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.

Late season Steelhead

A good sized fish landed before it’s return to the lake

CLEVELAND EAST SIDE, OH – I rarely chase steel when they have moved upstream to spawn.  Not because of the whole argument over the ethics of fishing for them (and the fish around them at spawn), but rather I just have moved on to other species.  This year, after a friend had an epic outing, I was convinced I needed to spend one more day chasing them.  I ended up choosing a weekday that was as beautiful of a day as we had seen in 2019.  The bad part about that was a resurgence of anglers to compete with for space and fish that could see you just as much as you could see them.  Unless you are talking about park fish that are used to being fed by people, fish that can see you are always weary of feeding.  Adding to all of these things working against me was the fact that I was fly fishing.  Simply put – I am average at best with the fly rod.

What I lack in skill, I make up for with persistence.  When other anglers move on to other pools or different locations, I just keep fishing.  I’m not even sure if this is a good or bad trait, but it does pay off with a fish now and then.  After hours of fishing with only 3 hookups, I finally managed a take that held firm all the way through landing.  The strong fish combined with rather shallow water made for a very chaotic memorable fight.  I’ll consider it a fun day, despite only one catch!

Far too few weeknights like this

N. RIDGEVILLE, OH – We finally had a warm enough evening that the ‘stir crazy’ kids and I could get out of the house and do some fishing.  A weeknight fishing trip always means just enough time to fish in the pond or a local park, but that’s good enough!  The kids hadn’t fished since Fall, so they were especially excited.  Dad was pretty excited too, fishing memories are some of the best!

This gem was the “take a picture with your sister” directive

My daughter likes to fish and is willing, but my son always loves to tell her she will get pricked by a fish if she catches it.  This usually ends with her not wanting to fish and Bryce having to do some time disciplined with no fishing.  His goal is to have her stop fishing so he can manage more rods or get all of the attention.  Pretty much a jerk move, but I suppose that overly strong desire to catch the fish, and fishing selfishness – came from me.

She loves her dolls and babies, but has her rugged side too

As for my firstborn, he is a ‘mini me’.  He loves fishing and never wears out from it.  I suppose the only real difference between him and I is that I am sad when it’s time to stop fishing, but usually I am not reduced to crying or tears.  Please note I said “usually”.

The first evening fishing and the Bluegill were biting non-stop

As with most parents, you lower the expectations of any family endeavor to just hoping the kids get along and aren’t fighting the whole time.  Happily, this was one of those times where it was magical.  Both kids happy, and Bluegill that were hitting as fast as the bobber landed.  We ended up fishing with a single rod because we could not manage more than one.

Bryce admiring his first catch of the year

Not only were the fish biting, they were decent sized

A gnarly looking bonus catch

Fish after fish, I dare say we wore out catch and releasing Bluegill.  Towards the end we did get rewarded with a hard fighting bonus fish, a Bullhead that finally took the jig and maggot faster than a Bluegill could snatch it.  I’m thrilled Bryce thinks they look cool, instead of ugly.  I’m trying to raise a fisherman that appreciates all of the species like his dad does.  As for my daughter,  I’m pretty sure at this point she thinks all fish are ugly, but at least she thinks they are fun to catch.  Overall, a very fun time this evening, we have “Far too few weeknights like this”.

A cool catch on the first kayak outing of 2019

This 16″ Brown Trout ranks as one of my favorite kayak caught fish

BEREA, OH – It’s always special to get out on the kayak for the first time of the year.  Not just because it is a fun way to catch fish, but it usually (yes it does try to snow in April at times) marks a tangible measure that winter is over for me.  This past winter, for some reason, just seamed exceptionally long.  I had some extra motivation to make Wallace Lake the first outing due to a stocking that had taken place that included Brook, Brown, and Golden Trout along with the Rainbows.  I wasn’t able to get out, even for shore fishing, and was agonized seeing all the amazing catches featured on the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog.  The ‘recent’ stocking suddenly went from days ago, to weeks ago… and I just hoped some were left.

Arriving at the lake, my hope turned to confirmation as a shore angler was leaving with a fine Rainbow Trout on a stringer.  I launched quickly and began covering a lot of water offering an inline spinner.  My only taker was a small Largemouth Bass in the first hour.  It’s impossible to know if conditions, fishing pressure, or total number of fish available was the reason, but the fishing was slow.  I rarely had less than 6-8 fisherman within view and my bass was the only fish I saw caught.  About the moment my mind started second guessing my decision to fish at Wallace over the river or a different venue… my spinner got smacked.  The fantastic strike was followed by the rod revealing a decent sized fish that was giving plenty of fight.  It didn’t take long to get it to the boat, but I did get very nervous about successfully landing it when I saw the distinct markings of a Brown Trout!  It’s a species that I haven’t encountered a lot and I was so excited to get it landed.  Weeks after the last stocking, I had somehow managed one of the ‘bonus fish’!  Pure Joy.

