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!

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.

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.