Cleveland Metroparks Event – Lake St. Clair Muskellunge Fishing with Mike Durkalec

NORTH OLMSTED, OH – Those that know me personally or even those who have followed my blog over the years, know how much I am pained over the fact that I have never caught a Muskellunge.  Each year that goes by without getting one, just makes the species grow in mystique and elusiveness.  Admittedly, I have long since given up on targeting them, but I still convince myself annually that I ‘should’ catch one inadvertently.  I know this isn’t a likely catch, and my optimism is foolish.

When I learned Mike Durkalec, Aquatic Biologist (and general ‘fish guru’) for the Cleveland Metroparks would be doing a presentation about Lake St. Clair Muskie Fishing, I knew this couldn’t be missed.  While I don’t have any immediate plans to head to Lake St. Clair, I knew I could pick up some general tips for the species that I could apply anywhere the fish is present.  It goes without saying this proved to be true.  Being originally from Northwest Ohio and living nearly a decade in Toledo, Lake St. Clair doesn’t seem like an intimidating trip to make, so I’m also not ruling it out.  If I do, attending the presentation was invaluable in increasing my odds for a hookup.

It would be impossible to share every detail of the presentation, all I can say is that all those in attendance had a very rare treat.  The lake was analyzed with first hand fishing knowledge sector by sector.  The forensic approach to the discussion was undeniably the biologist in Mike, and it was coupled with the sheer passion of a die-hard fisherman.  Attendees were educated, entertained, and sufficiently had their fishing motivation fuel tanks filled.  As I walked to my vehicle after the event, I’m certain I could hear “Eye of the Tiger” playing as I thought of my next fishing effort.

I wish I could end this post on a positive note, but I can’t.  The worldwide situation with the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 had progressed to the point that it became necessary for the Cleveland Metroparks to suspend all public speaking events like this.  It was the right decision, a responsible one, that saddens me deeply.  Maybe attending this event, just makes the cut a little deeper, realizing the wonderful things we are now without.  Know that I am praying for all of you during this difficult time that is still evolving.

Cleveland Boat Show & Fishing Expo 2020

CLEVELAND, OH – I made it over to the IX Center for the Boat Show/Fishing Expo and had a really good time.  With events like this, I always see all over Facebook and social media the same question… “is it worth going?”.  Simply put, to me, it was.  I know that is a matter of opinion, but if you read this post, I think it will be evident why I found it worthwhile.

Hobie Fishing Team Members, Quinton Echols, Joe Meno, & Darrell Cornelius

The ‘Boat Show’ portion was what you typically expect if you have attended one in the past, even at a different venue.  A good sampling of retailers offering about every type of boat imaginable, some types more represented than others, but everything from large crafts down to PWC’s.  Many boats had very prominent labeled pricing, which I always think is good.  As for the pricing itself, I just haven’t been in the market for a boat so I don’t have good reference to know if any “Show Specials” were in fact great deals.  Being an avid kayak fisherman, I had the very specific hope of getting to meet some of the faces/personalities I enjoy following and interacting with in various media.  I was barely through the entrance when I spotted the familiar face of Quinton Echols, and fellow Hobie Kayak Fishing Team members Joe Meno & Darrell Cornelius.  They were at the Sun Valley Sports booth representing that retailer and of course, Hobie Kayaks.  We had a great time sharing fish stories with a lot of good laughs.  Kayak fishing has a true ‘brotherhood’ feeling.

President Brian Tighe, Cleveland Fishing Co., and author

The ‘Fishing Expo’ portion had a few vendors that I had come with the intent to find.  At the top of the list, was the Cleveland Fishing Company.  I enjoyed a nice conversation with Brian Tighe, recalling how I discovered the brand and enjoying watching it’s tremendous growth.  Brian is a very down to earth type of guy and someone if you spend any time at all talking with, it’s easy to see why he is successful.  Although I’ve never fished with him, I am happy to consider him a ‘kindred spirit’ in the NE Ohio fishing scene.  As for this company’s apparel, the designs are awesome.  They have a distinct bold urban love of Cleveland, blended perfectly to the outdoors and fishing.  Everything looks great on or off the water.  Worth mentioning, is that a % of gross profit, goes to The Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Fund.  This fund has contributed to volumes of children’s first catches and personally has provided my family many great memories.

The trout pond is always a big hit with the kids

My wife had a long list of errands to run so we used the divide and conquer philosophy to approach the day.  Her getting needed logistics done, while I would keep the kids (& myself!) entertained.  This is where the show really shined and where the bulk of this post will be focused.  This is not to discount the fact that even had I not had the kids with me, the show would have been worthwhile.  I just want to note the exceptional value it had due to the fact that they were with me and how much fun they had.  The first fun activity, fishing for trout pictured above!

The kids making a worm harness style lure with Ohio Sea Grant 

As a parent, one of my greatest joys is when I see my kids having fun while learning.  This is especially true if they are learning about anything fishing, fish, or the water they swim in.  I was very thankful to Jill Bartolotta and the kind gentleman pictured above for taking time with my kids to make a lure.  This booth was the Ohio Sea Grant.  I enjoyed reading their literature and learning more about what they do.  I know many people see Gibraltar Island in the summer when heading to Put In Bay and hear associated terms like Stone Lab and Ohio State, I encourage you to learn more by visiting the website.

Bryce holding an Eastern Fox Snake 

A special thank you to Susan Bixler, also from The Ohio State University / Ohio Sea Grant for allowing my son to hold a snake.  The kids were very content just getting to see the creatures, but getting to actually hold one, was a rare unique experience.

Successful matching of the fish cut-outs to the correct species name 

Along with the expertise of professionals manning the booths, there was plenty of self directed fun.  Pictured above, there were several walls of fish cut-outs that needed matched to the correct species name.  The kids had fun completing all of the walls while I just watched and dreamed that I was actually catching all those fish.

Bryce attempting to paint a white fish over some destroyed canvas

My son has a special gift with art and was a little disappointed that nearly all of the canvases were completely filled.  Using some white paint, he was able to select an area that was more less a splattered mess, and put a fish over it.  My daughter added a frog.

In total, I shot over 100 pictures that included at least 20 different areas of activity or exhibit.  For the sake of time and the length of this post, I had to exclude a lot of what I planned to cover.  To the countless number of folks that entertained and/or educated my children and I, thank you.  I’m certain we will be back again next year!