While admittedly the Cleveland Metroparks Fishing Blog has shown plenty of examples of bigger or more interestingly marked up fish, this one was my catch, and it was prized.  In fact I was so enamored by it, I found it almost difficult to continue fishing.  I was so thrilled with that single bite it made me content that I didn’t need to do more.  I fished a little less vigorously but did carry on another hour and a half.  I managed another trout, this one being a small colorful Rainbow Trout, that was returned to the water.

Wallace Lake, ice fishing for trout

BEREA, OH – You know something is awesome if you love it even though you aren’t good at it.  That is me with ice fishing.  There is just something inherently cool about walking onto the water, drilling a hole, and pulling a fish out of it.  I’ve pretty much mastered the first two, but the last is a struggle.  The past few years, I’ve invested a little more time online researching and increasing my knowledge base which has improved my on the water success.  The culmination of this effort recently was realized with a limit of stocker trout (and some bonus catches) at Wallace Lake.  While this day might hardly be a blip on the map for an accomplished ice anger, it probably represents the best I have ever done on an ice outing.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story…

Destination

Hopeful anglers

Where my ice fishing photos usually end

A fine Rainbow Trout through the ice

A good looking trout a bit over 14 inches

A somewhat chunky fish around 16 inches

Side by side comparison of the last two fish

A beautiful small fish that was released

Behind every picture is a memory, and I wish somehow I could translate in words just how exciting every catch was.  Maybe once I have become more masterful with ice fishing, each catch may not be as meaningful.  As it stands right now, any fish caught on the ice is a big deal, and the excitement and ‘newness’ of catching through the ice hasn’t worn off.  I can understand why ice fishing has it’s own niche of people who specialize in it and consider it their favorite method to fish.  My largest fish of the day put up an amazing spirited fight, and trying to get it head first to the hole and then lift out with my other hand was adrenaline packed fun… and this was just a 16″ fish!  After I got it on the ice, the hook came out and it nearly jumped back in the hole.  I scooted it away from the hole and it almost slid into another nearby hole… when I finally got it contained I was beyond relieved and just sat there thinking “how much fun is this?!”.

The day was likely the most successful I have ever had on the ice.  My confidence is improved.  If you’ve read my previous post detailing the Cleveland Metroparks stocking, you know there are some extra special fish swimming in these lakes.  This includes some Brown, Brook, and Golden Trout.  While these remain my most hoped for catches through the ice, my banner day was not diminished in the slightest because I didn’t encounter one.  I just will continue to hope…

Along with the photos included in this post, I did catch a White Crappie and a Bluegill.  I missed a good number of bites, and lost one trout at the hole.  I made some new friends with nearby anglers and also got to see what had to be one of the biggest catches of the day anywhere on the lake.  Near the end of the day, a guy near me landed a Rainbow that was a bit over 18″ and it had some shoulders on it.  From covering the stocking, I knew the size potential of a few of the best specimen, and he certainly found one.  He was stoked over the catch and I have to imagine any angler with a pulse would be.  I was excited just getting to see the catch.

So there you have it, the most fun I’ve ever had on the ice.  I can’t wait to get out again!

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.

A simple pleasant start to 2019

MEDINA, OH – The unseasonably mild winter had me start the year with several trips to various local lakes for open water fishing with my son.  Two trips yielded plenty of willing Largemouth Bass who were quite spirited in fight considering the time of year.  While nothing overly noteworthy stands out, I just enjoy spending time with family and the simple joy of catching fish.

Open water bass fishing in January?, I’ll take it!

The above fish was pretty representative of the catches.  No giants, just good numbers providing plenty of fun.  I even brought the 4 wt. fly rod and nabbed a few on a minnow pattern.

Kids love the bass, even if they are on the ‘small-ish’ side

It may not look like I am having fun, but this is usually what I look like hoping the camera works right, everyone is actually looking at it, no one at risk of getting a hook in them, and the concern of getting the fish back in the water quickly.

Another successful release

I always try my best to demonstrate good ethical fishing and that most often includes catch & release.  Along with enjoying our resources, I nearly always have conversations regarding responsibility.  I loved this shot of my son with his cousin watching a bass swim away.

While the first fishing of 2019 may not be that exciting to most… as a dad especially, I just love these simple fishing trips.