The blog, for “The Land”

CLEVELAND, OH –  For some time, I had been thinking about a blog revamp to better capture the connection between my multi species fishing and the Greater Cleveland area.  I’ve always been very protective of keeping the blog specific to fishing, but I felt like I was missing the mark with acknowledging where the majority of my fishing now takes place.  I kept putting it off knowing how big of an undertaking it is (even on WordPress) to find a new template and then create all of the art to build around.  As fate would have it, about a week ago I was browsing templates and accidentally activated one rather than simply looking at a demo version.  I immediately saw my error and went to revert it back, only to learn that template was no longer available or supported.  So if you kept it active, no issue, you uninstall it, you’re done.  After a scathing exchange with the WordPress Support via chat, I came to peace with the fact that maybe there was a reason this happened.

So in an odd turn of events, I achieved my goal of incorporating a bit of a Cleveland ‘vibe’.

(photo is the author at one of the Script Cleveland Signs, this one at Edgewater Park)

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!

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.

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!

Bassmaster Elite Series, Fantasy Fishing

LAKE MARTIN, AL – “Play Bassmaster Elite Series Fantasy Fishing”, they said… “it will be fun!”, they said.  So yeah, evaluating my first tournament I guess it was a lot of fun if I don’t care about my actual result.  Of course in all actuality it was a lot of fun, borderline complete blast.  It made my engagement with the tourney a whole different experience than just looking at the leaderboards and waiting for it to be broadcast on television.  I found myself glued to the BASStrakk feed on Twitter, praying to see any of the names from my handpicked team.  While I envisioned myself becoming the Robert Kraft or George Steinbrenner of Fantasy Fishing ownership, the reality is that I put quite the jinx on a set of accomplished anglers.  For those familiar with the movie Office Space, I can hear the complete roster of anglers in Lumbergh’s voice saying, “uhm… yea… so if you could just not pick me, that’d be great”.  Sadly, some will be drafted to team CoolWaterFish.

For those unfamiliar with format, you select one angler from predefined groups A through E.  You score points based on each of your anglers overall place in the tourney.  All anglers fish the first two days, top 51 fish Day 3, top 12 fish Day 4.  I had 2 anglers fishing Day 3 (Matt Lee, 32nd and Chris Lane, 49th) and none on Day 4.  As a percentage, I was only 22.6% which means the vast majority of fantasy owners outperformed me.

So what was my methodology with choosing my team?  Well, I had many ideas and I decided to go with anglers from the same state as the event.  I applied the fact that I tend to do my best fishing on water I have fished the most.  My thought process is that these anglers would have likely fished Lake Martin more frequently as they made their way up through the ranks to the Elite Series.  I also thought residing in the state, if they still recreationally fished or did guiding, it might have them there more.  In the end, I think the entire field being the top professionals in the world, any local advantage was mitigated.  I will definitely use different methodology next event.

Feel free to leave a comment where you finished for the event, as for me 20,641st.  Ugh!~

Entering the new year with a plan

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH – Outside of growing one year older, I love the new year and the hope it gives to doing anything and everything better than the previous year.  For 2018, rather than simply relying on “hope”, I am approaching the year with a more formalized plan.  I’ve noticed that with career and family, amplified by the fact the kids are young, the day to day chaos causes missed opportunities for recreation.  As my wife and I have already been using the calendar more, blocking off dates, writing in specific places to explore, and even booking trips… this year feels different, and better!

It’s probably worth noting I’ve taken this whole ‘planned approach’ beyond just as it applies to creating more fishing opportunities and quality time with the family.  Ultimately, I believe it will make the blog have more new content and be a better read.

 

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 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.