required epic editing skills as we didn’t catch anything.

Pond fishing success

A good sized pond Largemouth Bass

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – Every now and then pond fishing can yield a real nice fish.  I have access to a few and it had been some time since one of the better fish had been caught.  With my recent ability to get out fishing a little more, the ‘icing on the cake’ so to speak was getting a nice fish.  While not a complete monster, it was big enough to quicken the pulse, and keep fish energy high!

My friend Nate, who is an exceptional fisherman, made a very good point recently to me about how if I take my spinning gear and my fly gear – I wont really get better or develop as a fly fisherman.  I know he is 100% accurate as I have found this to be true.  While I really need to perfect my skills in tributaries, I still think even on ponds and lakes I should apply this.  I know this will produce fewer catches at least early on – and I need to accept this as a necessity to get more fly proficient.  Leaving my trusted gear behind, I did one trip with just the 4 wt. fly rod.  I used a minnow pattern to catch some fair sized Bluegill and considered the effort successful.  Only one small bass was caught on the fly but at least there was upside in that the smaller Bluegill didn’t have mouths big enough to get hooked.  This served to cull the smaller fish without ever having to land and handle them… a definite bonus.  I need to commit to more trips with only fly gear in tow.

Midland Painted Turtle

More exciting for my kids then any of the fish recently caught, was a Midland Painted Turtle that I was able to grab and let them admire for a few minutes.  My ‘dad status’ has been legendary after this feat and there are numerous discussions around them wanting a pet turtle.